Topo Chico Hard Seltzer - launched in Latin America in September and due to hit the US at the start of next year - will launch next month in Austria, Great Britain, Northern Ireland, Greece, the Republic of Ireland and Ukraine.
'We are tremendously excited about the possibilities for this brand'
Coca-Cola has taken Topo Chico – a Mexican premium sparkling mineral water brand it acquired in 2017 – and expanded it into the booming hard seltzer category. Following the Latin American hard seltzer launch, it had already announced an early 2021 launch in the US: now, Coca-Cola has announced Europe's Topo Chico Hard Seltzer launch will leapfrog ahead of the US with its debut next month.
In Europe, the 4.7% ABV hard seltzer brand will be available in 330ml sleek aluminium cans in three flavors: Tangy Lemon Lime, Tropical Mango and Cherry Acai. Each flavor is gluten-free, has 96 calories and two grams of sugar.
Walter Susini, Senior Vice President, Marketing, The Coca-Cola Company, said: “We are tremendously excited about this launch and the possibilities for this brand. We are confident that we have a fantastic product in Topo Chico Hard Seltzer in an exciting and dynamic new category. The hard seltzer category is most developed in the US, where it has grown exponentially in the past few years.
“With the strength of our system behind it, we believe Topo Chico Hard Seltzer will flourish and more importantly, offer the consumer something new and delicious.”
Topo Chico Hard Seltzer will be distributed in Europe by Coca-Cola’s bottling partners: Coca-Cola European Partners and Coca-Cola HBC.
Coca-Cola European Partners says the Topo Chico Hard Seltzer launch will spearhead a wider alcohol strategy: developed using learnings from its proposed acquisition of Coca-Cola Amatil.
Topo Chico's US launch is scheduled for the first half of 2021. In the US, it will debut with a slightly different flavor portfolio to Europe: with Tangy Lemon Lime and Tropical Mango as in Europe, but also with Exotic Pineapple and Strawberry Guava (instead of Cherry Acai in Europe).
Given the specific nature of the US' three-tier system for alcohol, The Coca-Cola Company has entered an exclusive agreement with Molson Coors: with the latter manufacturing, marketing and distributing the beverage. The hard seltzer will first launch in markets where Topo Chico already has a strong presence.
But given that the US is a more developed market for hard seltzer, why has the company scheduled the European launch ahead of that in the US? Coca-Cola says that the timings is more a matter of practicalities, with its key ambition to scale up the brand across multiple markets as quickly as possible.
"The timings of the launches in the US and Europe are broadly aligned," a spokesperson told BeverageDaily. "The category is less developed in Europe, and we are taking the opportunity to introduce Topo Chico Hard Seltzer in select cities and countries across Europe in November 2020 before moving to a wider roll-out.
"In the US, we are working with Molson Coors Beverage Co., which will manufacture, market and distribute Topo Chico Hard Seltzer. The US market has a three-tier alcohol distribution system, and Coca-Cola took time to evaluate the right partner and business model.
"Topo Chico Hard Seltzer is an exciting innovation that has been developed by a global team as a global proposition, working at speed using a networked organizational model. This has allowed us to work quickly to introduce the brand across multiple geographies."
European hard seltzer category emerges
Coca-Cola is not the first to enter the hard seltzer category in Europe. In the UK, US superstar White Claw launched last month; while AB InBev, Molson Coors and a number of independent brands already playing in the category (AB InBev with Mike's Hard Sparking Water and Molson Coors as the distributor for Bodega Bay).
Carlsberg, meanwhile, is trialing its Garage Hard Seltzer in Norway.
With Europe and particularly the UK generally following US trends, hard seltzer brands hope they can see the same meteoric success in Europe as in the US.
Coca-Cola has been eying up the opportunity to reach more consumers across more occasions. One example of this is the acquisition of Costa coffee: which can be consumed during a number of occasions throughout the day, at home or on the go.
The introduction of an alcoholic hard seltzer, therefore, widens these opportunities to tap into different occasions even further.
Zoran Bogdanovic, CEO, Coca-Cola HBC said: “This is an exciting development in a category with great growth potential. The introduction of Topo Chico Hard Seltzer extends Coca-Cola HBC's already strong and broad portfolio. Together with our significant progress in rolling out Costa Coffee, we can genuinely claim to offer a beverage for every occasion around the clock.”