Soft-drinks giant The Coca-Cola Co. has Malaysian demand for healthier options in its sights.

The company’s local subsidiary has added a new product to the range of Sprite drinks on sale in the south-east Asian country that should appeal to consumers looking for lower-sugar and functional beverages.

Sprite Lemon+ is a zero-sugar variant that also contains vitamin B3. Malaysia is the third major regional market for the product, which Coca-Cola has launched in Thailand and in the Philippines in the last 12 months.

As in many markets worldwide, the Covid-19 pandemic intensified consumer interest in the links between what they eat and drink and their health. That interest has also had an impact on product categories that aren’t obviously centred on health, including carbonated soft drinks.

A survey of Malaysian consumers conducted by GlobalData, Just Drinks’ parent, showed 65% of respondents associated consuming low-sugar products with a healthy lifestyle.

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By GlobalData

Meanwhile, more than half (58%) of those surveyed said they check the sugar content of a product before making a purchase.

Moreover, the impact of the pandemic on mobility has eased, consumers, who have reverted to their previous outdoor habits, are seeking products they believe can alleviate physical and mental fatigue. The vitamin B3 in Sprite Lemon+ is purported to boost energy.

Drinks such as Sprite Lemon+ are positioned as guilt-free indulgences that can tap into consumer demand for healthier options than conventional drinks without having to compromise on their craving for CSDs.

As restrictions on mobility eased, CSD sales in Malaysia grew by 11.1% in value terms in 2022, helped by a 5.7% rise in volumes. The category is forecast to grow by 8.8% in value terms this year.

However, the low-calorie segment is forecast to post a double-digit CAGR in volume terms between 2022 and 2027 in Malaysia, suggesting stronger demand for healthier options.

That trend is, in part, driven by younger, health-conscious consumers in Asia-Pacific markets searching for ‘better-for-you’ options when buying soft drinks.