Jones Soda announced recently that they will be releasing their popular premium soda in 16oz (473ml) cans into the convenience channel. The can packaging will follow closely with their Jones Soda glass bottles: photos submitted by consumers enclosed in a black and white box. The 16oz cans will be available in three flavors by late October or early November: Green Apple, Berry Lemonade, and Strawberry Lime. This product launch is unique for Jones and the overall soda category as most products are of the traditional 12oz (355ml) can variety. Will other CSDs follow and release products en masse in this packaging size if Jones is successful? Or will this package size fall short of sales targets that suggest it can be a permanently stocked product?
On one hand, this launch makes sense because Jones Soda is seeking out growth opportunities. Since canned soft drinks are the preferred choice in the convenience channel and the company only produces bottles, Jones Soda would have to come up with a can version of their products in order to penetrate this channel. However, their category position as a premium soda company somewhat dictates that they must sell their product in glass bottles. Consumers have the notion that glass bottles preserve the taste and quality better. If the manufacturer switches from glass bottles to aluminum cans, this is somewhat interpreted as “selling out” by sacrificing quality. Sales have slowed down for companies that make that switch – just look at Nestea, Sobe and Lipton (among many other examples).
Adding another layer of curiosity is the can size itself. Their choice of an unconventional size will generate attention and provide a stronger bang-for-the-buck (cost/value) relationship for the consumer. But some other things to consider include calories and convenience store shelving capabilities. Consumers are extremely calorie-conscious and often make the effort to read the label and portion control their servings, so when the 16oz can contains 30% more calories than a regular 12oz soft drink, they may be afraid to purchase a product of this size. Also, most 16oz beverages are energy drinks so an uneducated shopper may confuse the product as an energy drink and not a soft drink. With retail shelf space, most convenience stores with refrigerated vaults work with a set planogram that limits the space they have to put products – there are size limitations since a taller can will not fit into a pre-set shelf, and if the width is larger than a regular can the manufacturer must provide special racking. The retailer may ultimately choose to sell the product warm since it cannot fit into their shelving units.
Jones Soda may believe there is a trend of consumer fragmentation, and as a result expand their offerings through package sizes. Coca-Cola did recently released a new 12.5oz bottle as a result of product-price diversification to appeal to more consumers, so there may be some truth in that. However, Pepsi had also recently launched their 12oz soft drinks in 16oz sizes as well (Pepsi-Cola, Diet Pepsi, and Dr Pepper were available, to the best of my knowledge) but they did not remain on shelves for long given their popularity.
If Jones Soda is ultimately successful in making this work, the other manufacturers will undoubtedly follow. However, with the consumption patterns of consumers moving toward healthier alternatives, and limiting calories through portion-controlled serving sizes, these 16oz cans will face a tough uphill battle. Let’s just hope it does not follow in the footsteps of Sobe, or Nestea.