Alison Watkins CEO Coca Cola, with new product, coke life, on their balcony in North Sydney. Thursday 30th October 2014 AFR photo Louie Douvis Photo: Louie DouvisThe Coca-Cola Company has dropped its Coke Life brand from Australian shelves after spending two years and millions of dollars trying to launch the reduced-calorie beverage as it tries to adapt to an increasingly health-conscious market.
The soft drink giant launched the drink, made with the natural sweetener stevia, locally in February 2015 in an effort to lure back lapsed Coke drinkers with a product that was less unhealthy than regular Coke and tastier than the sugar-free Zero and Diet varieties.
Life’s launch was followed by heavy supermarket discounting by Coca-Cola and its competitors.
But less than a year later, Coca-Cola and Australian bottler Coca-Cola Amatil started experimenting with the Life recipe to try and reduce the sugar content further, suggesting the brand was failing to sell as expected.
The Life brand was finally axed as part of a branding overhaul in January, but its disappearance has gone largely unnoticed.
Life has been replaced by a new product called Coca-Cola with Stevia, which has 50 per cent less sugar than regular Coke, or about four teaspoons in each 375ml can instead of nine teaspoons. Life had 35 per cent less sugar than regular Coke.
A Coca-Cola South Pacific spokesman said the company had “changed the name to call out ‘stevia’ so as to better communicate to consumers that it is a lower sugar option”.
He said the new recipe hit a better balance between taste and sugar levels. The Life brand was also recently dropped in Britain, but is still available in other markets, including the US. Sugar hit
Coca-Cola Amatil, which has the licence to bottle and sell Coca-Cola products in Australia, has been trying to adapt its product range as consumers turn their backs on sugary drinks. It has invested heavily in water brands like Mount Franklin and Pump, sales of which are growing at about 19 per cent a year but are also under price pressure from private label bottled water.
The soft drink bottler, which is 29 per cent owned by global giant The Coca-Cola Company, reported that soft drink sales fell 4.7 per cent by volume in Australia last financial year, while scan data obtained by Fairfax Media earlier this year revealed the amount of soft drinks sold in major Australian supermarkets slumped almost 3 per cent in 2016.
Coca-Cola Amatil was hammered on the Australian Stock Exchange last week, with its share price falling more than 10 per cent after it downgraded its earnings because of weak local beverage sales.
The company said that all channels were “experiencing volume and price pressure due to competition and category trends”.
Coca-Cola Amatil is trying to cut costs, announcing in February it would close its South Australian beverage manufacturing plant and cut about 180 jobs as part of a $90 million supply chain restructure.
The US-based Coca-Cola Company on Tuesday revealed it would cut 1200 American jobs through to 2018 as part of a $US800 million ($1 billion) savings drive in response to a 20 per cent slump in profit and an 11 per cent drop in overall sales.
Coca-Cola Amatil generated a $257 million full-year net profit last year, down from $403 million the year before.