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Subway to offer zero-calorie Vitaminwater

NEW YORK (AP) -- Subway will begin offering zero-calorie Vitaminwater in August as consumers increasingly reach for less sugary drinks to wash down sandwiches and other foods.

The decision by the ubiquitous sandwich shop could prove a distribution boost for Vitaminwater Zero, which is owned by The Coca-Cola Co. The beverage last year had 1 percent market share among noncarbonated drinks, according to Beverage Digest.

Subway, based in Milford, Conn., has 25,000 locations in the U.S. and 12,000 overseas. It surpassed McDonald's as the largest fast food chain in the world by locations last year.

Tony Pace, Subway's chief marketing officer, noted that consumers have much broader tastes when it comes to beverages. Energy drinks and bottled teas, for example, have seen strong growth in recent years as soda consumption on a per capita basis has been declining.

Subway will only offer the zero-calorie version of Vitaminwater, which last year saw sales volume grow 28 percent, according to Beverage Digest. Sales volume for the regular, full-calorie version fell 10 percent.

Subway will offer the drink in two flavors — lemonade and acai-blueberry-pomegranate — but in 16.9 ounce bottles, rather than the 20-ounce bottles available at retail locations. The drinks have been available at Subways in 10 test markets for the past four years.

Subway has a multi-year contract with Atlanta-based Coca-Cola and serves the company's sodas and other bottled drinks, including as Dasani bottled water, Powerade and Minute Maid.