- Coca-Cola confirmed to Food & Wine it will offer Coca-Cola Cinnamon and Sprite Winter Spiced Cranberry on a limited-edition basis beginning Sept. 30. The seasonal beverage brands will be available until the end of the year or while supplies last. The company told the magazine more details would soon be forthcoming about the new items.
- News of the upcoming product releases didn't come from the beverage giant itself, but from an Instagram account called CandyHunting. The account noted the cinnamon-flavored Coke first appeared as a Coke Zero variety last year in the U.K.
- According to BuzzFeed, Coca-Cola said there would also be a limited-edition Sprite Winter Spiced Cranberry flavor for the holiday season. The company came out with a Sprite Cranberry product in 2013, which proved to be popular, Food & Wine said. Sales doubled from 2013 to 2017, possibly helped by a Christmas-themed animated YouTube commercial in November 2017 featuring basketball player LeBron James.
Seasonal brands and limited-edition food and beverage products can be a winning strategy for CPG companies. Consumers tend to appreciate exclusive items designed just for a special holiday so they can celebrate with well-known legacy brands.
Also, as beer brewers such as AB InBev and Sam Adams have learned, limited-edition launches can test potential products. A company can target marketing efforts to draw in new repeat customers. If the food or beverage performs well in the short term, the product might become part of a company's permanent portfolio.
The upcoming Coke and Sprite products sound like logical extensions for these brands since related offerings have been relatively successful — both for the Coca-Cola Cinnamon product in the U.K. and the Sprite Cranberry product. Coca-Cola brought the cranberry version back in the fall of 2014 in both regular and zero-calorie versions.
"We listened to our fans and their desire to add cranberry flavor to Sprite. That lead to the 2013 launch of Sprite Cranberry, our first flavor innovation since 2005. Once again, we’re rolling out the popular, crisp, clear, berry-flavored taste in time for those special holiday celebrations," Kimberly Paige, associate vice president of Sprite Brands for Coca-Cola North America, said in a 2014 release.
Coca-Cola has been on an innovation run lately, with new products arriving on a regular basis. In 2017, the company introduced Coca-Cola Zero Sugar — a revamp of Coke Zero made to taste more like original Coke. It redesigned its Diet Coke brand last year, adding flavors such as Twisted Mango and Zesty Blood Orange, and expanded the line this year to include Blueberry Açai and Strawberry Guava. In February, the company released its first new flavors in 10 years by introducing Orange Vanilla Coke and Orange Vanilla Coke Zero Sugar.
These efforts have been well-received so far. The Diet Coke revamp resulted in strong sales — and even growth — despite declines in the soda category as a whole. Coca-Cola sales have grown for the past five quarters following at least five years of declines, according to Nielsen data. The Wall Street Journal reported soda volumes were up 4% during the company's second quarter, aided by these new product launches.
Other beverage companies have also introduced limited-edition beverages. PepsiCo rolled out a cinnamon-flavored soda for an eight-week period in 2017 called Pepsi Fire. The introduction wasn't a hit. Some said it was not cinnamony enough, and others called it an acquired taste they didn't care to acquire. The product is no longer listed on the company's website.
Pepsi seems to be having better luck with its limited-edition Mountain Dew products. The company released a new blue drink called Liberty Brew for this summer featuring "50 flavors in one." The brand has seen a number of other recent innovations, which is in line with Pepsi's pledge to invest more in Mountain Dew for the rest of this year.
Limited-edition products are also being introduced in the food category. Hormel Foods will make its Pumpkin Spice Spam available this fall at Walmart and online after pitching it as a joke two years ago. The company could capitalize both on Spam's popularity and the seasonal appeal of the pumpkin spice flavor.
As for Coca-Cola, its plans for limited-edition holiday flavors already seem to catching on. Since the news was teased about a week ago on Instagram, the post already had about 8,200 likes in a few days. The products haven't even been officially announced — let alone released.