The Cola Index

Coke Light Sango - photo: HLN
Coke Light Sango (© HLN)
Did you know that Belgium is the country with the highest consumption of Diet Coke (or "Coke Light", as it is called in Europe) per capita, with an average of 85 portions per year? That is the reason why The Coca-Cola Company has chosen Belgium and Luxembourg to test-launch a new variety of the drink: Coke Light Sango.

And did you know that Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi (called "Pepsi Max" in continental Europe and "Pepsi Light" in the UK) are based on aspartame, an artificial and low-calorie sweetener? And did you know that Donald Rumsfeld was the CEO of GD Searle the company that invented aspartame, at the time the FDA gave its approval for the use of it in food and drinks?

mini-sized Diet Coke, Holiday Spice Pepsi, Diet Pepsi Vanilla
Anyway, when I was in the States last november, I was amazed by the high number of available tastes in cola drinks. That is why I invented the "Cola Index", in an analogy with the Big Mac Index. Not to be confused with that other COLA index, the Cost of Living Adjustment... The Cola Index should be an indicator for the choice consumers have in a country, and of the level of participation in the globalization of the economy. Yes, you'll tell me that in Italy, people have an incredible amount of choice between different models and tastes of pizza, but we're talking about global brands here, about global consumerism, and about global penetration of the products of multinationals. And we're not talking about so-called "fair trade", nor about how wonderful those local or regional products are. By the way, The Economist not only invented the Big Mac Index, but also found a correlation between cola consumption and wealth.

So, my definition of the Cola Index is: the number of different product names of cola drinks from Pepsi-Cola Inc. and The Coca Cola Company. When counting, you can accumulate your count in space (i.e. varieties that are only available in a certain region do count), but not in time (i.e. a special Christmas variety and a special summer variety which are not sold year-through, do not count as 2, but as 1). We don't count products from other producers, like Dr. Pepper, nor do we count non-cola drinks from Pepsi and Coca Cola, like Fanta.

For the United States, I found a Cola Index of 22. For Belgium, it will probably be somewhere between 10 and 20 (but hey, we've got designer cola cans!). Norway has a Cola Index of less than 7, an expert told me.

  Coca-Cola Pepsi
regular Classic Pepsi
sugar-free Diet Coke Diet Pepsi
caffeïne-free Classic Caffeine Free Pepsi Caffeine Free
sugar-free & caffeïne-free Diet Coke Caffeine Free Diet Pepsi Caffeine Free
50% sugar C2 Pepsi Edge
1 calorie low sugar   Pepsi One
vanilla flavor Vanilla Coke Pepsi Vanilla
vanilla flavor & sugar-free   Diet Pepsi Vanilla
cherry flavor Cherry Coke Pepsi Wild Cherry
cherry flavor & sugar-free Diet Cherry Coke -
lemon flavor - Pepsi Twist
lemon flavor & sugar-free Diet Coke with Lemon Diet Pepsi Twist
lime flavor - -
lime flavor & sugar-free Diet Coke with Lime -
seasonal - Pepsi Holiday Spice
 TOTAL 10 12
 Cola Index for country: USA 22  

I'm interested in any correction or addition to the US Cola Index, and in the Cola Index of your country.





Coca-Cola Light Sango is the best diet drink ever.
I wished we could get that flavour in the US.




I really want to get vanilla coke back in the UK, they took it out of production :(
I would say i was a coke fanatic.




Pepsi MAX and Pepsi Light are not the same drinks. They are available at the same time here in the Czech Republic and I have tried them side by side, and they are definitely different. Much different, in my opinion.




is there a coke thats mushroom flavoured ?




Anyhow, it's all nothing but water with acids and lots of other shitty ingredients.


pepsi max


Pepsi Light is not the same as Pepsi Max, at least in Spain... CocaCola has now launched Coca Cola Zero, with the same spirit as Pepsi Max: a drink for young people who don't "dare" to have light drinks.


Tim from Antwerp


Coca Cola is waste.... I prefer Dr.Pepper, Diet or Cherry-Vanilla...





You're lucky to have Cherry Coke and Cherry Pepsi! Here in Norway there are almost kinds of Cherry Sodas, except from if you buy them imported from USA for $3 per can!




In New Zealand there is a Coke with Raspberry


ben Jankowski


There is a Diet Pepsi with Lime in the States as well




Hello, I Am Gianna Ferretti, I write from Ancona, Italy. I find interesting the cola index proposed in your post.
I wrote a post on my blog TRASHFOOD, I hope that in few days we well have data to calculate it also for Italy. Do you have some data on my country?
Thank you!




Pepsi does have a Diet Wild Cherry Pepsi... I'm always glad when it goes on sale at my local high-priced-market as the low-priced market doesn't carry it...





Yes, there is a diet vanilla coke, there is also in the usa Coca Cola Lime (not Diet) and now comes Coca Cola Zero (with zero calorie) and a brand new Diet Coke with Splenda (a new kind of aspartame)

That's it




There is also a diet vanilla coke.




@dries: "Diet Coke with Lemon" is on my list, but I didn't find the regular, non-diet lemon flavor. If you see it somewhere, please let me know.




doesn't coke have 'lemon coke' or some such? i recall seeing commercials for it a few years ago on tv.




@dof: Burger in cheek?




"unfamiliar with the Big Mac index"

It's a more or less tongue in cheek index to detect over- or undervalued currencies.





Oh, thank God. When you started talking about Don Rumsfeld and aspartame I thought you'd gone off the deep end with a conspiracy theory worthy of a German Parliamentarian*. I was racking my brain wondering how you were going to tie Diet Coke into Halliburton, weapons of mass destruction and discrediting the pope. Then I realized: you're being light-hearted. Good for you.

@VH: "almost?" Sir, as we say here, close only counts in horsehoes, slow dancing and atomic bombs.

What is the cola index supposed to show? I'm unfamiliar with the Big Mac index.

*Speaking of conspiracies- did you see this?



Virginie B


Hi I'm from belgium, if you want me to help you with your index ,you can send me a mail, I'll answer you with great pleasure.

I've seen my first Coke light sango ad today i'm really exited to know how it will taste!!






Then penetration of non-brand cola's in Belgium is very high. The "real thing" spends a lot of money on brand-building apparently (marketing, commercials, sponsoring), a cost the non-brand cola's don't have. Cola is a bordercase between a commodity and a brand thing. So many people buy the copies in basic food hypermarkets as Aldi and Colruyt for home consumption. They are almost half the price and taste almost the same. In public (bars, parties) of course you consume the "real" thing.




I thought Pepsi Max was the caffeine-enhanced equivalent of Mountain Dew for the non-US market. Many countries do not allow the addition of caffeine to fruit-flavored drings so they need a cola drink for the high-octane variety.

I drink Diet Mtn. Dew in the States & Pepsi Max in Europe when I can get it, although lately I've been falling for the lime-flavored Diet Cokes here.

Coke is also coming out with lime-flavored regular Coke now, too.

I could swear I've seen both Pepsi Lite & Pepsi Max in Norway & the UK. I do know that I've purchased Pepsi Max in both countries (your list shows only Pepsi Lite for the UK).