Coca-Cola debuts kombucha-smoothie hybrid beverage in US stores
12 Mar 2019 --- Beverage giant Coca-Cola is debuting Odwalla’s Smoobucha in stores across the US, after having unveiled the line of products at Natural Products Expo in California last week. The beverage fuses smoothies and kombucha – an ancient Chinese fermented tea drink – creating a taste that hopes to entice consumers who may be wary of the “boldness” of the kombucha flavor. Coca-Cola acquired Odwalla in 2001, for US$181 million, in a move hoped to boost its juice business. The Smoobucha is part of Coca-Cola’s foray into the kombucha category, with further moves including the acquisition of kombucha maker Organic & Raw Co in September of last year.
The uniquely fizzy flavor – and touted gut-health boosting capabilities – of kombucha has proven popular, with an increase in the number of product launches over the past years. According to Innova Market Insights, over 8 percent of global iced tea launches in the 12 months to the end of June 2017 featured kombucha in a rising range of flavors and formats, up from just over 5 percent in the 12 months to the end of June 2016 and less than 1 percent five years previously. Numbers rose nearly 60 percent in the 12 months to the end of June 2017, although still from a relatively small base.
The fusion drink comes in three flavors – Citrus & Guava, Berry & Ginger and Apple & Greens – and offers 40 percent less sugar and fewer calories than many leading smoothies. It also includes 500 million colony-forming units of “good” bacteria, is a source of fiber and delivers 100 percent daily value of antioxidant vitamin C.
Coca-Cola’s website reports brand Director Sara Smith as saying that Odwalla Smoobucha demonstrates the Coca-Cola Company’s commitment to innovating quickly to bring people beverages they want while staying true to Odwalla’s mission to “nourish every body and soul.”Click to Enlarge
The idea for the “first-of-its-kind” offering sprouted eight months ago during an internal brainstorm session, she continues. “Our innovation strategy focuses on bringing trends from the fringe to the mainstream health and wellness shopper. Kombucha is growing 40 percent year over year but can be polarizing because of its vinegary, tart taste. We saw this as the perfect opportunity for Odwalla to create a bridge for people who have been either intimidated to try kombucha or turned off by its taste.”
Odwalla is also introducing two limited-edition flavors inspired by “the vibrant essence of spring.” Hot Tropics and Mint to Be Berry offer a refreshing blend of 100 percent juice, coconut water and trendy botanical ingredients such as jalapeño and mint, Coca-Cola’s website reports.
Functional drinks growth
The growth of functional drinks has been notable and sparked the interest of a number of large players in the beverage field. It follows a general move from large soda companies, such as Coca-Cola, towards a diversified portfolio with an increased number of healthy options.
As well as its acquisition of Organic & Raw Co in September last year, Coca-Cola Amatil and Coca-Cola Company jointly acquired a 45 percent minority interest in Australia-based Made Group last October. The Made Group’s portfolio includes cold-pressed juices, high-protein smoothies, probiotic milk, yogurts, coconut water and cold-brew coffee. Made Group is known for leading Australian beverage brands including Cocobella, Rokeby Farms, Impressed and the company’s first brand, NutrientWater, which was launched in 2005.
It also reached a definitive agreement to acquire UK-headquartered coffee chain Costa Limited for £3.9 billion (approximately US$5.1 billion) and in August, it acquired a minority ownership stake in Bodyarmor – a fast-growing line of premium sports performance and hydration beverages.
Innova Market Insights data show that rising consumer interest in functional beverages and fermented products has moved out of the specialty sector and into the mainstream. Fermented, lightly effervescent black or green tea drinks, such as kombucha, contain multiple species of yeast and bacteria along with organic acids, active enzymes, amino acids and polyphenols produced by these microbes. They are positioned as a sustainable, well-being boosting alternative to artificial soft drinks.
As consumers are increasingly reducing their sugar intake, the move towards healthier beverages is growing. Kombucha also offers the functionality of boosting gut health, placing it firmly on trend and this healthy positioning of green tea and kombuchas is vital for growth. Nearly 96 percent of global launches in the 12 months to the end of June 2017 were positioned on a health platform of some kind, with clean labeling and digestive health key areas of interest.
By Laxmi Haigh
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