Coca-Cola Beans and Leaves (Part II)

In 2009, The Coca-Cola Company had 14 brands with annual retail sales exceeding $1 billion: Coca-Cola, Coca-Cola Zero, Diet Coke/Coca-Cola Light, Sprite, Fanta, Minute Maid, Dasani, Aquarius, Powerade, Sokenbicha, Nestea, Simply, Georgia Coffee and glacéau vitaminwater. Globally, Coca-Cola takes the number one spot in three beverage categories: sparkling beverages (Coke, Sprite, Fanta), Juices and Juice Drinks (Minute Maid, Fanta) Ready-to-Drink Coffees and Teas (Georgia, Nestea and Sokenbicha).

Coca-Cola pioneered and led the cola beverage market for over a century. Coca-Cola’s flagship brand became the first billion-dollar brand over four decades ago. Diet Coke was added in 1983 and marketed as Coke Light in some countries. Coke Zero became the newest member of the mega brand family in 2005.

Fanta (fruit-flavored soda) originated in Coca-Cola Germany in 1940 and was officially launched in the US two decades later. Sprite (lemon-lime flavored soda) was introduced the following year in 1961. Minute Maid (frozen citrus concentrate) was acquired in 1960 by Coca-Cola and eventually became the world’s leading juice brand.

In the non-carbonated category, Powerade (sports drink) was launched in 1988 while Dasani (water) was launched in 1999. Simply (juice) was launched in 2003. Glaceau vitaminwater was acquired by Coca-Cola in 2007.

Nestle, founded twenty years before Coca-Cola was first sold in Atlanta, is the world’s largest food and beverage company. In worldwide beverage manufacturing, Nestle ranks number one ahead of any soft drink, beer or wine company in terms of revenue.

Nestle’s global revenue in 2009 was $109 billion Swiss Francs (US$ 101 billion). Already the largest water bottler in the U.S., Nestle’s bottled water business alone generated 9.5 billion Swiss Francs (US$ 8.8 billion) last year.

In 1991, Coca-Cola and Nestle formed a partnership to jointly develop and market ready-to-drink tea and coffee beverages. Coca-Cola Nestle Refreshment’s first product - Nestea Iced Tea - was first introduced in the United States in January 1992, and shortly after in Korea and Taiwan. Vevey, Switzerland-based Nestle remained the trademark owner for Nestea as the company had marketed products under the Nestea brand as early as the 1940s.

Today, Nestea is marketed through Beverage Partners Worldwide (BPW), the scion to Coca-Cola Nestle Refreshment, in over 60 countries, but not in Japan.

Three of the billion-dollar Coca-Cola brands originated in Japan: Georgia (coffee, 1975), Aquarius (sports drink, 1983) and Sokenbicha (tea, 1993). The trio has been category leaders in Japan. Georgia Coffee is not only the number one ready-to-drink coffee in Japan, but its revenue in Japan has also exceeded that of Coca-Cola.

With its headquarters in Fukuoka Prefecture, Coca-Cola West Co. Ltd. (CCW) is the largest bottler in Japan. Also ranked as one of the top ten bottlers in the global Coca-Cola system, CCW serves 14 of the 47 prefectures in western Japan or 35 million consumers in its territory.

Coca-Cola West’s revenue in 2009 was 370 billion yen or approximately US$ 4 billion.

Its top six brands in the order of their sales volume were Georgia, Aquarius, Sokenbicha, Coca-Cola, Fanta and Coke Zero. These six brands accounted for 55% of all beverages sold by Coca-Cola West. Georgia sold 40,832,000 cases, Aquarius sold 18,022,000 cases, Sokenbicha sold 13,370,000 cases, Coca-Cola sold 12,863,000 cases, Fanta sold 9,055,000 cases, and Coke Zero sold 5,404,000 cases.

By the time Georgia coffee celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2005, it had sold nearly 100 billion servings and had become Japan’s number one soft drink brand.

The first Georgia Coffee can design featured a beautiful southern mansion with antebellum architecture.

The earliest advertising poster for Georgia Coffee also featured a couple in a pose resembling Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler (portrayed by Vivian Leigh and Clark Gable in the movie version) of Gone with the Wind. In the Georgia Coffee poster, the well- groomed Rhett was in a romantic embrace with Scarlett while holding a can of Georiga Coffee.

Although most of the spokespersons for Georgia Coffee had been Japanese celebrities in the entertainment business over the years, there were a few American celebrities. In 1992, Kyle MacLachlan of Twin Peaks appeared in television commercials for Georgia Coffee in Japan. In 2000, an uncharacteristically relaxed Bruce Willis was featured in Georgia Coffee’s TV spots and posters with palm trees in the background. In 2008, Leah Dizon, a Las Vegas-born American Japanese Idol, appeared in Georgia European and No-Calorie Coca-Cola television commercials.

