Diet Coke Enjoys Resurgence While Company Hits Pause on Cannabis

New Diet Coke cans

It turns out that there are ways Coca-Cola can revive  the once-robust popularity of Diet Coke, and the company’s third-quarter sales results proved it. The company’s global soda volume actually grew by 2 percent from the same quarter a year ago led by rising demand for Diet Coke and Coke Zero Sugar, a reformulated version that tastes and looks more like original Coke.

The conventional wisdom about Diet Coke lately has been that it’s basically irredeemable due to three factors:

  • Consumer interest in carbonated soft drinks has declined because they lack nutritional value.
  • There are continued misgivings about any artificial sweeteners.
  • Global markets have made a broad turn toward other refreshment beverages including bottled waters, teas and coffees.

But Diet Coke actually eked out a gain during the period. CEO James Quincey told investors this week it was because Diet Coke has tapped into the millennial market with targeted marketing and “flavor innovation” such as Ginger Lime, Twisted Mango and Feisty Cherry. Quincey also cited the fact that earlier this year, Diet Coke came out in a new “sleek can” that presents a “more modern, more engaging package.”

The packaging changes were encouraged in part by rising metal costs that encouraged the company to “bring some innovation into the packaging” and adapt to changes, Quincey said.

Coke Zero Sugar also has proved to be a great refinement of the original Coke Zero concept after the company made the switch last year, with sales worldwide growing annually by a percentage in the high teens, Quincey told the Wall Street JournalAnd low- and no-calorie Sprite and Fanta have contributed to the resurgent performance by Coca-Cola’s diet soda portfolio.

At the same time, Quincey cautioned that Coca-Cola is going to take things slowly in terms of its evaluation for the commercial potential of beverages including cannabidiol, or CBD, a non-psychoactive compound in marijuana and hemp that treats pain and “wellness” but doesn’t provide the high that another ingredient, THC, does.

Investors, consumers and others got excited recently about Coke’s potential interest in cannabis beverages, especially in light of the fact that other beverage giants Constellation Brands and Molson Coors Brewing, have announced development plans for cannabis-infused beverages in Canada, where marijuana consumption recently became legal.

“I think it’s a way away before any large players in the consumer space get to it,” Quincey said.”Being legal does not make it safe … Our consumers trust us to do the right thing … There’s no way we’re going to put something in unless there’s a high degree of consumer acceptance.”

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