- Coca-Cola will be launching its coffee and soda hybrid drink on U.S. shelves in January 2021, according to a release. Starting this week, the beverage, called Coca-Cola with Coffee, will be available for the Coca-Cola Insiders Club, the company's subscription service.
- Coca-Cola with Coffee has already launched in international markets. The product was piloted in Japan in 2018 and is now offered in more than 30 countries, including Australia, Brazil, Vietnam, Turkey and Italy.
- Compared to a traditional 12-ounce can of Coke, Coca-Cola with Coffee has double the caffeine and half the calories. Coca-Cola with Coffee, which has 69 mg of caffeine and 70 calories, will come in Dark Blend, Vanilla and Caramel flavors.
Coca-Cola is branching out beyond its classic sodas, and coffee seems to be its next big bet. Since the company already rolled out the beverage to international markets, it has had the chance to solicit consumer feedback as part of its "test-and-learn approach" before releasing it into the U.S. market.
This beverage will be one of the more than 20 new drinks that Coca-Cola North America promised to launch on its subscription service, which started in December, before going out to the general public. Through such a limited initial launch to fans, Coke could get valuable insight on the product from the 2,000 "Insiders" who will get to taste the beverage in the U.S. before the rest of the country.
Since it is already available internationally, what made the company decide to launch in the U.S. now? Jaideep Kibe, vice president for the Coca-Cola trademark in North America, told Business Insider the pandemic accelerated plans.
"As people have been in lockdown or ... working from home, there's a real opportunity to get that boost, that little pick-me-up, whether it's the slump in the afternoon or mid morning," Kibe said.
Coca-Cola may also be using this rollout to plan out future launches in the U.S. Last year, Coca-Cola closed its $5.1 billion purchase of Costa Coffee, a British coffeehouse chain. At the time the acquisition was announced, Coke CEO James Quincey said its big buy would help the brand expand into coffee, which he called "one of the strongest growing categories in the world."
Since then, Coca-Cola's Costa Coffee launched an RTD beverage in the U.K., but the brand has been largely absent from the U.S. market. The U.S. reception for Coca-Cola with Coffee may help determine if or when the beverage maker brings its RTD Costa Coffee drinks to this side of the Atlantic Ocean.
Coca-Cola isn't the only soda giant mixing its traditional cola with coffee. PepsiCo said it would launch Pepsi Café, a cola-coffee blend, across U.S. retailers in April of this year for a limited time. Pepsi's blended beverage also offers twice the amount of caffeine as a regular Pepsi and comes in Original and Vanilla flavors.
As coffee has become increasingly popular staple in U.S., with 64% of American adults drinking a cup of coffee each day, more big food and beverage companies are moving into the coffee business. Nestlé bought the rights to sell Starbucks’ line of grocery products in a $7.15 billion deal in 2018. RBC analyst Nik Modi predicted this move took some business away from Coke and Pepsi as consumers trade soda for coffee to get their caffeine fix.
Coca-Cola has been diversifying its traditional soda portfolio lately as it seeks to revitalize the category. Early last year, Coca-Cola released its first new flavors in more than a decade: Orange Vanilla Coke and Orange Vanilla Coke Zero Sugar. This year, it unveiled its new Coca-Cola Energy line in the U.S.
Moving forward, the company is planning to continue to launch into more profitable categories, like this new coffee-flavored cola and hard seltzer. It also hopes to eliminate what it calls "zombie brands," which are struggling in today's market.
"The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the need for us to be more disciplined in how we launch, validate, refine and scale up big bets like this," Javier Meza, chief marketing officer for The Coca-Cola Company’s sparkling beverage portfolio, said in a release.