India became the 149th country to start selling Coca Cola’s successful innovation Coca Cola Zero. The launch is being considered as a strategic bet in the brand’s attempt to strengthen its existing portfolio and is aimed at providing more choices to the urban Indian male consumer.
Zero is a low-calorie (0.50 kilocalories per 150ml) variation of Coca Cola targeting men, who tend to associate 'diet drinks' with women.
Earlier this year, the company had launched Maaza Milky Delite in Punjab and Kolkata and also expanded its Schweppes footprint.
At the time of its launch in the US, Coke Zero was Coca-Cola's largest product launch in 22 years. When asked why the company had decided to launch Zero after a decade in India, Debabrata Mukherjee, Vice President, Marketing and Commercial, India and South West Asia, promptly explained, “India is one of the top six markets for Coke and we felt there was enough wind beneath our sails for us to take this forward at this time. Coca Cola Zero is an idea whose time has come.”
The launch strategy of Zero is a deliberate attempt at exclusivity where in the first phase 1.5 million consumers will be sampled. The brand is being launched in partnership with sandwich chain Subway and multiplex brand INOX, where it will be first made available in a limited manner. “It will first be made available in the top 100 towns of India, directed at 90 per cent of the Sec A urban population- a segment that is well travelled and networked and also demands wider product choices,” added Mukherjee.
The profitability of the beverage giant has been showing a downward trend and this year it posted the lowest sales in three years. Experts have blamed it on the discounts being offered to retailers. But the company has been investing heavily in its supply chain and retail, a strategy it believes will pay off in the long run.
Speaking about the growing tastes of consumers, Venkatesh Kini, President, India and South West Asia, Coca Cola explained, “There is a greater demand for choice among the well-travelled consumers. Choice is running consumption as the global Indian is being exposed to global tastes.” He also cited the '4 I's which would help Coca Cola achieve its targets in the coming years. They were: Invest, Intensify, Increase and Innovate.