Coca-Cola Light takes off in Mexico

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MEXICO CITY -- Coca-Cola Light sales outpaced Diet Coke results by a wide margin during the soft drink's first month on the market. Coca-Cola Light was officially introduced in Mexico on Oct. 1, replacing Diet Coke. During the first month, the new soda sold nearly 55% more than Diet Coke had in October 1996.

Coca-Cola de Mexico acknowledged an element of novelty, but says its target is to double the sales levels of Diet Coke with Coca-Cola Light, which has been launched successfully in other markets like Argentina, Brazil and Spain. Though Diet Coke had been the dominant diet soft drink, the segment is quite small, representing just 2% of overall soda sales in Mexico, the world's second biggest soda market after the U.S.

Soft drink sales in Mexico have been stagnating and Coca-Cola de Mexico hopes to reach a wider range of consumers with Coca-Cola Light, which has been the company's most important launch of the past few years, with a massive media and promotional campaign. Coca-Cola expects overall product sales to increase 10% in 1997 versus the previous year, and stronger sales growth for 1998.

Indeed, next year, Coca-Cola is planning to go national with its bottled water. Coke launched the "Ciel" brand water in early 1997, but it is currently available only in Mexico City and southeastern regions of Mexico via the distribution system of its main bottler, Coca-Cola Femsa.

Even though water is not a core business-- the Coca-Cola Co. markets water in about 10 other countries, under different brand names--Ciel complements the product line for its bottlers, many of which are already bottling water for other companies.

By the first quarter of 1998, Coca-Cola de Mexico also will make a decision on carbonated fruit drinks that it is currently test marketing. It has already narrowed its original, broad portfolio of flavors to two to three key "Mexican" fruits, like mango.

Copyright December 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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