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(Aug. 29, 2001) TORONTO -- Welcome to Planet Java. Let the coffee war begin.

Beverage giant Coca-Cola Co. has brewed up a new entry into Canada's fast-emerging iced coffee segment. This week the marketer rolls out Planet Java, brought north from the U.S.

Planet Java begins its launch in major centers across the country, then will expand to other parts of Canada in what Toronto-based Coca-Cola Group Brand Manager Chris Johnston called a "surgical" approach.

Targeted at young urban adults, Planet Java comes in funky bottles in two flavors: Javadelic, a straightforward coffee flavor, and Caramocha, a chocolate-caramel version.

Supporting the Canadian push is point-of-purchase and sampling, both from Mosaic Marketing and Promotions in Toronto. Advertising hasn't been ruled out, Mr. Johnston said, but for now the marketer is focusing heavily on getting Canadians to try the drinks, which Coca-Cola acquired in 2000 when it bought PJ Bean Co.

In the U.S., Planet Java is available in the Northeast, the Northwest and other major markets.

Coca-Cola's move to bring Planet Java into Canada puts the brand head-to-head with an iced coffee drink that enjoys far more name recognition: Starbucks' bottled Frappuccino, part of the portfolio of arch-rival Pepsi-Cola.

But Mr. Johnston believes Planet Java's non-existent presence in Canada will help it make inroads in the burgeoning segment. "That works for us," he says. "It's an opportunity for our prospect to discover a brand they can call their own. It creates a lot of grassroots appeal.

"It becomes almost the antithesis -- the counterculture ... to Starbucks," Mr. Johnston said.

Research shows 73% of Canadians over 18 drink coffee at least once per week, Canadians drink 30% more coffee per capita than their U.S. counterparts, and Calgary is the top city for coffee consumption in Canada. -- Stephen Barrington

Copyright August 2001, Crain Communications Inc.

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