Don’t Call It ‘New Sprite’ – Coca-Cola Debuts Sprite Chill - The Food Institute (2024)

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Jordan Wiklund | May 7, 2024

Jordan Wiklund | May 7, 2024

Don’t Call It ‘New Sprite’ – Coca-Cola Debuts Sprite Chill - The Food Institute (1)

Many foodbev brands would kill to offer something truly novel in the highly competitive space of soft drinks and overall beverages in general. Something with staying power, something to excite the senses and ignite the passion of tomorrow’s generations. Coca-Cola tried this in the ‘80s with New co*ke.

The results were not exactly what co*ke had in mind. The public recoiled, Pepsi persevered, and the soda juggernaut reintroduced the original formula within three months and rebranded it as “Coca-Cola Classic,” leading many consumers down the conspiracy rabbit hole that the whole thing was a marketing ploy to boost classic co*ke sales. New co*ke was a massive failure and endures almost 40 years later as what not to do with a beloved formula.

Gen Z Wants Elevated Experiences – Sprite Chill Is Here to Give It To Them

So, what exactly is Sprite (and parent company Coca-Cola) up to with Sprite Chill?

First, it’s an LTO and not a totally new replacement formulation for the OG Sprite. More importantly, however, it’s a bold step into the experiential space of beverages in an age when flavor and satiety alone aren’t enough to please some consumers – Veruca Salts all, many “want it all” when it comes to their preferred snacks and beverages. So what is it?

Sprite Chill (“Here to chill. Not to stay.”) recently debuted with a “unique cooling sensation that intensifies with every sip” to deliver “a uniquely elevated sensory experience.” Flavored with a twist of cherry lime to differentiate it from Sprite’s usual lemon-lime split, Sprite usually enjoys one LTO per year or so in addition to the annual Sprite Winter Spiced Cranberry.

Kate Schaufelberger is brand director at Sprite who said in a release from the Coca-Cola Co. that, “When people think about Sprite, they think about cut-through refreshment,” and that Sprite is “doubling down on these signature intrinsics while continuing our legacy of strategic flavor innovation and quenching fans’ thirst for variety.”

Per the release, the Coca-Cola R&D team underwent several rounds of development and testing before landing on the particular flavor and cooling intensity, which is designed to deliver “waves of refreshment” as the cooling sensation builds from sip to sip. Similar technology has long been used in confectionery and baking, but Sprite Chill is one of the first carbonated soft drinks to do so without an accompanying mint flavor.

“The cooling sensation technology inspired us to lean into the ‘ice-cold’ colloquialism – a cultural double-entendre for Gen Z consumers – that implies being at the top of your game,” said A.P. Chaney, senior creative director at Sparkling Flavors.

Don’t Call It ‘New Sprite’ – Coca-Cola Debuts Sprite Chill - The Food Institute (2)

The Enduring Appeal of Coca-Cola

On that point, Chaney is spot-on. According to Gen Z research and consulting firm dcdx, 2024 is the “Year of Discovery” for Gen Z, marking a time when “Gen Z’ers will soon begin to value the process of discovery just as much as the outcome itself,” according to the recent Gen Z CPG Food and Beverage Rankings Report.

The top magnetic brand for Gen Z? Coca-Cola.

“Magnetic brands attract young consumers in; controlling their own ecosystems, driving pricing power, fueling innovation, and distancing themselves from competitors.”

So, it’s no surprise that something as innocuous (even forgettable, if you’re not a Sprite or soda fan) as a new LTO in the beverage category could hold outsize value for Coca-Cola. Implication and subtle signaling with preferred or limited beverages in hand is nothing new this year – just look at the Barbie-pink Stanley cup craze of earlier this spring to see just how far people will go simply to hold the new hotness, whatever it may be. In a sense, most LTOs are built around this idea – I have something novel in hand, so my thoughts, ideas, and actions should be respected.

“This access to the product due to high demand, scarce supply, and a price point that is within reach creates a perfect storm,” said Reilly Newman, brand strategist and founder at Motif Brands. In Stanley’s case, the scorching pink tumbler is hard to miss, and in Sprite’s case, the distinctive clear green bottle functions much the same – “They’re hard to miss due to their size and colors,” Newman added, “increasing the ‘signaling’ of these items even more so because they not only have a perception but are now a source of status signaling due to their visibility in use.”

In the wild world of beverages, any edge on the competition may be enough to resurrect an LTO from the past or push it into full-time production. Will Sprite Chill stick around, or will the novel sensation fade in the hands (and mouths) of consumers this summer? For those looking for another novel experience with the new libation, AMC Theatres will exclusively feature the Sprite Chill ICEE this summer.

It all comes down to personal preference. One thing’s for certain – a limited release of Sprite Chill may be better than an international rollout of a refrigerator staple since 1961. New Sprite it is not.

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Don’t Call It ‘New Sprite’ – Coca-Cola Debuts Sprite Chill - The Food Institute (2024)

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