Coca-Cola Debuts Caffeinated Sparkling Water

Coca-Cola is adding more sparkle to its lineup in 2020.

In March, the brands North American business will launch AHA caffeinated sparkling water–its first new brand in 13 years. “As the largest and fastest growing part of the category, mainstream flavored sparkling water is a segment we know we must double-down on,” said Celina Li, VP of Coca-Cola North America’s water category. “AHA is our big-bet brand in this big-bet category.”

The offerings will be calorie- and sodium-free in eight flavor combinations including: Lime + Watermelon, Strawberry + Cucumber, Citrus + Green Tea, Black Cherry + Coffee, Orange + Grapefruit, Apple + Ginger, Blueberry +Pomegranate and Peach + Honey.

In order to appeal to a wide range of consumers, the company decided to pair mainstream fruit flavors, such as berries and citruses, with trending tastes. “Some of the flavors we landed on–green tea, honey and black cherry, for example–are very niche. If we were to launch these on their own, we’d be limiting our consumer base,” said Nilesh Karava, who oversees R&D for Coca-Cola North America’s water and active hydration portfolios.

During the development process, the company spoke to thousands of consumers, in addition to mining category purchase data, to find out what people were looking for. “There are unmet needs for consumers in the category today, both for those who don’t drink sparkling water regularly and for those who do,” said Julie Siwemuke, sparkling water director, Coca-Cola North America. “When shoppers browse the sparkling water aisle, they’re looking for interesting and approachable flavors that offer a refreshing treat.”

Today, Americans are drinking more sparkling water than ever as they search for flavorful drinks without sugar or calories. AHA will enter into an already crowded market that includes La Croix and rival PepsiCo’s Bubly.

“Bubly is going to be one of our next billion-dollar brands,” said PepsiCo CEO Ramon Laguarta, reported CNBC (July 9).

Retail sales of Coca-Cola North America’s sparkling water portfolio, which is anchored by DASANI and smartwater, were up 27% in 2018, according to Nielsen. “Sparkling water had another very big year, and we are well-positioned to increase our presence in the category in a big, bold way,” Li said.

AHA will replace DASANI Sparkling at retail, which has been on the market since 2014. In 2020, smartwater will enter the segment in premium water with the launch of smartwater still flavors, capitalizing on the more than 75% growth of premium flavored still water in 2018.