Hurricane Stevia: Coca-Cola Life Touches Down in Southeast

Coca-Cola Life BottleYou’ve got to hand it to Coke: when they start getting creative, they do it every which way but loose.

The company today began selling Coca-Cola Life, its mid-calorie, stevia/sugar blend-sweetened cola, in the U.S. — but only at The Fresh Market, a specialty grocer that has long shown a willingness to gamble with Coke’s entrepreneurial side. The move comes less than two weeks after Coke announced a partial ownership deal with Monster Energy that will allow the longtime cola giant to thread the needle between portfolio expansion (something it needed) and managing new brands (something that’s admittedly been tough).

This deal is of a much smaller scale than the $2.15 billion Coke forked out for 1/6 of Monster — it’s a two-month trial in 65 southeastern Fresh Market stores — but it will give Coke a glimpse of how the line extension might play as it tries to shore up its flagship brand’s slow decline. The company said it expects to start making the brand national in October.

Coke Life debuted in Argentina last June, and until now, it had been uncertain whether the company would bring the product to market in the U.S. It has been available in Great Britain, Mexico, and Chile as well.

The Fresh MarketWith a retailing philosophy that involves getting innovative products into the stores quickly and, at times, collaboratively, The Fresh Market has also worked with brands from Coke’s VEB portfolio for a long time. In this case, according to a Coke in-house blog, Coke is intentionally going small with the blended product.

“We ultimately want to be leaders in this emerging segment, and Coca-Cola Life is our first effort to make this a reality,” Andy McMillin, vice president, Coca-Cola brands, Coca-Cola North America, told Unbottled. “For consumers looking for a reduced-calorie soft drink sweetened with cane sugar and stevia leaf extract, this is a great-tasting option.”

Announcement from The Fresh Market is below:

The Fresh Market Partners With Coca-Cola For The United States Debut Of Lower-Calorie Coca-Cola Life, Launching August 25

Specialty Grocer Introduces First Stevia-Sweetened Cola Exclusively in Select Stores Across the Southeast

GREENSBORO, N.C., Aug. 25, 2014 /PRNewswire/ — The Fresh Market is proud to have been selected by Coca-Cola as the exclusive retail partner for the U.S. launch of Coca-Cola Life, a lower-calorie cola sweetened with a blend of sugar and naturally sourced stevia leaf extract. First introduced in 2013 in Argentina and Chile, Coca-Cola Life will reach The Fresh Market stores on Monday, August 25. Now through mid October, this delicious, new low-calorie option will be available exclusively at The Fresh Market in 65 select stores across the Southeast in Georgia, Florida, North Carolina and South Carolina.

With a third less sugar and a third fewer calories than leading colas, Coca-Cola Life’s sweetness comes from a blend of sugar and stevia leaf extract.  Stevia leaf extract is naturally sourced from the stevia plant, which is native to Paraguay. Sweeteners made from stevia are calorie-free and up to 200 times sweeter than table sugar.  A 330-ml can of Coca-Cola Life contains 89 calories.

Coca-Cola Life

“We’re excited to partner with Coca-Cola for its U.S. debut of Coca-Cola Life,” said Karen Stout, vice president of non perishables and private label at The Fresh Market. “As a specialty grocer with a focus on providing fresh, high-quality products, we believe our shoppers will enjoy this great-tasting, lower-calorie cola sweetened from natural origins.”

During the weekend of Saturday, September 27 and Sunday, September 28, shoppers will have the chance to sample Coca-Cola Life at the select 65 stores where the cola is sold. Guests will receive a coupon for $1 off any eight ounce six-pack of Coca-Cola glass bottle products. For more information on The Fresh Market locations carrying Coca-Cola Life, please visit www.thefreshmarket.com/view-specials/coke-life.

About The Fresh Market, Inc.
Founded in 1982, The Fresh Market, Inc. is a specialty grocery retailer focused on providing high-quality products in a unique and inviting atmosphere with a high level of customer service. The company currently operates 160 stores in 26 states across the U.S.  The Fresh Market is an equal opportunity employer.  For more information, please visit www.thefreshmarket.com.