Coke Plans New Coffee Drinks

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Coke Plans New Coffee Drinks

Coca-Cola Co. will launch a coffee-infused soft drink in various world markets in 2006, and is working with chocolate maker Godiva on a rich, ready-to-drink coffee, due out in the spring, according to reports from Reuters and Beverage Digest .

Coca-Cola Blak, a combination of Coca-Cola Classic and coffee extracts, will launch in France in January before being rolled out in the United States and other markets during 2006. A Coke spokesperson said Coca-Cola Blak will be a mid-calorie drink, similar to Coca-Cola C2, which contains half the sugar, calories and carbohydrates of regular colas. The formula for the new beverage is expected to vary based on local tastes.

Analysts have said one of the keys to the company's future is capturing more consumers who have moved away from sugary soft drinks to diet versions, or to healthier low- or no-calorie beverages.

Meanwhile, spokesmen at both Coke and Godiva, which is owned by Campbell Soup Co., declined to comment on the buzz about a possible partnership. But Coke executive Mary Minnick did say at an investor meeting that Coke is working with "the ultimate indulgent trademark" on a coffee drink, according to news reports.

Coke's last attempt at bottled coffee, Planet Java, flopped in 2003. Minnick said consumers want ready-to-drink coffees to be dessert-like treats.

Coke is hardly the first to brew up such a marketing approach. Pepsi and Starbucks jointly sell Frappuccino in a bottle and DoubleShot in a can. These products represent more than 80 percent of the ready-to-drink coffee market in the United States.

Also, a small drink company, Brain-Twist, has developed high-calorie coffee drinks with well-known pastry maker Cinnabon. One of Coke's bottlers, Charlotte-based Coca-Cola Consolidated, announced it is distributing the Cinnabon drinks.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution also reported that Coca-Cola will launch a worldwide advertising campaign next year with the tagline, "Welcome to the Coke Side of Life," that highlights the iconic shape of the old-fashioned Coke bottle.

There also will be several takeoffs on the theme, including, "Dream" and "Float on the Coke Side of Life." Coke executives provided some details on the campaign during a recent investment conference. The company has allocated an additional $400 million annually, starting this year, to marketing and new product development.

Minnick also discussed other marketing programs, including a campaign with the tagline, "Make Every Drop Count," that is meant to outline the company's health and wellness offerings to North American consumers. On the new product side, there will also be a new black tea drink, an energy drink aimed at women called Tab Energy and a line of flavored sparkling waters called Dasani Sensations.

In addition to the products Coke is developing internally, CEO Neville Isdell said the company may make "bolt-on acquisitions" in specific countries, where niche products are doing well. Generally, Coke has not been as aggressive or successful as rival Pepsi in entering new categories. As a result, Pepsi now leads Coke in the United States in fast-growing categories like sports drinks, teas and coffee.

Minnick said Coke is prioritizing its innovation by looking for high-margin products. For instance, flavored waters are much more profitable than regular waters. Also, energy drinks have high margins, so even though Coke got a late start in the energy game, it is committed to the sector, Minnick said.