Did we really need another iteration of Diet Coke? Apparently, we do. In December 2006, Coke announced Diet Coke Plus (and eventually, the retro packaging and vitamin mix). It’s now available in stores.
Not learning anything from Cadbury Schweppes’ disaster with 7Up Plus (7Up Plus: Mixed Berry, 7Up Plus: Island Fruit, 7Up Plus: Cherry), Coke thought it was a good idea to add vitamins to a soft drink and try to market that.
According to Coke, “each eight-ounce serving of Diet Coke Plus provides a good source of Niacin (vitamin B3), vitamins B6 and B12, zinc and magnesium.” 8-oz. serving? How does one pull that off with a 12-oz. can that you can’t reseal?
As far as sweeteners, in a first for Diet Coke, this time the fake sugar of choice is a mix of aspartame and acesulfame potassium (also known as Ace-K). To my knowledge, this is the first time that this blend has been used in Diet Coke-branded drink. Most Diet Coke mixes solely use aspartame, with the exception of Diet Coke Sweetened with Splenda, which is obviously sweetened with, duh, Splenda (actually, that drink uses both sucralose — a.k.a Splenda — along with Ace-K).
What is significant about the sweetener mix that Diet Coke is using? It’s the same 2 sweeteners found in the very popular Coca-Cola Zero line of drinks. The biggest difference between the two lines is that Diet Coke uses the “New Coke” formula, while Coca-Cola Zero uses the “Classic Coke” formula. (Apparently Coke has completely given up on the sweetening mix found in Coca-Cola C2, which used not only high fructose corn syrup, but also a combination of aspartame, sucralose, and acesulfame potassium.)
So, once you look underneath the marketing hype that this is “Diet Coke with vitamins”, you’ll see that there seems to be something quite different about the core drink itself. I’m not sure what prompted Coke to move forward with this drink. Sales of the 7Up Plus line have been horrid. And beyond that, yet another “diet” brand extension isn’t going to help Coke’s marketing. It’s still very convoluted. But this is where the money is in soft drinks these days, so they keep trying. The vitamin gimmick might just be a way for them to introduce the success of the Coca-Cola Zero blend into the Diet Coke family.
The packaging of this product is rather interesting. It continues the Diet Coke theme of colored “bands” on the label to designate the type of Diet Coke. In this case, it’s a baby blue/teal hue, much lighter than the blue found on Diet Coke Sweetened with Splenda. The label design also features a metallic element as the background. Probably the oddest artwork decision was the font and style used for the word “Plus”. Feels quite retro 1970s, but in my opinion, rather out of place.
From what I’ve been able to tell, the pricepoint for Diet Coke Plus will be the same as other Diet Coke drinks, probably with large discounts over the next few months to encourage sampling. This is good, as in the past, Coke has tried to charge more for some of their more “specialty” drinks. For example, when Coke C2 was rolled out, they were charging 12-pack prices for just 10 cans. Additionally, when Coke Blak arrived, you paid close to $2 for a single 8-oz. bottle. In both of these situations, the pricing mistakes helped kill the drinks.
As far as the drink itself, upon opening the bottle I purchased, it pretty much smelled like Coke. Not a surprise there. My first sip impression? Much sweeter than any Diet Coke I’ve ever had. I would assume this is due to the aforementioned use of Ace-K as a sweetener. There’s the expected “diet aftertaste”, but surprisingly, it wasn’t as bad as I expected. (And as I fully disclose on all diet soft drink reviews, I hate diet soda!) The aftertaste was not very harsh. Overall, the drink was easier to handle than traditional Diet Coke.
I’m not a Diet Coke drinker, but in my opinion, the taste of Diet Coke Plus is superior to Diet Coke.
(Yes, I’m surprised! )