Coke to Launch Sugar-Free Energy Drink

Coca-Cola Co. (KO), the world's largest soft drink maker, said on Tuesday it planned to launch a sugar-free version of its Full Throttle drink in a bid to capture a larger share of the U.S. market for energy drinks.

The new drink, which will be called Sugar Free Full Throttle (search), will be rolled out later this month in convenience stores and other retail locations across the United States, the company said.

The planned roll-out comes less than a year after Coke introduced Full Throttle in the United States. The fledgling drink has captured about 8 percent of the U.S. energy drink market, but still trails Red Bull, the market leader.

In 2004, Red Bull had nearly 50 pct of the U.S. market for energy drinks, according to Beverage Digest. Red Bull is owned by Austrian-based Red Bull GmbH (search).

A diet version of Red Bull is already on sale.

The market for energy drinks, which typically contain caffeine, vitamins and other ingredients to boost a person's energy, has grown rapidly since the 1990s.

"The Full Throttle brand has consistently driven growth in the energy drink category since its introduction, and Sugar Free Full Throttle will keep our momentum going," said Mary Herrera, director of marketing for sports and energy drinks in Coke's North American unit.

The drink will be among a flurry of new products recently launched by the Atlanta-based firm, which is in the midst of a restructuring designed to sharpen its innovation and help reignite sales, particularly of soft drinks.

The effort began last year when Neville Isdell (search) took over as Coke's chairman and chief executive.

New offerings in the U.S. market include a version of Diet Coke sweetened with the popular sugar substitute Splenda, a diet cola called Coke Zero (search) and flavored versions of Coke's popular Dasani bottled water brand.

"Coke's innovation pipeline this year has been very full and very quick," said John Sicher, editor of Beverage Digest, who added that the roll-out of the sugar-free Full Throttle drink made "perfect sense."

The innovation strategy, however, carries risks. If poorly executed, the new drinks could cut into sales of existing products or simply fail to find a niche among increasingly picky consumers.

Shares of Coca-Cola rose 33 cents to $44.20 on the New York Stock Exchange.