Coca-Cola’s Venturing & Emerging Brands (VEB) unit is raising the bar for alcohol alternatives with the launch of a new line of booze-free adult sparkling drinks

BAR N?NE is currently available in select package stores, bottle shops, restaurants and specialty markets in Coke’s hometown of Atlanta, and online at Four unique varieties – Spiced Ginger Mule, Bellini Spritz, Dry Aged Cider and Sangria – were crafted with bar-inspired flavors and premium, on-trend ingredients to appeal to beer, wine and cocktail drinkers. The bottled drinks – which contain between 70 and 130 calories – are sweetened with unique juice blends or cane sugar. Four-packs of 12-oz. bottles retail for $7.99.

The idea for BAR N?NE hatched during an at-work conversation about flavorful substitutes for spirits – or, more specifically, the lack thereof. Sabrina Tandon and a few VEB colleagues were chatting about craving something more exciting than club soda for occasions when they didn’t want to partake.

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“We talked about not wanting to drink as often, or as much, as we had before,” she recalled. “We wanted something we could actually look forward to enjoying as much as an alcoholic drink – something sip-able and savor-able.”

And they’re not alone. Studies show that Americans are drinking less and less. Brand research reveals that 18% of U.S. adults abstain from alcohol, and 35% of regular drinkers seek out nonalcoholic options. And according to external data sources, these trends are generation agnostic; Millennials are drinking less than Generation X-ers, and Gen Z-ers are imbibing less than Millennials.

“People are choosing not to drink for many different reasons,” said Tandon, BAR N?NE general manager. “We’re not targeting a certain demographic… we’re targeting a mindset.”

BAR N?NE went from idea to shelf in only 10 months, exemplifying an entrepreneurial, test-and-learn culture taking shape at Coke. Agile teams like Tandon’s are empowered to take risks, iterate and move quickly.

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Tandon briefed an external R&D agency to bring the BAR N?NE vision to life, working closely with beverage quality and scientific and regulatory affairs (SRA) teams to accelerate the launch. The team hired a freelance graphic designer to create the brand’s packaging and visual identity, and used a crowdsourcing platform to source taglines. They partnered with an East Coast co-packer and a local beer and wine distributor in the Atlanta area on the initial small-batch run. 

BAR N?NE made its debut in October at Taste of Atlanta, where nearly 3,000 festivalgoers sipped on the four varieties. Of samplers surveyed on site, 93% said they would buy the beverages, and 78% said they’d drink BAR N?NE straight up or over ice, without adding alcohol or other ingredients.

Tandon said the versatile brand is being marketed in different ways depending on the channel. “One restaurant partner, Gypsy Kitchen has it on their brunch menu, as-is, while others may use it as a shortcut ingredient with a few cocktail recipes,” she explained. “Whereas in liquor stores, the average shopper isn’t looking or a nonalcoholic drink, so we’re positioning it as a mixer.

She concludes, “This is a new category we’re helping to create. We’re a first mover in this space, which we think has a lot of potential. Our initial focus is on learning… we’re hoping that launching first in our backyard will be a recipe for entrepreneurial success.”