New cola products aim to keep consumers sipping

Soda sales in the U.S. have been declining for the past decade, a trend that has pop makers scrambling to win consumers back.

Artisanal soda, specialty water and milk products the latest offerings from pop giants

Caleb's Kola is Pepsi's new craft soda line. (Caleb's Kola/Facebook)

Soda sales in the United States have been declining for the past decade, a trend that has pop makers scrambling to win consumers back.

Jordan LeBel, a professor of marketing at Concordia University, said projected to 2025, soft drinks sales are expected to decrease. "And since last year, there has been a decrease of about two per cent in terms of volume sold. That might not seem large, but that's enough to prompt the big players to look elsewhere to fuel growth."

Drink makers are scrambling to do just that. Coca-Cola has been investing in juice, water and even milk brands around the world.

Its biggest competitor, Pepsi, has launched a crafty glass-bottled product called Caleb's Kola.

Caleb's Kola isn't the company's only tactic. This month, Pepsi announced plans for another craft soda brand focused on fountain beverages. It's called Stubborn Soda and, like Caleb's Kola, it's all about a sheen of handmade small-batch natural soft drinks.

"Pepsi has been very strategic and crafty by creating an entire business unit whose sole purpose is to be on the lookout for beverage concepts that can be groomed and grown into brands that the millennials and their followers will learn to love and will develop an affiliation and engagement towards," LeBel said.

Where Caleb's Kola takes a cue from craft beer, Stubborn Soda takes a cue from the retro notion of neighbourhood soda fountains.

Pepsi may also be dipping into its own back catalogue of products to build market share.

Remember Crystal Pepsi? The short-lived relic of the early '90s may be back, if Pepsi's hints on the Twittersphere are to be believed.

Meanwhile, expect Pepsi to snatch up smaller drink brands and quietly support them, while keeping its name out of the marketing.

"What the large players are doing is using their distribution might and power," LeBel explained.

"They're giving support to the smaller brand to grow and flourish with them to become the next Gatorade or the next big beverage brand."

It's an old tactic that's worked for major brands outside of food as well. In cosmetics, Burt's Bees was built from a farmers market product into a multinational brand thanks to Clorox.

Ask some folks who use the product, and chances are they won't know that it's owned by a publicly traded company worth billions of dollars.


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