Are carbonated soft drinks (CSDs) the new tobacco? Victim of its own success, Coca-Cola, the world's largest CSD maker, is distancing from its core fizzy image not just in the US but also in India as was evident from a three-day All India Bottlers meet in Bangalore mid-February.
While the parent has decided to banish the term CSDs globally in favour of sparkling beverages, the Bangalore conference discussed probable launches for the next two years and most of them had nothing to do with pure CSDs.
“By the time my kid becomes an adult, the fizz would have gone, literally. Coca-Cola would be a juice and milk company,'' a company insider said in a lighter vein indicating the seriousness with which the company is overhauling its portfolio.
This could also be gauged from the fact that not only did the top management discuss the new products in the recent meet but also came armed with samples so that bottlers were convinced about the company's plans.
“We were surprised. It didn't seem like a cola company at all,'' said a company source. This is because Coke is now talking about milk-based drinks, coffee-based flavours, ice-cream colas, Indianised drink like aam panna and raw apple drink and flavoured water.
ET has learnt that Coke is in a hurry to bring these into India, and some could find their way this summer itself. Minute Maid juices and a new formulation of Fanta have already hit select markets in the country as the short-term focus is on juices.
Maybe, Coke could have flogged CSDs in India for some more time had it not been for the pesticide controversy which showed its ugly face twice in three years denting sales and image of the soft drink companies.
In the US, obesity is so strongly linked with high-calorie colas that recent launches have all been in the light, diet or zero calorie segments.
In fact, reports suggest that the whole idea behind replacing the term CSDs with sparkling beverages is to club an entire new “generation of drinks which use some carbonation in everything from purified water to teas.''
The chairman and chief executive of The Coca-Cola Company Neville Isdell said at the annual conference of the Consumer Analyst Group of New York last Thursday that the company's new initiatives (light, zero and diet drinks) should also be considered part of the booming health and wellness beverage sector.
Speaking about Coke's plans to reverse years of flat stock prices with the range, Mr Isdell said, “We are committed to win on our home field, but international market is the key.”