Coca-Cola is introducing a new look for Fresca, its no-calorie soda with a citrusy flavor, according to a company statement.
The beverage giant said the soft drink with the "distinct, grapefruit-forward taste" is not well-known among millennials. The goal is to reach out to this influential generation with a redesign of the product, which first hit the market in 1966.
"We realized we’re sitting on a potential gold mine," Ryan Hughes, the company's associate brand manager for Sprite and Citrus Brands, said in a release. "Fresca ... hits the sweet spot somewhere between a soda and a flavored sparkling water."
Coca-Cola's Hughes touched on a major reason for this rebranding move: The Fresca product is not quite a soda or a flavored sparkling water. Lettering on the 12-ounce cans calls it a "sparkling flavored soda." Such products are a very popular niche right now, so it makes sense that Coca-Cola chose this moment to push Fresca forward.
The Atlanta beverage giant said even though Fresca does not contain sugar or calories, it’s not being marketed as a diet soft drink. This is likely because the once-beloved diet soda is no longer popular among consumers opting for more natural, good-for-you products such as tea, water, coffee or sports drinks.
“Fresca hasn’t said anything to consumers since 2008, and our awareness with younger consumers is very low,” said Hughes. “We felt it was time for a refresh after about a decade of silence.”
According to the product label, Fresca Original Citrus contains concentrated grapefruit juice as the third ingredient, which may help to convey a healthier and more flavorful image than sugary sodas containing juice, or flavored waters with no juice added. The other two Fresca flavors — Black Cherry Citrus and Peach Citrus — also contain concentrated grapefruit juice, along with natural and artificial flavors, but the juice is further down the ingredient list.
The Fresca products also contain aspartame, an artificial sweetener about 200 times stronger than table sugar. Consumers have avoided it in recent years, in part because of concerns over its potential to cause cancer. The National Cancer Institute has found no evidence of a link between aspartame and the disease.
Even though aspartame is made in a lab and is not necessarily something that today's clean label advocates desire, it makes Fresca sugar-free — an important distinction as brands throughout food and beverage anticipate the newly revamped Nutrition Facts label, which breaks out the amount of added sugars in a product. Other popular sparkling flavored sodas on the market use sugar or sucralose, or remain unsweetened.
Other big beverage manufacturers are taking advantage of the sparkling beverage trend as well — though most don't have a longstanding brand already in their arsenal. Last year, PepsiCo introduced IZZE Fusions and Lemon Lemon, which are sparkling juices and lemonade. They reach the same market spot as Fresca.
Still, Fresca provides a more flavorful option for sparkling beverages than LaCroix, which is the segment's fastest- growing brand. While LaCroix, PepsiCo's bubly, and Nestle's sparkling spring water products grow more popular, some consumers might want more. In the case of Fresca, Coca-Cola said that the new-look product will be featured in point-of-sale advertising and targeted sampling in millennial hotspots such as co-working spaces and college campuses.
Coca-Cola has been on a quest to revamp its beverages to make them more intriguing to millennials. Diet Coke recently added new flavors and a can design. And, last summer, the company switched up Coke Zero with Coca-Cola Zero Sugar, which is basically the same product but with a flavor tweak to mimic original Coke. The Zero Sugar product has no calories and is sweetened with aspartame.
By breathing new life into Fresca, Coca-Cola is banking on the recognition and positioning that the brand once had. According to Statista, about 4.1 million people drank Fresca once a week as of last spring, giving the brand room to grow.