Coca-Cola GB to focus on sugar-free brands and phase out Coca-Cola Life

Coca-Cola Life axed in the UK

By Rachel Arthur

- Last updated on GMT

Life is over for Coca-Cola's stevia-sweetened drink in the UK
Life is over for Coca-Cola's stevia-sweetened drink in the UK

Related tags Coca-cola life Stevia

Coca-Cola Life is to be withdrawn from the UK market from June, although the stevia-sweetened drink will remain on offer in 30 markets including the US. 

Coca-Cola Life sales have slumped in the UK over the past year and the brand now accounts for less than 1% of Coca-Cola trademark sales.

Coca-Cola Life, which is sweetened with natural sweetener stevia and sugar, was launched in the UK in September 2014, and now contains 45% less calories and sugar than the classic flagship version. 

Coca-Cola GB says it will phase out the brand in June and will instead focus on sugar-free sales, simplifying the choice for consumers between sugar and sugar-free formats. 

A statement from Coca-Cola GB says: “As we look to drive no-sugar sales even more, and make it clearer for consumers to differentiate between sugar and no-sugar options, now feels the right time to phase out Coca-Cola Life from the UK market and focus on our three leading and iconic cola variants.”

However, Coca-Cola has pledged that it will continue to invest in Coca-Cola Life in the US and expand availability there.  

Coca-Cola Life: a ‘loyal’ but ‘niche’ following

Coca-Cola Life was first launched in Argentina and Chile in 2013, arriving in Europe with its UK launch in 2014.

At the time of its UK launch it was championed as being ‘well-positioned to meet changing lifestyle trends, providing people with a great-tasting, lower-calorie cola sweetened from natural sources’.

Coca-Cola Life: 76 calories & 19g sugar per 330ml can.
Coca-Cola Classic:139 calories & 35g sugar per can
Coca-Cola Zero Sugar: sugar free, sweetened with aspartame & acesulfame K.

In April 2016 the drink was reformulated to further reduce its sugar content, with the current version containing 45% less sugar and calories than the regular full calorie flagship drink.

But sales have fallen 58% over the past year to just £8.8m ($11m), according to Nielsen data published in The Grocer, and all but three SKUs were axed in December last year.

Coca-Cola says Life has built a “loyal and niche following” in the UK, where it accounts for just under 1% of Coca-Cola trademark sales.

In the last year it has only been available in a selected number of outlets.

The evolution of Life around the world

Coca-Cola told this publication that Coca-Cola Life is only being phased out in the UK, and that it remains on sale in more than 30 markets around the world.

Greece: Coca-Cola No Calories and With Sweetener from Stevia Plant'

However, it appears that changes are being made to the concept. Coca-Cola Life was replaced by ‘Coca-Cola with Stevia’ in Australia​ in February, with the reformulated version now containing half the sugar of classic Coca-Cola (compared to 35% less sugar than Coca-Cola Classic in the former Coca-Cola Life).

Coca-Cola Australia says the name was chosen to make the presence of stevia clearer to consumers, as it believes consumers are sufficiently familiar with the sweetener.

Last week ‘Coca-Cola No Calories and With Sweetener from Stevia Plant’ debuted in Greece, using green branding on the can, as Coca-Cola there pledges to “offer more beverages in more categories for more occasions and lifestyles, with a focus on no and low calorie options”.

Asked about the future of Coca-Cola Life in the US, a spokesperson told this publication: “Since its launch in 2014, Coca-Cola Life has been performing well in the US market. We continue to invest in the brand, expand availability and packaging diversity nationally, and drive awareness through a complete integrated marketing campaign.”

Coca-Cola Life: What's all the fuss about?

Brands are under pressure to reduce sugar in their drinks, while a number of consumers remain sceptical about artificial sweeteners. Coca-Cola’s answer was Coca-Cola Life, which uses natural sweetener stevia – some 200 times sweeter than sugar – to reduce sugar content.

The launch of Life has commonly been credited with propelling stevia into the limelight, with Coca-Cola being one of the first big name brands to use the sweetener.

But Coca-Cola admits that Life has only gathered a ‘niche’ following in the UK. Is this because consumers don’t understand what that green can is all about? Do they know what stevia is? Or has the offer of choice gone too far and bewildered consumers – do they simply stick with what they know?

Is the sugar content of Life – still at a considerable 19g per can – still too high for consumers? (it is, in fact, too high to escape the UK’s sugar tax in April 2018)

Or are consumers simply turned off by soda altogether, turning to options they perceive to be healthier?

Spotlight on Coca-Cola Zero Sugar

coca-cola zero sugar
New kid on the block: Coca-Cola Zero Sugar

Back in the UK, Coca-Cola GB says it will continue to showcase Coca-Cola Classic, Coca-Cola Zero Sugar and Diet Coke under the One Brand strategy.

Coca-Cola GB says that half of its Coca-Cola sales now come from sugar-free varieties and it is accelerating investment in Coca-Cola Zero Sugar (Zero Sugar replaces Coca-Cola Zero, which had been on shelves since 2006).

Nine months after its launch sales in grocery and convenience stores are up 52% and for the first time sales of no-sugar Coca-Cola (Zero Sugar and Diet Coke) match those of Coca-Cola Classic.

Coca-Cola Zero Sugar sales have now reached £115m ($143m) since it launched in June 2016.

As part of its plans to grow Coca-Cola Zero Sugar, the business will embark on its biggest sampling campaign later this summer, with 11 million samples on offer across the country. The plans will be supported by out of home, TV and in store activity. 

Jon Woods, Coca-Cola Great Britain general manager said: “We’re pleased that in just nine months Coca-Cola Zero Sugar has grown significantly and become the fastest growing cola in UK grocery.  

“As a result, more than 50% of Coca-Cola sales in UK grocery are sugar-free. As we look to drive no-sugar sales even more and make it clearer for consumers to differentiate between sugar and no-sugar options now feels the right time to phase out Coca-Cola Life from the UK market and focus on our three leading and iconic cola variants.”

Related topics Business Beverage Diet and health

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