ATLANTA After two years of shrinking U.S. soft drink sales, Neville Isdell, Coca-Cola’s current chief executive officer, is turning to the lab to restore growth with the development of new beverages featuring proven health benefits.
Taking a cue from drugmakers, Coca-Cola is running clinical trials to prove the health benefits of such drinks as Minute Maid Heart Wise orange juice and Enviga green tea. The beverages have the potential to be twice as profitable as soda, which still accounts for 80 percent of the company’s sales.
Some have been critical of the science behind the new drinks, including Enviga, which increases metabolism. According to the company, three cans of Enviga can burn 100 calories, as was determined in a clinical study run by the University of Lausanne in Switzerland. Coca-Cola has dismissed criticism, saying Enviga helps consumers "achieve a healthy lifestyle," according to Rhona Applebaum, Coke’s chief scientist.
Healthier offerings, overseas expansion and the recent $4.1 billion purchase of Glaceau VitaminWater may help lift the company’s revenue 22 percent by 2010, according to a Bloomberg survey. Coca-Cola’s shares, already up 10 percent in 2007 to date, are forecast to increase 11 percent in the coming year to $59; still down from the stock’s all-time high of $87.94 in 1998.