Coke's Latest Innovation….Mocktails??

So, here’s Coke’s latest and greatest idea: spend $200k with the Culinary Institute of America to come up with a menu of cocktail recipes that can be sold at restaurants across America. Concepts such as the Nestea Lemonade Caramel and Coca-Cola Spice, along with approximately 100 other recipes, have been created over the course of the two year project. These drinks, in turn, will be showcased to major restaurant chains who will be encouraged to create their own proprietary versions. In addition, these concoctions have been created to follow the model of wine and food pairings.

One can’t help but wonder what sort of ROI Coke will achieve from this project. CSD sales are down, and creating a premium priced non-alcoholic cocktail for casual restaurant chains isn’t something that’s going to counter the decline. I’d question that it’s going to do anything positive for Coke aside from creating some free PR and even that will be hard to turn into sales.

In any event, this is not innovation. To me, it seems like Coke will take on almost any project that doesn’t involve innovating its core product portfolio….Diversions like this are great stall tactics, making people perceive Coke as doing something different. But, different isn’t good if it doesn’t help move the business forward. In this case, I think it could even take the business backwards, making consumers of these cocktails view off-the-shelf Coke products as something that’s bland or boring.

So, Coke, it’s time to take the free PR — especially the positive stuff as in this case — and do something good with it. Some culinary help with your core brands, might not be a bad place to start. People may be drinking less, but their drinking better — super premium CSDs, energy drinks, organic beverages, etc — and it’s all passing you by.