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Slideshow: Coca-Cola’s year of innovation | 2019-10-23

3 min read
ATLANTA — The Coca-Cola Co. is pouring its products into new categories. The company’s innovation in 2019 has moved its Coca-Cola brand into the energy drink market, its Simply Beverages brand into the smoothie and tea segments, its Smartwater brand into the flavored and sparkling water sector and its Honest Tea brand into the coffee and chilled tea categories.

“Our new innovations are really designed to meet the changing needs and preferences for today’s consumers,” said JC Harvey, director of retail channel strategy and commercialization for Coca-Cola North America. “You’re going to see we’re entering categories, like energy, we’re introducing new flavors and into formats with the goal of continuing to drive category growth like we’ve done in the past.”

On Oct. 1, Coca-Cola Co. announced plans to debut Coca-Cola Energy nationwide in January. The product was among dozens of new beverages previewed during the 2019 NACS Show, presented by the National Association of Convenience Stores, held Oct. 1-4 in Atlanta.

Coca-Cola formulated the product to draw new consumers to the energy category. Energy drinks are purchased by less than half of American households, Mr. Harvey said.

“That’s really the opportunity for Coke Energy for both the Coca-Cola Co., but just as important, our customers, to bring people into the category,” Mr. Harvey said. “It’s designed to be more approachable versus everything else in the market, and to be more appealing, especially to people who have never tried an energy drink.”

Coca-Cola Energy features a “cola-forward taste” with 114 mg of caffeine per 12-oz serving, which compares to 34 mg in a 12-oz can of original Coca-Cola, plus B vitamins and guarana extracts. Varieties include original, cherry, zero-sugar original and zero-sugar cherry.

The company also expanded its Simply Beverages brand into two new categories this year. In February, Coca-Cola launched Simply Smoothie, a new line of chilled, ready-to-drink 100% fruit smoothies in three varieties: strawberry banana, mango pineapple and orchard berry. Each shake-and-sip smoothie contains between 130 and 140 calories per 8-oz serving and comes in multi-serve 32-oz bottles and in single-serve 11.5-oz bottles.

“Our new innovations are really designed to meet the changing needs and preferences for today’s consumers.”  — JC Harvey, Coca-Cola Co.

At NACS, Coca-Cola debuted Simply Tea, a new line of brewed black tea blended with juice in raspberry, lemon and peach flavors.

Smartwater, Coca-Cola’s premium water brand, entered the sparkling and flavored water category in March with its first flavored varieties in the United States. Coca-Cola tested more than 20 flavors with consumers and whittled the number down to the final three: Smartwarter Sparkling strawberry blood orange, fuji apple pear and raspberry rose.

At NACS, Smartwater introduced four flavored non-sparkling waters that are lightly infused with a hint of fruit or herbal flavors, including pineapple kiwi, strawberry blackberry, cucumber lime and watermelon mint.

“This really builds on the trend of people continue to ask more from their water,” Mr. Harvey said. “They want hydration but also a little indulgence and flavor because just drinking regular water all day long gets a little boring.”

Coca-Cola’s Honest Tea brand made its first foray into the coffee category in September with the launch of Honest Cold Brew Coffee at Natural Products Expo East. Featuring organic and Fair Trade certified coffee and cane sugar, the bottled beverages are available in three varieties: unsweetened, Cubano and mocha. The lightly sweetened varieties contain 50% less sugar than the leading sweetened ready-to-drink coffee, according to the company.

“Coffee is a natural extension for us,” said Seth Goldman, founder and former chief executive officer of Honest Tea, at Expo East. “Our guardrails are so hardwired… For us, we wouldn’t do it if we couldn’t make it Fair Trade.”

Also at Expo East, Honest Tea unveiled Honest Organic Cold Brew Tea, marking the brand’s debut in the chilled tea segment. Packaged in multi-serve bottles, flavors include white peach apricot black tea and green tea with jasmine and honey.

“Gold Peak sells a lot in chilled tea, but obviously as the Coca-Cola Co., we aren’t selling any chilled tea in the natural channel, and we should,” Mr. Goldman said. “In the cooler, where we’re going to start, it’s all multi-serve; there’s no single-serve. This is essentially in the dairy set.”

View slideshow of recent innovation from the Coca-Cola Co.

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