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Fresca gets new look, more flavors

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ATLANTA — Coca-Cola's neglected Fresca is getting refreshed.

Coke announced Wednesday it was revamping the 39-year-old beverage with new packaging and two added versions — peach citrus and black cherry citrus. They'll be sold starting in September.

It's the first time Fresca has gotten much attention since late 1991, when Coke rehabbed the citrus-flavored drink to focus on the then-hot market for "New Age" beverages. The last time Fresca's graphics were redone was 1996.

Despite getting little emphasis, no-calorie Fresca has lingered in Coke's product lineup. U.S. sales reached a high of 28 million cases in 1996. Last year the total was 23.6 million, according to Beverage Digest. By comparison, Americans bought 77 times as much Coke Classic.

Alison Lewis, vice president for Sprite and flavors for Coke North America, said Fresca appeals to people who have "a sophisticated taste."

Now and then, Fresca has made its way into pop culture. On an episode of "The Simpsons" TV show, a character compared his feelings for his wife to his love of Fresca. The drink has been a prop on "The Sopranos." And in mid-May, talk show titan Oprah Winfrey gave it a plug. "Fresca's hard to find, but I drink a lot of Fresca because it's got the cold and frosty taste that comes on cool," she said, according to a transcript.

Coke is in the midst of a flurry of new product rollouts aimed at restoring growth in the huge U.S. market. Diet beverages have proved especially popular.

Fresca, introduced in 1966, was among the country's first diet drinks. In other markets, notably Mexico, Fresca is sold as a regular drink.