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Coca-Cola heeds PM Modi’s appeal to launch fizzy drink

Beverages giant Coca-Cola is set to launch a new ‘juice with fizz’ drink, more than a year after Prime Minister Narendra Modi had asked the multinational cola giants to add fruit juices to their drinks to help Indian farmers increase sales. Coca-Cola India will be launching what it termed as its latest innovation — a juice with fizz product formulation — at the Make in India Week to be held during February 13-18 in Mumbai.

“The idea of this product is rooted in Prime Minister’s vision for the food processing sector and the role that the beverage industry can play in minimising fruit wastage to benefit Indian farmers,” said the company in a letter sent to the Food Processing Ministry. In September 2014, Modi had asked multinational cola giants PepsiCo and Coca-Cola to help Indian farmers in increasing their fruit sales by adding fresh fruit juices to their fizzy drinks.

Modi had said that as millions of people buy Pepsi and Coke the companies could put 5 per cent natural juice in their drinks and it would help farmers make a lot of money and not throw their fruits away. Coca-Cola said its new product is a formulation that contains 10.4 per cent juice concentrate procured from local farms and pulp processors.

“The launch of this product gives us a sense of satisfaction, since it was a significant R&D challenge to begin with,” the company added. The juice with fizz formulation poses challenges of product stability and preservation. It also need heightened level of microbiological safety and stability.

Also, most of the fruits grown in India are of ‘table use’ varieties and not of processing varieties. This probably is also one of the reasons for low fruit processing in India. Baring mango, litchi and small quantities of other tropical fruits like guava, the Indian non-alcoholic beverage industry uses mostly imported fruit pulp for products, the company added.

Meanwhile, Coca Cola India’s bottling arm Hindustan Coca Cola Beverages has suspended manufacturing at three locations in India citing absence of “long-term economic viability”, which may affect at least 300 employees. The company has suspended manufacturing at Kaladera near Jaipur (Rajasthan), Vishakhapatnam (Andhra Pradesh) and Brynihat (Meghalaya). “The decision to close down a plant is a business decision taken on the basis of its long-term economic viability and market demands of the products being manufactured at that particular plant,” a source said. “Accordingly the decision to suspend manufacturing at these locations including Kaladera was made. At these locations all operations except for manufacturing is continuing,” the source said.

When contacted a Hindustan Coca Cola Beverages Pvt Ltd (HCCBPL) spokesperson said: “Like with any other manufacturing organisation, we are going through a process of consolidation where new state-of-the art facilities are being built and existing production capacities are being optimised. These decisions are taken in keeping with plant capacity utilisation considerations, based on the market demands and projections,” he added.

“With regard to our Kaladera plant in Rajasthan, while we have currently suspended manufacturing, we are continuing with all other operations at Kaladera. We also retain the licence to produce at this Plant, which is testimony to the fact that should there be a change in demand and volume, we may utilise this latent capacity at the Kaladera plant,” the spokesperson said.
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