Deep within Coca-Cola's Atlanta headquarters, lies the meeting room of their Venturing and Emerging Brands team. This group meets to discuss emerging drink brands, with the aim of never letting Coke be surprised by new upstarts. This group of around 15 people are part think-tank, part entrepreneurial advisor, and part investment group.
The group is right at the cutting edge of Coke's efforts to stay ever innovative and find niche products. It's an area where Coke has not entirely succeeded - whilst Coke Zero was a smash hit, their efforts in teas and energy drinks have been less than stellar.
One of the challenges for a monolith like Coke has been dealing with niche brands. Smaller brands are sometimes able to tap into a particular zeitgeist or need in a market, and gain lasting loyalty around an edgy brand and product offering.
This is not Coke's heartland. Niche brands can often take up to a decade to grow into a fully mature product offering ready for the big time, and Coke has learnt from its mistakes (eg with overpaid purchases for Planet Java and Mad River Traders in the Sates) that they have to slowly incubate these brands and build a core audience before they will be viable for larger markets. In fact this group has the perspective that rushing it will actually inevitably harm it.
The products they're dealing with are pretty left of Coke's centre - think espresso in a can, Krushka & Bochka Kvass, a dark Russian soda made from fermented rye and barley, Vio which is a blend of skim milk and sparkling water, and Cascal - a soda from France that comes in black currant and cherry flavours. The point is that this team are responsible for bring new upcoming brands into the Coca Cola fold, and leveraging the cool factor, and niche factor, and dedicated market that these brands have over the broader Coca Cola portfolio.