Trade Magazine: Coke May Launch New Diet Cola

Coca-Cola Co. (KO), the world's largest soft drink maker, is considering introducing a new diet cola in the U.S. market in 2005, a leading beverage industry publication reported Friday.

The new drink, which could be called Coke Zero, Coke Light, Tab or a variation of Tab, would have no calories and be sweetened with sucralose and another artificial sweeter, according to a report in Beverage Digest (search).

The product is still in the "concept testing" phase, Beverage Digest said. A spokeswoman for Coca-Cola refused to confirm or deny speculation that the drink was in the works.

Coca-Cola, which is battling rival PepsiCo Inc. (PEP) for control of the huge soft drink market in North America, currently markets Diet Coke (search), the third most popular soft drink in the United States.

Diet Pepsi is the .6 selling soft drink in the nation. Purchase, N.Y.-based PepsiCo already has announced plans to reformulate its one-calorie Pepsi One cola next year with sucralose (search).

"Sucralose is very popular with consumers and it makes sense for both Coke and Pepsi to have some new diet products with sucralose next year," John Sicher, editor of Beverage Digest, said.

The unveiling of the new products would add to a flurry of roll-outs by both Coca-Cola and PepsiCo in the United States, the largest and most important market for the soft drink titans.

Diet Coke with lime and mid-calorie Coca-Cola C2 (search) are among the new drinks that have been launched by Atlanta-based Coca-Cola in the past year. PepsiCo's new products have included Pepsi Edge, a mid-calorie cola.

Although both Coca-Cola and its rival have scored successes with their new products, PepsiCo has been credited by some on Wall Street for better execution of product roll-outs and marketing, especially in the U.S. market.

Coca-Cola Chairman and Chief Executive Neville Isdell has stressed the importance of making Coca-Cola more aggressive in the innovation area since he took over the top job at the company in June.

Shares of Coca-Cola fell 26 cents to $40.55 on the New York Stock Exchange (search). PepsiCo was down 31 cents to $51.28 on the NYSE.