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Artic Coke

Can Arctic Coke help invigorate Coca-Cola’s soda sales?

With Coca-Cola facing a market where more people are abandoning soda in favour of healthier beverages, the 132-year old beverage maker has looked for novel ways to make its iconic drinks more appealing to the fickle consumer. NASA scientists have delivered one new possibility…..

Coca-Cola has been working for two decades to create a super-cold, slushy drink after research indicated many consumers preferred to enjoy their beverage this way. In most cases, packaged products are generally found as a liquid or frozen, but nowhere in between.

Its challenge has been finding a way to bring that experience to the shopper on a more frequent, repeatable scale that also was cost effective. 

It wasn’t until 2013 when Coca-Cola got an idea from ex-NASA scientists who were experts in cryogenics that the soda giant finally found a practical solution — this eventually lead to a machine known as the Arctic Coke that can add ice crystals to a super-cold beverage in a few seconds.

The public “prefers our beverages and enjoys our beverages more when they are cold,” Therron Foley, director of cold drink equipment development at Coca-Cola, has said. “The Arctic Coke is an attempt to meet up with that consumer preference.”

Soda sales lose their fizz

The invention comes as the soda industry grapples with a slowdown in sales as consumers shun sugary beverages in favour of healthier teas, waters, juices and sports drinks.

The carbonated soft drink market, which has fallen for 12 consecutive years, was surpassed by bottled water in 2016 as the largest beverage category in the US.

With the challenges facing the soda industry unlikely to abate anytime soon, manufacturers are cognisant of the fact that they must look for new ways to ignite growth and retain existing customers. Increasingly, they are turning to new flavours, uncovering sugar substitutes and rolling out futuristic devices such as Arctic Coke that enhance the consumer experience.

Coca-Cola first debuted Arctic Coke at 20 Speedway convenience stores around Indianapolis during the summer of 2016, and quickly realised it might have a hit — sales increased between 15% and 20% at locations with the cooler.

This initial success gave the company confidence to move forward with further investment and research in the concept.

Today, roughly 500 units are in operation domestically, mostly in convenience stores, with plans for another 550 more. As many as 1,000 can be found outside of the US.

While coolers remain a staple of the convenience store, there hasn’t been much innovation for decades in a way that benefits the consumer, according to the company. Coca-Cola is looking to change that.

The Arctic Coke works like this: A beverage from a rectangular cooler — which is set at roughly -2°C degrees compared to 4°C to 7°C degrees for most refrigerators — is removed by the consumer and placed on an attached platform. With the press of a button, an invisible shiver goes through the bottle, causing ice crystals to form.

“We’ve taken a pretty focused viewpoint on the experience that it creates, and the fact that the consumer can be part of the experience and really enjoy the visual transformation,” Kim Drucker, Coca-Cola’s platform innovation director, told Food Dive. “Those were the things that consumers told us were super important to them.”

Some limitations to the technology

Even though the cooler is a huge step forward for Coca-Cola, it does have a few obstacles that researchers in Atlanta are working to overcome.

It can take up to 12 hours to cool the beverages to the proper temperature, limiting the machine’s initial effectiveness. In addition, an Arctic Coke holds about 70 bottles, and with each brand having its own unique temperature that the drinks are cooled to, only a few beverages can be loaded into the device at any time.

Early tests have focused on Coke, Sprite, Powerade and most recently, Diet Coke.

As the soda industry grapples for growth, future success is likely to be paved with smaller ideas such as Arctic Coke, Gary Hemphill, MD of research with the Beverage Marketing Corporation, told Food Dive.

While the space is dominated by Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Dr Pepper Snapple, it remains an “extraordinarily competitive marketplace” with consumers demanding variety and innovation.

Soft drink makers can’t afford to cut back on their investments or diminish their aggressiveness in finding new ideas and products, he said.

“I don’t think there is a silver bullet for success for carbonated soft drinks per se,” Hemphill said. “But just because consumers are by in large moving toward more variety and healthier products doesn’t mean that the fun refreshment space of carbonated soft drinks is small.

“Companies have to remind themselves of that, they have to continue to invest and innovate around the category.”…. Read the full article