Here’s about as telltale a sign of soda’s death knell as you’re likely to find: Coca-Cola is diving into the $2 billion ready-to-drink-coffee market. No plans yet for the polar bears to start sharing cold brew, but the company’s popular bottled-tea subsidiary Gold Peak made the announcement last week that it’s going to add a third brown, bottled, caffeinated beverage to the corporate lineup. The first products — which are still vague, outside of including several coffees, plus a few tea lattes — will arrive in early 2017.
This is no secret, but soft drinks aren’t selling so well anymore, a fact that’s caused Big Soda enough angst to second-guess how it sweetens stuff and even roll out certified-organic Gatorade. If coffee sales got big, the company would be that much less dependent on water and juice sales moving forward.
And, interestingly, Coke has actually been in the hot-coffee biz for a while. Gold Peak offers coffee “systems” already (think the urns you’d find in a gas station or office break room), and Coke became Keurig’s largest shareholder in 2014 (a poor decision, it turned out). The company says this choice to tack toward “healthier” un-carbonated drinks is a way of “future-proofing” the company. Considering the future looks bleak for coffee, this might not be a brilliant long-term plan either. But, hey, at least the odds of people having a Coke-brand beverage in hand will be higher once the planet finally does burn through the rest of its usable Arabica beans.