Coca-Cola constantly refreshes its packaging so when summer 2011 came around, it was likely that they would have some fancy packaging. However, what is different about this packaging refresh is that is also contains a “summer ready” indicator, as Coca-Cola has termed it. What this means is that the can has portion that will change color when it reaches a certain temperature, indicating that it is cold enough and ready for consumption – similar to the Coors Light beer cans. Using thermochromic inking technology, a small white Coca-Cola contour silhouette will turn to red when the can’s temperature reaches 8 degrees Celsius.
From Denis Ferlatte, Coca-Cola brand Marketing Manager in Quebec,
“The summer season is very important for both the soft drink and beer industries. We need to stand out and innovate to grab consumers’ attention and interest. Moreover, summer, with its warm and sunny weather, is the time to focus on the refreshing aspect of our product. So we came up with this new can.”
The cans were available for purchase starting July 1st, and will only be around (running off inventory and change to winter packaging) until September 5th. In terms of size offerings, it can be found packages of 8, 12, 18, 24, and 32 (basically all pack sizes).
So is this a real innovation, and does it strengthen Coca-Cola branded products? It can be considered a small step forward, but definitely not a game changer. This does show that Coca-Cola is paying attention to the consumer by alerting them that a can of Coke is cold enough for “optimal consumption”, and what better time to do this than in the hot and humid summer months? Also, by using the silhouette Coca-Cola bottle and changing it from white to red, they are reinforcing their trademark bottle shape and colors. Consumers simply see the advertised bottle and colors, and automatically make the connection to Coca-Cola products. In my opinion, this does given Coca-Cola branded beverages an edge, but not a lot. It may drive trial because of its novelty, but it’s always the price and taste that keeps consumers coming back and they would likely have bought the Coca-Cola beverage regardless of the summer ready indication.
On the other hand, their use of thermochromic ink should be expanded. Coca-Cola should expand the use of this technology to other Coca-Cola can packaging like the Coke Zero (change from white to black silhouette), Diet Coke (white to silver), or Spite (white to green). Other than the can packaging, they should use this for their 355ml bottle offerings that are found in certain on-premise establishments like hotels or high-end restaurants. Consumers have always preferred drinking Coca-Cola (or carbonated beverages, in general) out of glass bottles based on the taste and chill factor – so putting a summer ready indicator will go a long way to reinforcing their leadership and showing that they pay attention to consumer preference.
Will Pepsi follow and add a thermochromic ink stripe? Given Pepsi’s competitive nature they will likely be adding this technology to their products very soon (maybe next summer). Pepsi has followed Coca-Cola and re-introduced their 414ml bottle size this summer, so it’s not out of the question that they follow with new color changing ink packaging next year.
And since Coca-Cola only has it on their core product, I would suggest Pepsi to take this technology and expand its uses to include other products in their portfolio. And if it’s not too costly, they should take the lead and re-introduce some glass bottles with this thermochromic ink.