Sprite Gets a New Twist

Source: Coca-Cola.

Thank goodness they didn't choose pumpkin.

Taking a page from Starbucks' winning playbook, Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO  ) is launching a holiday-themed flavor this year. The good news is that it isn't pumpkin-spiced Coke. Instead, we're getting Sprite Cranberry.

The new drink will be available in both regular and zero calorie options from mid-October through the New Year. 

This marks the first time since 2005 that Coke has tinkered with the Sprite formula, which is one of its powerhouse brands along with Coca-Cola, Diet Coke, and Fanta.

Here are a few other interesting facts about Sprite .

  • Introduced in 1961, Sprite is just a baby compared to Coca-Cola, which has been available since 1895.
  • However, Sprite's sales grew faster than Coca-Cola's in 2012 -- up 4% vs. the veteran's 3% rise -- as it appeals to a younger demographic.
  • Sprite is sold in 190 countries and is currently the third biggest soft drink brand in the world.

Coke's fizz business could use any help it can get from the Sprite expansion. Sparkling beverage sales dipped by 4 % in North America last quarter, although growth in still drinks like teas and waters made up for some of that weakness.

Wall Street isn't expecting the soda giant to show much improvement when it reports earnings next week, either. Analysts see Coke clocking a sales dip of 2% from the prior-year period. Compare that to rival Pepsico (NYSE: PEP  ) , which is expected to book a 2% sales gain next week. Pepsi's beverage sales were weak over the spring months too, but its snacks business helped the company manage a solid boost in revenue.

For Coke investors, Sprite Cranberry doesn't offer much to get excited about. Considering the short-term availability of the drink, it isn't likely to move the needle this year. Still, it is good to see the company take some risks around innovating with its biggest brands. The long-term trend appears to be a slow decline for sodas in developed markets, so it's worth shaking up the portfolio to see what else might resonate with consumers.

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