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THE COCA-COLA COMPANY

(KO)
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Coca-Cola to Launch Hard Seltzer Drink

07/30/2020 | 01:28pm EDT

By Jennifer Maloney

Coca-Cola Co. said it plans to launch a boozy version of its Topo Chico sparkling water in the U.S. next year, plunging the soda giant into the market for alcoholic beverages.

With the move, the company joins the fray of beverage giants vying for market share as consumers flock to hard seltzer for its minimal calories and lower alcohol level. Americans spent $3 billion on hard seltzer in U.S. retail stores in the 52 weeks ended July 11, up 241% from a year earlier, according to Bump Williams Consulting Co.

The market is dominated by White Claw, owned by Mike's Hard Lemonade Co. Boston Beer Co. makes Truly, the No. 2 brand. Anheuser Busch InBev NV and other big brewers have also introduced hard seltzer brands, including Bud Light Seltzer and Corona Hard Seltzer.

It has been decades since Coke sold booze in the U.S. The company previously owned a wine business that it sold in 1983. In 2018, Coke introduced a fizzy, lemon-flavored alcoholic drink in Japan called Lemon-Do.

Coke "is committed to exploring new products in dynamic beverage categories, including hard seltzer," the company said in a statement posted on its website. "Topo Chico Hard Seltzer is an experimental drink inspired by Topo Chico sparkling mineral water, which has been popular with many mixologists."

Coke will pilot the alcoholic Topo Chico drink in Latin America later this year, the company said. News of the new product was reported earlier by Beverage Digest, an industry publication.

Alcohol distribution is tightly regulated in the U.S. A Coke spokeswoman said the company hasn't finalized how it will distribute hard seltzer, which falls under the same regulatory category as beer. Some Coke distributors already hold licenses to carry beer.

Under James Quincey, who became chief executive in 2017, Coke has expanded beyond its core soft-drink franchises. It has launched coffee-infused sodas and an energy-drink version of its namesake cola, despite objections from its partner Monster Beverage Corp. It is also pruning some niche products, such as its Odwalla smoothies and juices.

During the pandemic, the company's biggest soda brands -- including Coke, Coke Zero Sugar and Sprite -- have sold well in grocery stores but have taken a hit from a steep drop-off in soda fountain sales.

Write to Jennifer Maloney at jennifer.maloney@wsj.com

 

Stocks mentioned in the article
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MONSTER BEVERAGE CORPORATION -0.11% 93.4 Delayed Quote.1.10%
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Financials (USD)
Sales 2021 36 839 M - -
Net income 2021 9 087 M - -
Net Debt 2021 34 562 M - -
P/E ratio 2021 26,2x
Yield 2021 3,02%
Capitalization 242 B 242 B -
EV / Sales 2021 7,51x
EV / Sales 2022 7,05x
Nbr of Employees 80 300
Free-Float 60,8%
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Technical analysis trends THE COCA-COLA COMPANY
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Mean consensus OUTPERFORM
Number of Analysts 27
Average target price 59,30 $
Last Close Price 55,55 $
Spread / Highest target 20,6%
Spread / Average Target 6,76%
Spread / Lowest Target -4,59%
EPS Revisions
Managers and Directors
NameTitle
James Quincey Chairman & Chief Executive Officer
Brian John S. Smith President & Chief Operating Officer
John Murphy Chief Financial Officer & Executive Vice President
Nancy W. Quan Chief Technical & Innovation Officer
Barry Charles Diller Independent Director
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