Diet Coke


The Coca-Cola Company introduced Diet Coke to great fanfare in 1982, following another low-calorie cola called Tab that was produced in 1963. Although Tab was successful in the growing weight and calorie-conscious market, its name referring to “keeping a tab on your weight,” the company’s field tests and research on consumer attitudes indicated that sales were limited by its lack of the Coca-Cola trademark. The company began developing a different diet cola to replace Tab from 1975, which would have a renewed brand image and respond to the demand for a diet drink with better taste. Company technicians managed to develop a new, smoother flavor with less phosphoric acid under the slogan, “Just for the taste of it, Diet Coke!”

The use of artificial sweeteners as a cheaper substitute for cane sugar saved the company around $100 million a year. The company president, Roberto Goizueta, had decided that high-fructose corn syrup would be used in regular Coke by 1980, suppressing the company’s internal tensions between preserving and altering the original formula. In 1983 the company began using aspartame as the artificial sweetener for Diet Coke, initially blending it with saccharin. Although aspartame had just been approved by the FDA in 1981 and its effects on human health and beverage shelf-life were still contested, Coca-Cola soon began using it as the primary sweetener due to its better taste.

Moving away from the sugar market allowed the company to establish Diet Coke as a new product that called for bottlers, who purchased the syrup formula from the company, to sign new contracts. The previous agreement had only specified concentrates containing sugar, and coke executives held that neither Diet Coke nor regular Coke containing corn syrup applied to them. Amendments in the contract offered by Coca-Cola would allow the company to gain control over syrup prices. Despite protests from bottlers, the company won the legal battle in 1989 and Diet Coke was named as a new brand, with new ingredients and new contracts. Sales grew, aided by the design decision to make the label silver and making the product more visible on the shelves, and by 1983 it had become the largest-selling soft drink in the U.S.

The Coca-Cola Company was founded in 1886 by an American pharmacist, and began its international distribution in the 1920s. Since then, Coca-Cola has expanded its operations to more than 200 countries worldwide. Their marketing strategies and packaging innovations have helped to establish the popularity of cola drinks in the soft drink industry.

Location: Currently not on view

See more items in: Work and Industry: Mechanical and Civil Engineering


Exhibition Location:

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: 1999.0155.02Accession Number: 1999.0155Catalog Number: 1999.0155.02

Object Name: Can

Measurements: overall: 4 7/8 in x 2 5/8 in; 12.3825 cm x 6.6675 cm


Record Id: nmah_880981

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