Vanilla Hiatus

Coca-Cola to pull Vanilla, add Black Cherry Vanilla

ATLANTA -- Coca-Cola North America said that it will introduce regular and diet Black Cherry Vanilla Coke in January 2006, while sending regular and diet Vanilla Coke on hiatus. Diet Cherry Coke and Cherry Coke will not be affected by this introduction, the company added.

The simultaneous launch of Diet Black Cherry Vanilla Coke and Black Cherry Vanilla Coke is a first for Coca-Cola North America.

Cherry-flavored beverages are experiencing significant growth as are no calorie soft drinks, said Katie Bayne, senior vice president, [image-nocss] Coca-Cola Trademark, Coca- Cola North America. Our innovative fusion of real cola, luscious black cherry, and smooth vanilla flavors creates a taste that is complex and delicious.

Vanilla Coke and Diet Vanilla Coke will go on hiatus at year's end, but may be made available again in the future. With well over 250 million cases sold, Vanilla Coke and Diet Vanilla Coke have been significant contributors for three years, said Bayne. We are exploring ways to bring them back at another time, but right now Diet Black Cherry Vanilla Coke and Black Cherry Vanilla Coke are what consumers are telling us they want.

The new black cherry drinks will feature a blend of aspartame and acesulfame potassium (ace-k). Diet Black Cherry Vanilla Coke will be the sixth member of the Diet Coke family, which includes the flagship Diet Coke, Caffeine Free Diet Coke, Diet Coke with Lime, Diet Coke Sweetened with Splenda Brand Sweetener, and Diet Cherry Coke.

Both black cherry Cokes will be available in a range of package sizes and will be supported by a variety of marketing programs.

Consumers have been showing declining interest in some of the flavored colas that have been out in the marketplace for a while, said a Dow Jones report. Sales of Diet Coke With Lemon have fallen 62.1% in the past nine months in four retail channels in larger take-home sizes, compared with the same nine-month period a year ago, it said, citing Beverage Digest. Sales of regular Vanilla Coke have fallen 42.9%, while the diet version has dropped 37.4%, it said.

According to Beverage Digest, trends are similar for competing products from PepsiCo Inc. Sales of Pepsi Twist, the Purchase, N.Y., company's lemon-flavored cola, are down 63.6%, while the diet version is down 35.3%. Sales of Pepsi's vanilla colas also have fallen, with its regular version down 51.5% and its diet version down 36.9%.

A Pepsi spokesperson was not available to comment on plans for its flavored colas; however, Beverage Digest reported that a Pepsi system executive said concentrate to make both versions of Pepsi Twist and the vanilla colas are available to bottlers.

Overall, sales of carbonated soft drinks remained weak in the first nine months of this year, the newsletter said. In the United States, the decline in sales volume is less steep for Cadbury Schweppes PLC, which has been helped by sales of a cherry vanilla version of its Dr Pepper, the report said.

In other Coca-Cola news, the Subway restaurant chain, has completed its conversion of its restaurants in North America to Coca-Cola products from PepsiCo products. PepsiCo had been Subway's lead beverage supplier since the mid 1970s.

The conversion was completed on schedule and involved switching more than 12,800 Subway restaurants to Coca-Cola as well as installing fountain equipment in all new restaurant openings. There are now more than 19,500 Subway restaurants in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico offering a range of Coca-Cola products. Worldwide, more than 23,000 Subway restaurants now serve Coca-Cola products.