• Transform magazine
  • February 27, 2020


Coca-Cola GB packaging updated in response to sugar tax


Coca-Cola’s glass bottle shape is a design icon. It is one of the few packaging shapes that is immediately and easily recognisable around the world, even when it doesn’t bear the Coca-Cola logo. Its place in design history is nearly matched by the wordmark itself, and the jaunty red and white packaging that adorns most Coke products, globally.

For Coca-Cola Great Britain, though, change is nigh. The UK government has introduced a ‘sugar tax,’ imposing fees on beverages with more than eight grams of sugar per 100 ml of liquid. Beverage manufacturers are responding largely in two ways. One is to reduce the sugar content of their drinks – as Irn-Bru did to much criticism – the other is to change the shape, size or design of the beverage to better inform consumers about their choices. In responding to the tax, packaging has come to play a crucial role in communicating the contents of products and their status with regards to the tax.

Coca-Cola GB has released a new packaging range for its beverages as part of the company’s overall strategy to encourage more people to drink Coca-Cola with zero sugar. The iconic red-and-white packaging will still prevail, but from this month, a black or red band will run across the top of the beverages denoting whether or not they contain sugar. Different coloured caps will further inform consumers of the distinction.

Alec Mellor, Coca-Cola’s marketing manager says, “For more than 130 years, the colour red has been associated with the great taste and experience of enjoying a Coca-Cola and we want to make it even clearer that you can have that taste and experience with or without sugar. Sales of Coca-Cola zero sugar have almost doubled in the last two years and we believe this latest change will help us grow it even further and encourage more people to give it a try.”

The new packaging will be supported by a £5m marketing campaign and sampling promotion to raise awareness of the zero sugar variety. Coca-Cola’s packaging is 100% recyclable; the new design will not affect that.

Jon Woods, GM of Coca-Cola GB and Ireland, says, "It is important to us that we strike the right balance between helping people to reduce the sugar they consume from our drinks and still offering them choice, great taste and the drinks they actually want. We think we have succeeded – changing recipes without compromising on taste where possible, leaving Coca-Cola Classic as it always has been and continuing to offer people an even wider range of lower and no sugar drinks. As a result, by the time the tax comes into effect, the vast majority of our drinks will not be subject to it."

To read more about Coca-Cola's packaging and design heritage, click here.