Coca-Cola India Pvt. Ltd is planning to grow beyond carbonated soft drinks. The soda giant is reportedly setting the groundwork to cultivate more apples in India to locally source its fruit-based drinks. In a statement the company announced to have partnered with Indo-Dutch Horticulture Technologies for Project Unnati Apple. The duo will set up 110 orchards in Uttarakhand and use the produce to make pulp for Coca-Cola’s fruit-based drinks.

India is a second contender in terms of area under apple cultivation, yet imports apples as the productivity per hectare is low, said the company.

According to T Krishnakumar, president of Coca-Cola India and South-West Asia, the initiative is designed to help India achieve self-sufficiency in apple production.

As consumers are beginning to prefer healthier options, Coca-Cola has been investing in fruit-based beverages. Over a year ago, the company committed to invest Rs.11,000 crore to create a fruit-based economy in India by growing them locally and diversifying its portfolio.

Experts estimated that the sales of sodas in the Rs 33,000 crore market of India will grow at the rate of 3.4% by 2022, which is half the pace of the last five years. However, Coca-Cola India claimed that it is still growing at a strong pace. The company witnessed four straight quarters of double-digit growth in its core aerated soft drinks business, said Krishnakumar

In a bid to diversify its product portfolio, Coca-Cola has already been testing Fanta with fruit-infused flavors and is using domestic oranges for Minute Maid Santra. In 2017, the company launched a range of fruit-based drinks like Maaza Gold, Maaza Refresh, and Minute Maid Mosambi, all of which used locally sourced fruits.

Targeting the rural market and the issues of malnutrition, the beverage maker launched Minute Maid Vitingo, an instant drink mix claiming to be fortified with micronutrients and vitamins along with Aquarius Glucocharge, a drink to combat dehydration.