The world's biggest soft drink maker launched its new Far Coast brand of tea, coffee and cocoa products last Friday, opening a concept store in the fast-growing Asian city-state. The range, first launched in Toronto in September, is part of a long-term strategy for diversification into new products, as global growth in carbonated beverages declines. It will also be tested in Oslo next year. Coca-Cola's regional director for premium brewed beverages, I B Bopanna, told AP-Foodtechnology.com that although carbonated sales in Singapore are still growing faster than more mature markets, at about 5 per cent per annum, the existing brewed beverage category is "almost twice the size of the carbonated beverages category in Singapore". Coca-Cola estimates the global freshly brewed business to amount to 400 billion litres, with half of this in Asia. In Singapore it is around 300 million litres, says I B Bopanna, and sees annual growth of around 7 per cent. "Singaporeans are very open to new concepts. They're well traveled and there's also a wide mix of cultures that represents the diversity of Asia," he said. In addition, "no other brand offers this range of brewed beverages including tea, coffee and cocoa, and infusions to be added in the future". Coca-Cola has stressed that it is not moving into the retail business, and that the concept store is a marketing vehicle for restaurants, cinema operators, convenience stores and other businesses who want to offer gourmet coffee and tea but lack the facilities. "This is not a retail concept, it's more like a TV commercial," said I B Bopanna. "We won't use traditional media to launch this." The store in Singapore allows potential customers to test the patented dispensing machine that can brew a cup of hot beverage in 40 seconds. The proprietary technology also keeps ground coffee fresh for up to six months, compared to 3 days when stored by conventional means, and allows for use of fresh milk. Unlike other brewed coffee and tea outlets, no specially trained barista is needed to brew Far Coast coffee and tea. The offering will allow the firm to "really move up the value chain" says I B Bopanna. "In each of the brew categories there are a range of products available from the $1 product upwards. Consumers are looking to upgrade to more premium, higher-quality specialty beverages."
He added that the firm's restaurant and business customers' barriers to entry are availability and operational convenience. The Far Coast brand makes these beverages available in a format that is easy to operate and gives consumers the option to trade up from their current selection to specialty beverages. The company will be looking at other 'evolved beverage markets' in Asia to roll out the concept in coming months.