Coke to debut iced coffee drink

Coca-Cola Canada has found what it hopes is a new way to win the hearts of this country's caffeine addicts....

Coca-Cola Canada has found what it hopes is a new way to win the hearts of this country’s caffeine addicts.

In a bid to capture leadership in the emerging category of iced coffee drinks, the soft drink manufacturer plans to bring its Planet Java brand to Canadian market by the summer.

Faced with flat sales in the carbonated beverage sector, Coke and its rivals Pepsi-Cola and Cadbury Schweppes have been moving aggressively to launch new beverages and create new categories in recent years.

Coca-Cola Canada’s Atlanta-based parent acquired the PJ Bean Company and its Planet Java line of ready-to-drink coffee beverages in January.

In the U.S. market, the Planet Java brand – which comes in three flavours, and targets young adults 18-35 – is positioned against Frappuccino, a co-venture between Pepsi and Starbucks.

However, according to Chris Johnston, group brand manager for non-carbonated beverages and innovation at Coca-Cola Canada, the Frappuccino brand has not yet made significant inroads north of the border. So Coke is making its move now, before Pepsi can get any serious marketing effort off the ground.

While specific marketing and distribution plans have yet to be mapped out, Johnston says the profile of Planet Java – youthful, edgy and urban – will dictate the approach.

Rather than launch the brand with a mass-media blitz, Coke will likely ape the techniques of sneaker manufacturers or underground fashion labels, and take it to the streets.

‘If you make it too much of a mass-media thing, it loses a bit of its appeal,’ Johnston says.

Coke’s Planet Java acquisition comes after failed attempts last year to purchase The Quaker Oats Company, which markets Gatorade, and South Beach Beverage Co., the maker of SoBe herbal drinks.

It also follows reports that the company is considering the introduction of milk-based beverages for children.

While such product innovation may seem a mere drop in the bucket, it can pay dividends. In Singapore, Coke’s Heaven and Earth canned tea line gained 18% of the US$32 million canned tea market since its June 2000 launch.