Health

Diet Coke Would Like You to Think It’s Seltzer Now

Coca-Cola unveiled new packaging and four new flavors of Diet Coke.
Courtesy of Coca-Cola

Sales of regular and diet soda are down. Sales of bottled and sparkling water are up. What's a company to do with its legacy diet soda? Make it look a lot more like sparkling water.

Today, Coca-Cola announced that it has given Diet Coke a facelift by changing the design and can shape and introducing four new, zero-calorie flavors—Ginger Lime, Feisty Cherry, Zesty Blood Orange, and Twisted Mango—all efforts to appeal to millennials.

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In a news release, Rafael Acevedo, Coca-Cola North America’s group director for Diet Coke, also referred to Diet Coke as a sparking beverage, saying: "Diet Coke and Coke Zero Sugar are two delicious, no-calorie sparkling choices—it’s just a matter of personal preference." A gif in the release refers to Diet Coke as "America’s number 1 no-calorie sparkling brand.” A spokesperson for Coca-Cola told Tonic that the company has been describing Diet Coke as a sparkling beverage "at least since 2007."

The release notes that Diet Coke will now come in the same 12-ounce "sleek" can as Dasani Sparking water. That's the same volume as a soda can, just taller and thinner.

For reference, here's what Dasani Sparkling looks like:

So Diet Coke, a "sparkling" beverage, now looks more like the company's sparkling water than it does other sodas, and it comes in multiple fruit flavors. This can't be a coincidence: Fruit-flavored, no-calorie beverages like LaCroix seltzer are extremely popular among millennials, who seem to be shunning regular and diet soda for sparkling water. (Diet soda may be calorie-free, but endocrinologists and nutritionists aren't fans of artificial sweeteners, which have been linked to weight gain and other effects. The new Diet Coke flavors are sweetened with aspartame and acesulfame potassium, or ace-K; regular Diet Coke only uses aspartame.)

Coca-Cola company is pushing hard on the millennial message of its redesign: A tweet calls the new flavors a "literal thirst trap." The company tested more than 30 flavors—partly based on "what Millennials are eating and drinking," one brand manager said—before narrowing it down to the final four. The company calls the relaunch a "Millennial-inspired Diet Coke refresh" that has "a modern look and fresh lineup of flavors that sounds like it was plucked from a hip cocktail bar menu." A 26-year-old led the redesign team. Acevedo told Buzzfeed News that the company "wanted to make sure packages are Insta-ready." LaCroix, a fixture at Whole Foods, relies heavily on Instagram for marketing.

“Millennials are now thirstier than ever for adventures and new experiences, and we want to be right by their side,” Acevedo said. It sure feels like Coca-Cola is even thirstier.

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