New Delhi: Coca-Cola India Pvt. Ltd, the Indian unit of American beverage maker Coca-Cola Co., plans to launch fruit juice versions of its Sprite and Limca brands in the first half of this year, T. Krishnakumar, president (India and Southwest Asia), said on Wednesday.

This is the first time Coca-Cola is looking at bringing extensions of Sprite — its best-selling carbonated beverage brand, and Limca—its third largest aerated drink brand.

The plan to introduce Sprite and Limca extensions comes just months after the American beverage maker launched a variant of Thums Up — its largest-selling cola brand—in November. The extension, Thumps Up Charged, is a stronger version of the 40-year old cola brand.

“We are working on few more variants of brand Thums Up that we’ll launch during the first half of this year," said Krishnakumar.

The company is also launching Thumps Up in neighbouring countries such as Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Nepal by the end of March. Thums Up is the first carbonated beverage brand to be taken overseas.

Coca-Cola acquired Thums Up and Limca, along with a few more brands, from Ramesh Chauhan in 1993.

Coca-Cola started adding fruit juice to its aerated drinks with Fanta in 2016, more than a year after Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged multinational carbonated beverage firms such as Coca-Cola and PepsiCo to mix natural fruit juice (at least 5%) in aerated beverages to help augment fruit sales of Indian farmers.

“Millions of people buy Pepsi and Coke. I have asked these companies if they can put 5% natural juice in their drinks," Modi had said in September 2014.

Krishnakumar said Coca-Cola is also planning to launch three more variants of Fanta during 2018. It already has two in the Indian market.

“Quantum of fruit content will vary from 7% to 25% depending on the product," said Krishnakumar. Coca-Cola had last year announced plans to invest more than 5,000 crore over the next five years in procuring processed fruit pulp and fruit concentrate for its portfolio of products.

As part of its portfolio expansion plan, Krishnakumar said, the local entity of the American beverage company will invest in three categories — juices, sparkling or aerated beverages and hydration water over the next few quarters.

“We’ll also strengthen our dairy and tea offerings in India over time," he added.

Coca-Cola India, which has been witnessing slower growth during the past few years, posted revenue growth at a “strong double digit" rate during the quarter ended 31 December 2017, backed by volume growth at a “strong single digit" rate, Krishnakumar said, declining to quantify.

However, Coca-Cola’s “strong double digit" revenue growth in the October-December 2017 quarter may not reflect the real state of the company’s business as the growth number is in comparison with the October-December 2016 quarter when India went through demonetisation, which hurt business.

According to Krishnakumar, Coca-Cola India also grew at a double digit rate in the July-September 2017 quarter.

Its volume growth was at 6% during that quarter, Coca-Cola global president and CEO James Quincey had said in an investor call in October 2017.

Coca-Cola’s rival PepsiCo has also started adding fruit content in some of its aerated drinks since 2015.

In 2016, Dabur India Ltd launched juice-based aerated drink Real VOLO. Mumbai-based Parle Agro Pvt. Ltd, which has been selling Appy Fizz since 2005, launched Frooti Fizz in 2017.

In February 2016, Ramesh Chauhan’s Bisleri International launched aerated fruit-based drink Bisleri Pop to re-enter the carbonated beverages market it exited in 1993 after selling brands to Coca-Cola with a non-compete agreement which expired in 2008.

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