Coke to roll-out Illy Issimo to broader market

Ilko, the joint venture between Coca-Cola and Illy, announced it will launch a broader U.S. and European roll-out of its jointly developed ready to drink coffee, Illy Issimo, which had been test marketed in New York and Los Angeles.

Vinay Kapoor, chief executive of Ilko, told Dow Jones that distribution will avoid large retailers, favoring select outlets and university stores which would better fit the brand’s luxury image.

Dow Jones reported that Ilko intends to reach 30 percent of the premium ready-to-drink coffee market by 2012, and plans to enter the Japanese market later this year.

The product will compete with Starbuck’s canned coffee drinks, produced and distributed in partnership with Pepsi. Starbucks’ lines stand atop the currently-rocky RTD coffee category, which Information Resources Inc. reported in February had contracted by 12 percent in club, drug and convenience stores.

Illy Issimo represents Coca-Cola’s fourth attempt at marketing a coffee product. The beverage giant also experimented with a coffee-cola called Coke Blak, a coffee line co-branded with chocolate company Godiva and another co-branded with coffee chain Caribou Coffee.

With Illy Issimo, though, Coca-Cola has taken the unprecedented tack of employing respected independent distribution houses Big Geyser in New York and Haralambos in L.A. Both distributors have reputations as expert brand builders in their respective markets.