NEW YORK (CNN/Money) -
The cola wars are joined.
With Coca-Cola (KO: down $0.18 to $56.32, Research, Estimates) and Pepsi (PEP: up $0.39 to $52.45, Research, Estimates) introducing new products, Dr Pepper has decided not to sit it out this time, announcing plans Friday for the first new flavor in the brand's 117-year history.
Called Red Fusion, Dr Pepper said the soda will be available in stores, vending machines and soda fountains in mid-July.
Red Fusion will mix the basic flavor profile of Dr Pepper with a variety of fruit flavors and will initially be available in 12-packs of 12-ounce cans, 2-liter bottles and 20-ounce single-serve bottles.
Dr Pepper's announcement comes on the heels of PepsiCo Inc.'s news earlier this week that it will sell berry-flavored Pepsi Blue in August. Coke is set to launch a Vanilla Coke on Wednesday.
Consumers have drifted toward cola alternatives in recent years, analysts have said, prompting the beverage makers to come up with innovative ideas to keep drawing customers.
"They're going to have to continue to find new ways to keep consumers drinking something with their label on it," said Crit Thomas, director of growth equity for National City Investment Management.
Dr Pepper said it began research on Red Fusion in September 2001, and said the flavor was the top choice of a diverse consumer audience.
"We made absolutely certain the product met consumers' expectations and desires," said Cindi Clark, Dr Pepper's senior vice president of marketing.
Some analysts noted Dr Pepper's entry is healthy for competition.
"I think what both companies are doing is very healthy. It's all about noise and creating excitement around brands," said Jeff Kanter, an analyst with Prudential Securities.
Dr Pepper, as well Seven-Up, both are owned by Cadbury Schweppes PLC (CSG: up $0.50 to $30.79, Research, Estimates) , the British soft drink and candy maker, and the No. 3 beverage maker behind Coke and Pepsi.