CHICAGO — There were multiple reasons to expect the Coca-Cola Co. to get into the cold-brew coffee business, and just as many surprises in the way it's doing it.
First, the sale of cold brew has been growing by double digits for months, both as a dispensed drink and as a ready-to-drink (RTD) packaged beverage.
Second, Coca-Cola Co.'s partnerships with McDonald's McCafe and Dunkin' have made each of those brands' RTD frappes and iced coffees, respectively, among the top 10 best-selling RTD coffee products in convenience stores, according to IRI.
To top things off, Coca-Cola Co., in August, acquired one of the largest coffee brands in the world, England's Costa Ltd., with plans to build "a strong coffee platform" that includes beans, vending, at-home formats and retail outlets.
That's why it's a surprise that Coca-Cola's new cold-brew coffee has no connection to any of those brands or even formats.
Instead, Coca-Cola Co., Atlanta, will come to market with the Barista Bros. brand, a successful, bottled cold-brew coffee brand in Australia, according to the company.
The drink will be tested in a dispensed format in the United States on Coca-Cola Freestyle, in bubblers and as a nitro version via the Bunn Nitron Cold Draft Countertop dispenser.
"Cold brew is a process that takes time and effort," Lynwood Mallard, category strategy and innovation lead for Coca-Cola North America, told CSP Daily News. Thus, the company is bringing the new drink to market in fresh forms before possibly deciding to package it for sale in the cold vault.
Barista Bros. cold-brew iced coffee is made from 100% Arabica beans "for a coffee-first flavor that is smooth and satisfying," the company said. "The new offering underscores our test-and-learn approach and the continued expansion of our total beverage portfolio across multiple categories and brands."
The drink will be tested in four flavor varieties: Original, Unsweetened, Vanilla and Raspberry.
The drinks are available in cartridges for Coca-Cola Freestyle and 1-gallon bag-in-box for bubblers. It is rolling out now as requested by customers.