Coca-Cola is changing the recipe for Coke Zero, and it’s giving people flashbacks to the ‘New Coke’ blunder of the ’80s

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Outside a Walgreens, Karen Wilson gathers signatures on a petition to the Coca-Cola Company expressing dissatisfaction with its "New Coke" formula in 1985.
Outside a Walgreens, Karen Wilson gathers signatures on a petition to the Coca-Cola Company expressing dissatisfaction with its “New Coke” formula in 1985.

Coca-Cola just announced changes to its Coke Zero recipe – and fans of the brand are having flashbacks to the last time Coke changed its flavor.

In 1985, the company introduced New Coke, an updated recipe that marked the company’s first formula change in 99 years.

Coke-drinkers were shocked that the beverage company would change its classic formula. One went as far as to tell The Washington Post that fans of the soft drink could “worry that maybe the whole country is beginning to fall apart. They don’t even trust themselves anymore.”

Now, consumers aren’t quite as outraged as they were more than three decades ago over New Coke, but social media was quick to remind Coca-Cola of its former recipe change disaster.

“Do we have to do New Coke 2.0? Coke Zero is my lifeline. Please don’t mess it up,” tweeted an art director from Charlotte. “Coke Zero is just about the only soda I drink these days, this makes me nervous… I sincerely hope you didn’t ‘1985 New Coke’ it!” another user wrote.

This is not the first time Coke Zero has undergone a rebrand. In 2017, the company tweaked the sugarless recipe to taste more like a regular coke – leaving customers with mixed reviews.

Now, the newest update “optimizes existing Coca‑Cola Zero Sugar flavors and existing ingredients,” according to the company, a change from past recipe changes like the 1985 fiasco is that Coca-Cola that used different ingredients.

“Recognizing that tastes and preferences are always evolving, we’re focused on continuous improvement to give fans the best-tasting Coca-Cola they want,” said Rafael Prandini, a Coca-Cola trademark lead. In a company statement, Prandini said consumers had positive reactions to taste tests of the new Coke Zero.

Some social media users said the new soda has been available in countries like the UK and Argentina for months now, and that they barely noticed a difference in flavor. Others said it tastes flatter and more syrupy than the original.

“I feel duped. I feel like I’ve been lied to,” Charlie Fleming, a popular UK YouTuber, said after trying the refreshed recipe. “If you see the new one, they taste exactly the same. They’ve changed nothing.”

The refreshed Coke Zero will be available throughout the US and Canada starting this August, with full distribution completed in September.

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Coca-Cola is cutting 2,200 jobs, including more than 10% of its US workforce, as it scraps half its drinks brands

FILE PHOTO: Boxes of Coca-Cola are seen at a grocery store in Los Angeles, California U.S. November 21, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Boxes of Coca-Cola are seen at a grocery store in Los Angeles

Coca-Cola is laying off 2,200 workers as part of a larger restructuring aimed at paring down its business units and brands, the drinks giant announced Thursday.

Around 1,200 of the layoffs will occur in the US, it said, including roughly 500 in Atlanta, where the company is based.

Coke employed 86,200 people worldwide at the end of 2019, including 10,400 in the US.

The coronavirus pandemic has hammered Coke’s business, as sales at places like stadiums and movie theaters dried up due to lockdowns. Its revenue fell 9% year-on-year to $8.7 billion between July and September.

The downturn forced the company to accelerate a restructuring that was already underway.

“We’ve been challenging legacy ways of doing business and the pandemic helped us realize we could be bolder in our efforts,” Coke Chairman and CEO James Quincey said during an earnings call in October.

Coke is reducing its brands by half to 200. It shed multiple slow-selling brands this year, including TabZico, Odwalla, and Diet Coke Feisty Cherry.

The company said it will use the savings to invest in growing brands like Minute Maid and Simply juices and fund the launch of new products like Topo Chico Hard Seltzer, Coca-Cola Energy, and Aha sparkling water.

Coke is also reducing its business segments from 17 to nine.

The severance programs will cost between $350 million to $550 million, the company said.

The company began offering voluntary buyouts to employees in August. Coke wouldn’t disclose how many employees took those offers.

The layoffs won’t impact Coke’s bottlers, which are largely independent. Including bottlers, the company employs more than 700,000 people worldwide.

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