Sonic Drive-In has expanded its already extensive beverage menu with the introduction of lower-calorie, less-sweet sodas.
The new Splash Hand-Crafted Sodas were introduced systemwide Monday in five flavors: Peach, Raspberry, Blackberry-Pineapple, Sunshine Berry (strawberries, peach and lemon), and Hawaiian Wave (mango, pineapple and lime).
The drinks are made by adding flavorings that Sonic already carries to carbonated water, and have between zero and 50 calories per 8-ounce serving. The Sunshine Berry and Hawaiian Wave flavors also contain pieces of strawberry and pineapple, respectively.
“It’s kind of fun,” Sonic spokesman Patrick Lenow said. “They’re sized so they come through the straw. And operationally there are no new SKUs that we had to bring in, just some reformulation using existing flavorings.”
He said the new drinks were added in response to customer demand for drinks that were lighter, fresher and lower in calories, as well as to what Sonic has observed “in general in the marketplace.”
“Starbucks has a line of sodas on the lighter side, we’re seeing from Pepsi and Coke what they’re calling ‘hand-crafted’ sodas, and for a [quick service restaurant like Sonic] to go to a product like this says that it’s more than a fad. It’s a trend,” Lenow said.
Starbucks introduced its Fizzio soda line this summer, carbonated in-house and containing around 100 calories per 16-ounce serving.
“It’s no secret that carbonated soft drinks are struggling, and all the beverage makers are finding ways to combat that,” Lenow added, noting that even Sonic, which markets itself as the “Ultimate Drink Stop,” and claims, with its assorted syrups, purées and other flavorings, to offer 1,392,085 different fountain drink and slush combinations, has “seen some softness” in soft drink sales.
Over the past year of testing the Splash drinks in various markets, Lenow said the company found that sales of the new drinks were largely incremental, rather than cannibalizing other drink sales.
The sodas are priced the same as other Sonic soft drinks, which vary by location, except during the chain’s 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. “happy hour,” and in the mornings before 10 a.m., when all large drinks are 99 cents.
Contact Bret Thorn at [email protected].
Follow him on Twitter: @foodwriterdiary