Coca-Cola has been listening to consumers and is striving to give people more of the drinks they want–all part of the company’s disciplined growth agenda. Sometimes this means adding vitamins, minerals and new flavors; other times it means rethinking recipes to reduce sugar where possible. And, the company is “lifting and shifting” brands, like FUZE Tea, market-to-market when opportunities present.

As Coca-Cola planned to launch FUZE Tea in European markets in 2018, a team of flavor and ingredients specialists, based in the company’s Brussels Research & Development (R&D) innovation center, worked to adapt the tea-based drink to meet European tastes. Sustainable agriculture was a critical focus, especially during the year leading up to the single-day launch of Fuze Tea in Europe, which was executed on an unprecedented scale in the company’s history.

“For Western Europe, we wanted to give FUZE Tea a new recipe to match our local taste preferences. The challenge we gave ourselves was to create the best-tasting, ready-to-drink tea, with the most unexpected fusion of flavors, which wasn’t too sweet,” said Itziar Tolosa, R&D’s Tea Category Manager, The Coca-Cola Company. “We looked at the most popular flavors, but we also wanted to add something different and unexpected, such as herbs, into the recipe. We researched each ingredient, making sure we had the perfect taste.”

But FUZE Tea needed to do more than taste great: it needed to meet Coca-Cola’s sourcing requirements.

Maria-Esther-Ramirez--Senior-Global-Brand-Director-of-Tea-and-Brewed-Beverages-at-The-Coca-Cola-Company.jpg
Maria Esther Ramirez, Senior Global Brand Director of Tea and Brewed Beverages at The Coca-Cola Company

Coca-Cola’s supply chain and procurement teams, which assist with responsible sourcing of ingredients, help ensure access to a more advantaged supply of agricultural ingredients that are needed to grow the business. In 2013, Coca-Cola set a goal to more sustainably source its priority ingredients, including tea, by 2020. For Coca-Cola, “sustainably sourced” means its farm suppliers meet certain standards, among other requirements, relating to human and workplace rights, environmental protection and responsible farming management. More than 95% of Coca-Cola’s globally sourced tea meets company-approved sustainable sourcing standards.

“We aim to help change farmers’ lives at scale,” said Maria Esther Ramirez, Senior Global Brand Director of Tea and Brewed Beverages at The Coca-Cola Company. “More sustainable sourcing encourages best practices that address risks our farmers face, including securing future supply. Being an expanding global brand allows us to more effectively achieve our goal of having a greater positive impact on farmers.”

With FUZE Tea, nearly all ingredients meet Coca-Cola’s sustainable sourcing requirements. By the end of 2018, 100% of the product’s ingredients are expected to be more sustainably sourced. All farms that supply tea extract for FUZE Tea have third-party certification to demonstrate that they meet at least one of five independent, internationally recognized standards.

Gregg Moon, Coca-Cola’s Global Supply Chain Director for Tea and Coffee, said, “Coca-Cola is on a journey to sustainably source all of its tea ingredients. In 2017, we continued that journey by creating sustainably sourced tea supply chains for the FUZE Tea launch in Europe.”

Many of Coca-Cola’s suppliers have strong social and environmental stories. “Sustainability is very important for FUZE Tea because we believe it will be an important lever of growth,” Esther Ramirez said. “The work our supply chain team did in 2017 helps our farmers, our customers who need inventory that gives them a competitive edge and consumers who want an affordable product that also delivers on their ethical values.”

European FUZE Tea comes in more than 20 flavor variations, including Black Tea Peach-Hibiscus and Green Tea Mango-Chamomile. “We research each ingredient, making sure we have the perfect taste,” said Tolosa. “It’s not just a peach to us–we think about if it could be juicier, sweeter, more tart, darker or lighter. We spent a lot of time experimenting with this and working with accessible ingredients that anyone could find in their local supermarket.”

With the addition of the 37 European market launches, FUZE Tea is now available in 89 markets and in 15 types of packaging, which is 100% recyclable, from cap to sleeve. The brand has shown strong results in Europe since launch and supports Coca-Cola’s consumer-centric growth strategy. This includes more sophisticated flavors, added benefits, less sugar and more package and location availability.

Brian Smith, Coca-Cola’s Europe, Middle East and Africa Group President said at the January launch event for the billion-dollar, ready-to-drink tea brand’s European introduction, “The European launch of FUZE Tea is a fantastic milestone for us to provide new, more deliciously unexpected flavors. The brand supports Coca-Cola’s strategy to give people more of the drinks they want.”