Prepared Foods of March 28, 2005 enewsletter

Coca-Cola, capitalizing on the consumer shift toward healthier drinks, will launch a diet version of its flagship cola beverage in the U.S. this June. The new drink will be called Coca-Cola Zero, a zero-calorie cola marketed to young adults.

For the first time, Coca-Cola will offer a new product on eBay prior to the national launch. A sample pack -- including six bottles of Coca-Cola Zero and limited-edition branded premiums -- will be listed, with all proceeds going to charity.

The launch will be supported by an extensive marketing campaign to include TV, radio, print, out-of-home, online activation and sampling, the Atlanta-based company said. The new drink will be available in a variety of sizes.

Coke said the launch will not impact Diet Coke, one of the country's best-selling diet drinks, since “the target audiences are different.”

The company said earlier this year that it planned to accelerate its marketing with a major reemphasis on its diet portfolio to capitalize on health and wellness concerns. The plan calls for doubling spending in North America on those products.

In other Coca-Cola news, the company announced a realignment of its group structure in Europe, Asia and the Middle East as it moves to coordinate and integrate more targeted marketing and growth initiatives. The company will create a new European Union Group, a North Asia, Eurasia and Middle East group and a Southeast Asia & Pacific Rim group.

All the groups now will report to a new function that oversees corporate innovation, marketing and strategy, led by Mary Minnick. Separately, executive Sandy Allen will retire after nearly 40 years with the company.