Setting the bar: Coca-Cola invests in mocktails with internal RTD line

By Beth Newhart contact

- Last updated on GMT

The climate was ripe for Bar None at Coca-Cola thanks to alcohol consumption patterns driven by health-engaged consumers.
The climate was ripe for Bar None at Coca-Cola thanks to alcohol consumption patterns driven by health-engaged consumers.

Related tags: Cocktail, mocktails, Coca-cola, craft beverages

Coca-Cola dips into alcohol alternatives with the launch of Bar None, a collection of ready-to-drink mocktails. It's a new look for Coke with a “shift in the growth mindset of the company” that is “adopting more growth behaviors, being curious, taking more risks.”

With more young people developing an interest in low-ABV and non-alcoholic drinks, more brands are popping up to cater to them. Alcohol-free beer and housemade mocktails have led the pack on-premise, and now RTD options are entering the market.

Bar None was born out of the Venture & Emerging Brands (VEB) division of Coca-Cola as a ‘personal passion project’ of longtime employee Sabrina Tandon. VEB works with future-forward beverage concepts, focusing on what beverage consumers might be drinking in a mainstream way within the next 5-7 years.

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The brand is wholly owned by Coca-Cola, but still operates independently. It was developed outside Coke’s system using external R&D and distributors. Tandon thinks it’s important that Bar None still has a separate, entrepreneurial spirit from the company.

She believes the climate was ripe for Bar None thanks to alcohol consumption patterns, noting that today’s consumers are very health engaged and look to social influencers that drive trends.

“In the past couple of years ​[Coca-Cola] has had a big shift in the growth mindset of the company and adopting more growth behaviors, being curious, taking more risks. These are all behaviors that have been a new focus area for the company. I think the timing was perfect for an initiative like Bar None,”​ Tandon told BeverageDaily.

According to brand research from Coca-Cola, 18% of US consumers are abstaining from alcohol and 35% of regular drinkers are seeking out non-alcoholic options. The younger Gen Z and millennial generations are drinking less as they age, focusing more on their health and indulgences other than alcohol. 

Creating a new category

Though young consumers are trending away from alcohol, Bar None’s initial sampling of customers doesn't skew to just those in their 20s. It ranges from ages 25-50, representing “more of a mindset than a demographic.”​ Tandon said those reaching for Bar None have moved past the ‘drinking for fun’ phases in their lives and are looking for an alternative at social gatherings.

Spiced Ginger Mule​ 

Ingredients: Carbonated Water, Kombucha (Organic Black Tea, Organic Sugar, Culture), Cane Sugar, Ginger Juice (Ginger Juice, Citric Acid), Apple Cider Vinegar, Lime Juice from Concentrate, Ginseng Extract Powder, Natural Flavors, Lactic Acid

Per 12oz bottle: 90 calories, 16g sugar, 22g carbohydrate

Bellini Spritz

Ingredients: Carbonated Water, Peach Puree from Concentrate, White Wine Vinegar, Cane Sugar, Natural Flavors

Per 12oz bottle: 70 calories, 18g sugar, 18g carbohydrate

Dry Aged Cider

Ingredients: Carbonated Water, Apple Juice from Concentrate, Apple Cider Vinegar, Organic Juice from Concentrate, Natural Flavors, Lactic Acid, Malic Acid

Per 12 oz bottle: 70 calories, 15g sugar, 16g carbohydrate

Sangria

Ingredients: Carbonated Water, Red Grape Juice from Concentrate, Red Wine Vinegar, Orange, Lime and Lemon Juice from Concentrate, Tartaric Acid, Natural Flavors, Green Tea Extract, Fruit & Vegetable Juice for Color, Lactic Acid, Grape Seed Extract

Per 12oz bottle:130 calories, 22g sugar, 23g carbohydrate

People want something more than a soft drink, but something less than hard alcohol. This spurred Tandon to choose the mocktail path and develop four options that were alternatives to drinks other than beer.

The brand is launching first with Spiced Ginger Mule, Bellini Spritz, Dry Aged Cider and Sangria. Tandon explained at first she wanted to just explore wine alternatives, but discovered she couldn’t quite reach the exact benchmark of wine. Consumers have high expectations for alternatives and trying to precisely replicate it wasn’t realistic.

The Sangria drink she did come up with is ‘reminiscent’ of wine. She also chose to develop a cider rather than enter the crowded beer alternative market. The mule decision came from ginger’s recent popularity as a trendy ingredient, and the peach Bellini won out over a few other cocktail options after testing well with consumers.

It was important to Tandon to differentiate her products from the soft drink category, which put an emphasis on choosing the right packaging and label graphics. She wanted the dark glass bottles to protect the natural flavors and ingredients from UV rays, but also to indicate the drinks are separate from the packed market of fizzy drinks.

“It’s creating a new category, which sounds a little odd because yes, it’s a carbonated beverage. But in terms of where it would live in a store, it doesn’t make sense to be near soft drinks but to put it in the beer and wine aisle is confusing too,”​ she said.

The Bar None brand is sold nationwide online and at about 25 brick-and-mortar locations in Atlanta. Tandon said there’s still a lot of testing planned before any further expansions, but imagines it would first grow in the southeast.

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1 comment

Too much sugar

Posted by Dr Bob Fulton,

Each one of the new drinks listed above still have almost as much sugar as a females liver can process in one day.... 6 tsps/ female... 9 for a male...reference AHA.

The fastest growing disease among the demographic targeted is Nonalcholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD).

If Coca Cola wanted to be a power player, it should focus on healthy ways to keep that generation alive and healthy and productive, and forget about continually selling sugar.

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