In an effort to expand its sales beyond its core American brands, Coca-Cola has been encouraging its overseas operations to increase their innovation and find winning products in new markets. Eric Bellman and Jennifer Maloney report:
When Coca-Cola Co. directed its global subsidiaries to launch more local flavors last year, the company’s Indian arm came up with a unique drink: chunky mango juice. Indians commonly squeeze mangoes to soften them and then bite a hole in the tropical fruit’s tough skin to suck out the pulp, Coke’s Indian drink developers knew. So they concocted a beverage to mimic that experience, called Maaza Chunky.
The invention of an India-only product was something the beverage behemoth wouldn’t have attempted three years ago, but it reflects a push by Coke Chief Executive James Quincey to get the company to shed its culture of cautiousness, expand into new categories and bring products to market faster.
In Japan, Coke has for years brought new products to market more quickly and frequently than it has elsewhere in the world. Its recent launches there include a laxative Sprite and the company’s first alcoholic drink—a fizzy lemon concoction. By contrast, other Coke business units around the world have depended more on brands originally developed for Americans.
The new strategy calls for the company to “lift and shift” the best local innovations and acquisitions and bring them to other countries, Coke says. It’s also using markets around the world to test new flavors and less-sugary versions of existing brands.
The company launched Coca-Cola Plus Coffee in Australia last fall. Based on the drink’s reception there, the company made some tweaks before rolling out versions to markets including Vietnam and Turkey.
Changes included “dialing up some of the coffee cues, whether it was the aroma on the moment you open the bottle or as you’re drinking it…and also we’ve experimented with what bottle shape to put it in,” Mr. Quincey said. “We’ve gone back to one of the old, heritage Coke bottles.”
This year, the company is expanding the AdeZ vegan smoothie brand from Argentina to Europe and the U.K., with new drinks blending fruit with oats, soy milk, almond milk and coconut milk.
In addition to the chunky mango drink, Coca-Cola India has launched a spicy cumin-flavored soda and a “gritty” guava drink. A new variation of its Thums Up cola with extra caffeine was developed in India, then brought to Bangladesh, as was Rimzim, the cumin soda.
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