Although ready-to-drink Georgia coffee is only produced in Japan and Korea, the beverage is exported to other countries outside the Coca-Cola system. They are available in certain Japanese or specialty grocery stores in Asia and in the United States.

Beverage Partners Worldwide, the Coca-Cola and Nestle joint venture, had also marketed Georgia Club coffee outside Japan. Georgia Club was available in Singapore for a few years. In addition to Georgia Club, Nescafe, Far Coast and Chaqwa, had all been marketed in Singapore.

In India, Georgia Gold premium hot coffee, flavored tea, and chocolate beverages were first test marketed through McDonald’s in 2002. Two years later, Georgia Gold added iced tea and iced coffee to its range.

Using the same Georgia logo from Japan, Coca-Cola North America is selling Georgia ground coffee in fractional packets in light roast, dark roast, and decaf varieties. Targeted for food service operators, Georgia coffee could be brewed with the operator’s own equipment or BUNN Infusion Series Tea and Coffee Brewer installed by Coca-Cola’s FoodService national service network.

With so much Georgia coffee consumed around the world, Coca-Cola is the world’s twelfth largest coffee buyer.

In the 1980s, Coca-Cola Japan also introduced ready-to-drink oolong tea and milk tea under the Georgia brand. In 1990, Simba (神葉 or literally Divine Leaf) brand of teas was introduced to replace the Georgia brand teas. The character sim (pronounced as shen in Chinese) is named after the Chinese Emperor Shennong (神農, the name literally means Divine Farmer) who discovered the benefits of tea according to Chinese legends. The character ba (pronounced as ye in Chinese) is leaf.

In 1992, Coca-Cola Japan split the Simba line into two new branches. One branch was the Kochakaden (紅茶花伝) range of black tea or western style tea including Darjeeling Tea, Darjeeling Herb Tea, Milk Tea and Lemon Tea. Coca-Cola also introduced Kochakaden sold exclusively in Okinawa. The regional editions included Ceylon Lemon Tea and Ceylon Apple Tea in 1994 and Garden Lemon Tea in 1996.

The other new branch from Simba was Sairyusaisai (茶流彩彩), which specialized in Chinese and Japanese tea. Sairyusaisai brand Oolong Tea (Chinese green tea), Sencha (Japanese green tea), and Mugicha (roasted barley tea) were introduced in 1993.

The following year, Seiryusabo (清流茶房) debuted with premium Japanese green tea Gyokuro. Seiryusabo also replaced Sairyusaisai as the new brand for Sencha and Mugicha, while Sairyusaisai introduced other teas: Tochu, Mate and Goma. Mate was an exception in the Sairyusaisai Chinese/Japanese tea line-up – it was South American.

Another offspring from the Sairyusaisai line with its February 1994 nationwide launch was Sokenbicha (爽健美茶), literally Refreshing Healthy Beautiful Tea. It was Coca-Cola’s first blended tea beverage made with green tea, barley, chicory, wheatgrass, quinoa, and other ingredients. Sokenbicha rocketed to stardom capturing 50% of the blended tea market within 3 years and by 1999, it broke away from the Sairyusaisai line.

Just like Georgia Coffee, Sokenbicha is one of Coca-Cola’s billion-dollar brands. It completely dominates the blended tea market in Japan. Coca-Cola’s other green tea and milk tea brands have competed well in their own categories, but they have not achieved the same level of success as Sokenbicha.

While Coca-Cola Japan consistently introduced new flavors and blends for its coffee line under the same Georgia brand into the new millennium, new tea brands were added: Huang (Chinese Oolong Tea, 1998), Marocha (Japanese Green Tea, 2001), Love Body (Oolong Tea with Dietary Fiber, 2001), Winnie the Pooh (Barley Tea, 2002), Hajime (Unflavored Green Tea, 2005), Ayataka (Premium Green Tea, 2008), Karada Meguricha (Blended Herbal Tea, 2009).

In addition to coffee and tea, Georgia also introduced a Cocoa Drink in 1991, which was rebranded as Cocoteen the following year.

Today, Coca-Cola Japan sells 33 different coffee drinks under the Georgia brand, 3 flavors of illy issimo, and 21 varieties of tea beverages under 7 different tea brands. Altogether I counted a total of 57 different products or 122 different product-package combinations of ready-to-drink coffee and tea beverages listed on Coca-Cola Japan’s product catalog online.

Georgia and Sokenbicha, together with Nestea, have contributed to the success of Coca-Cola’s coffee bean and tea leaf business. Will Coca-Cola’s partnership with illycaffe produce the next billion-dollar brand, or will it be another tea brand that is brewing somewhere in Asia? What do you think?