Prepared Foods September 6, 2004 enewsletter

What's in a name? Coca-Cola's about to find out.

After 30 years, Coke is planning to switch the name of Diet Sprite to Diet Sprite Zero.

Though the soft drink's formula will stay the same, the brand's look will change noticeably. Even if consumers sometimes do not like changes, Coke thinks it needs to do something to put more attention on Diet Sprite, a brand that has been given little emphasis over the years.

"While Diet Sprite was doing well, we saw an opportunity to make it perform even better," said Melissa Fahs, a senior brand manager for Coca-Cola North America.

In recent times, Coke has adopted a bit of a try-anything approach with its various Sprite brands.

There has been a new ad campaign for slow-selling regular Sprite. A year ago, Coke launched Sprite Remix, a brand that sold well enough to help boost overall U.S. sales of Sprite-trademark drinks in 2003 by 3.9%.

It was the first increase since 1999.

Now Diet Sprite gets a makeover. While Diet Sprite's sales have grown each year since 1998, the brand has not had enough distribution to become a big player. Currently, it is the 11th-selling soft drink in Coke's U.S. portfolio, sandwiched between Pibb Xtra and Mello Yello.

The new name is meant to sound more contemporary. Coke's testing indicates it should help. The Sprite Zero name also has a bit of a track record, given that it is already in use in several international markets.

Consumers will start seeing Diet Sprite Zero around Sept. 13. Marketing is under way now, including billboards that tout the theme "Nothing is lighter than zero."