When the Sprite team began exploring options for its next flavor innovation last year, consumer data from Coca-Cola Freestyle pointed to a fan favorite. Since the interactive fountain dispensers debuted in 2009, thirsty restaurant and retail guests have added a splash of cherry flavor to their beloved lemon-lime sparkling beverage.
“It was a huge ‘a-ha’ moment for us,” said Bobby Oliver, director, Sprite and citrus brands, Coca-Cola North America. “The fact that cherry was the number-one Sprite flavor mix on Coca-Cola Freestyle inspired us to create an all-new, delicious product for fans in a convenient, on-the-go bottle.”
Sprite Cherry and its no-calorie sidekick, Sprite Cherry Zero, are now available nationwide in 20-oz. PET bottles. The new extensions combine the cool, crisp, refreshing taste of Sprite with a splash of cherry flavor. Both are made with 100 percent natural flavors, and both deliver the cut-through, thirst-quenching refreshment Sprite fans love.
The launch of Sprite Cherry and Sprite Cherry Zero marks the first time insights from Coca-Cola Freestyle inspired the national rollout of a new beverage. Oliver attributes Sprite’s popularity on Coca-Cola Freestyle to its crisp flavor profile, which pairs well with other flavors. “Because of its light, clean taste, it provides a great base for customization,” Oliver said. “Our innovation strategy has focused on staying true to the brand’s core heritage while adding refreshing twists.”
Formulations for the fountain and bottled versions of Sprite Cherry and Sprite Cherry Zero vary, with the most apparent difference being the color. Sprite with added cherry flavor on Coca-Cola Freestyle produces a red-tinted drink, whereas Sprite Cherry and Sprite Cherry Zero in 20-oz. PET bottles are clear.
These two permanent additions to the Sprite portfolio – which will be promoted via retail point of sale, sampling, outdoor advertising and the brand’s social media channels – follow previous limited-edition flavor innovations like Sprite Cranberry, Sprite Cranberry Zero, Sprite Tropical Mix and Sprite LeBron’s Mix.
Sprite Cherry Zero is the latest zero-sugar product innovation for Coca-Cola North America, joining a roster of nearly 250 zero-sugar beverages offered in the U.S. Oliver says he hopes the innovations will help recruit new fans – especially those with an affinity for cherry-flavored beverages – into the Sprite portfolio. “And we also know that fans who love us constantly seek variety,” he added, noting the success of the aforementioned limited-edition flavors. “We see this as an opportunity to give them new reasons to drink another Sprite or Sprite Zero.”
Sprite is one of the fastest-growing sparkling beverages in the U.S., posting a 3.4 percent growth increase in retail sales in 2016 over the prior year. The brand made its Big Game debut earlier this month with the #WannaSprite campaign spot, “Tacos,” featuring LeBron James.
“This growth is being driven by our fans who love the product, the brand and everything Sprite stands for,” Oliver said. “We’re very excited about the business momentum Sprite has generated over the last few years, and we believe Sprite Cherry and Sprite Cherry Zero will help us keep the brand fresh and continue on this path.”
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