History of Coca-Cola 1982-1989: the debut of Diet

The 1980s was the era of leg warmers, headbands and the fitness craze – and a time of much change and innovation at The Coca‑Cola Company.

In 1981, Roberto C Goizueta became chairman of the board of directors and CEO, and set about a complete overhaul of the company with a strategy he called ‘intelligent risk taking’.

Among his bold moves was organising the numerous US bottling operations into a new public company, Coca‑Cola Enterprises Inc. He also led the introduction of Diet Coke, the very first extension of the Coca‑Cola trademark. Within two years, it had become the top low-calorie drink in the world, second in success only to Coca‑Cola.

One of Goizueta’s other initiatives in 1985 was the development of a new taste for Coca‑Cola, the first change in formulation in 99 years. In taste tests people loved ‘New Coke’, but it soon became clear that the wider public had a deep emotional attachment to the original, and they pleaded for a return to the traditional formula. Critics called it the biggest marketing blunder ever. Coca‑Cola listened, and the original product was returned to the market as Coca‑Cola Classic. Before long, Coke began to increase its lead over the competition, a lead that continues to this day.

Up next: the 1990s and brand new drinks…

History of Coca‑Cola: 1886-1892
History of Coca‑Cola: 1893-1904
History of Coca‑Cola: 1905-1918
History of Coca‑Cola: 1919-1940
History of Coca‑Cola: 1941-1959
History of Coca‑Cola: 1960-1981
History of Coca‑Cola: 1982-1989
History of Coca‑Cola: 1990-1999
History of Coca‑Cola: 2000-Now