- Coca-Cola North America is launching a subscription service for consumers to taste more than 20 new drinks before they launch to the public. The Coca-Cola Insiders Club allows 1,000 consumers to sign up for a monthly shipment of three new beverages, including its Aha flavored sparkling water and Coke Energy.
- Subscribers can choose from two payment options for the six-month membership: $10 per month or $50 prepaid with one month free. The company will monitor sales, feedback and social media around the launch and consider expanding beyond the six-month trial.
"People want choice, convenience and customization," McCrea O’Haire, digital experiences manager at Coca-Cola North America, said in a release. "The Insiders Club will allow us to showcase the diversity of the drinks we offer and get some of our newest innovations into the hands of fans who want to be among the first to enjoy them."
In three hours, the initial 1,000 memberships for the new subscription service sold out. Although consumers can join a waiting list to be notified when more subscription spots open up, it could be a good sign for the company that the first batch of taste testers are eager to pay for an exclusive first taste of these new drinks. If the popularity stays at this level, the beverage giant could decide to continue this service in the future.
"It proves there is an opportunity to scale the concept and allow more people to participate," Alex Powell, digital experiences manager at Coca-Cola North America, said in a release.
From pet supplies and makeup to food and beverage boxes, subscription services have become increasingly popular in recent years. As a result, more big CPG companies in the food and beverage space are coming in with their own services and partnerships. Variety Fun's subscription box now features snacks from Kellogg. Coca-Cola said in the release that the Insiders Club was inspired by the growth of the e-commerce subscription market, which has more than doubled annually during the last five years.
But these programs haven't always had the best track record. General Mills launched Nibblr, a snack subscription service, in 2014. It shut down just a year later so the company could focus on other projects. And the meal kit subscription space has struggled to reach consumers in the last year as competition has grown, notably with Blue Apron's stock price plummeting since its IPO.
Coke expects to have better luck with this limited-time trial. It already tested a similar method for the limited-edition launch of Coke Cinnamon, and the company said it delivered "valuable insights." The company promoted the holiday offering across its social platforms, giving people the chance to provide their email to learn more. Coke said response exceeded expectations and showed the company the value in getting products into consumers' hands before they hit shelves.
Giving a variety of consumers a taste of the new Coke products could be a smart marketing move. Coke has announced it will be launching a variety of new products in 2020 and delivering them to consumers — who are likely already fans of the company's products — could bring good word-of-mouth for the brands before hitting shelves. It could also allow the company to make sure there aren't any issues with the drinks before they hit stores.
Coca-Cola is launching its new Coca-Cola Energy line in the U.S. in January 2020 and will also release a new sparkling water brand called Aha in March 2020. But as the energy drink and sparkling water categories get increasingly crowded, it might take more than the Insiders Club to get consumers to choose these beverages instead of the competition.
Coke also has products that don't have planned U.S. launches yet. Last year, Coca-Cola introduced its first-ever alcoholic drink — a canned beverage called Lemon-Do — in Japan. The subscription service could be an easy way for the soda giant to test its international products like Lemon-Do and its Costa Coffee RTD products, which launched in the U.K. this year, among a smaller group of U.S. consumers before putting them on the market here.
Overall, it seems Coca-Cola is investing more in its marketing strategy as it launches new beverages and experiments in different categories. Earlier this year, Coca-Cola started a "Make Your Mix" contest, which offered $10,000 to the person who can develop the most creative flavor combination made with two to three different beverages at a Coke Freestyle machine. And there could be more of these moves in the future. Just last week, Coke said it will reinstate its global chief marketing officer role only two years after retiring it.
As consumers started to lose their taste for soda, Coke has been reshaping its image by launching into different categories. Coca-Cola CEO James Quincey likes to call Coke a "total beverage company." If this new service helps shoppers to see the soda giant in that light, it could become a permanent fixture, and its rivals could look to do something similar.