Coca-Cola is launching a coffee-flavored cola in America, as the soda giant works to regain business it lost to Starbucks decades ago

  • Coke is debuting a coffee-cola hybrid called Coca-Cola with Coffee in the US, with the drink hitting shelves in January 2021. 
  • The drink has roughly twice the caffeine as classic Coke and half the calories. 
  • As people's daily routines are disrupted by the pandemic, Coca-Cola executives see a chance for people to turn to Coca-Cola with Coffee for their daily caffeine fix. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Coca-Cola is bringing Coke with Coffee to the US just as Americans' daily coffee routines are scrambled by the coronavirus pandemic. 

The beverage — which is already available internationally — will hit shelves in the US in January 2021. Coca-Cola with Coffee will be available to the company's subscription service, called the Coca-Cola Insiders Club, this week. 

"We think of this as a hybrid category," Jaideep Kibe, the vice president for the Coca-Cola trademark in North America, told Business Insider. "We've got an opportunity to create almost a new sub-category called refreshment coffee." 

A 12 ounce can of Coca-Cola with Coffee has 69 mg of caffeine, versus classic Coke's 34 mg, and 70 calories, half of Coke's 140 calories. The classic Coca-Cola with Coffee Dark Blend's flavor is similar to that of the classic cola, but the aftertaste is closer to sweet coffee. The company will also sell Coffee Vanilla and Coffee Caramel flavors. 

Coca-Cola with Coffee launched in 25 countries last year, including Australia, Spain, and Thailand. While the beverage's entrance into the American market has been a long time coming, the pandemic has helped highlight when and why people might find themselves reaching for a Coca-Cola with Coffee. 

"As people have been in lockdown or … working from home, there's a real opportunity to get that boost, that little pick-me-up, whether it's the slump in the afternoon or mid morning," Kibe said. With the loss of office rituals such as gathering around the coffee machine, he said, people can instead reach for a can of Coca-Cola with Coffee. 

Coca-Cola's attempt to meld the coffee and the cola market can be seen in some ways as the beverage giant attempting to regain lost ground. RBC analyst Nik Modi has theorized that Starbucks took a slice of business away from Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, as people began to swap soda for coffee when seeking out a caffeine boost. 

"Twenty years ago, people used to wake up with a Diet Coke or a Diet Pepsi," Modi said at Beverage Digest's 2016 Future Smarts conference. "At around 2 o'clock, they'd have another and take a break. Walk in front of a Starbucks at 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. and tell me how long the lines are."

Kibe refrained from naming any direct competitors, instead saying he expected Coca-Cola with Coffee to grow sales by attracting a range of consumers. But, the pandemic has already forced people to change up their daily Starbucks' routines. Starbucks said this week that its morning business has slumped as people are no longer commuting, with a rush of customers now coming at around 9:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. 

Coca-Cola has already found success in expanding trademark Coca-Cola, with new flavors and the launch of Coca-Cola Energy in January. Coca-Cola has doubled down on its successful brands during the pandemic, while killing off less successful lines, with CEO James Quincey saying that the company's "goal was to ruthlessly prioritize" core brands to strengthen the supply chain. 

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