Jones Soda Gets Social for Christmas – Possibly Testing Out New Permanent Flavors

Jones 2011 Holiday Pack - courtesy of jonessoda.com

Jones Soda regularly releases limited edition beverage flavors (ie. Christmas flavors, Thanksgiving flavors, etc) and this year is no exception.  The flavors for this year’s Christmas season are: Gingerbread, Pear Tree, Candy Cane and Sugar Plum.  More information can be found from marketwatch here, and BevReview.com has a photo here.  Since these links can give you more information on the product pricing and look, BevWire won’t repeat that information.  What is interesting to me is Jones Soda’s marketing aspect for the seasonal flavors.

Marketwatch explains that the company decided on the flavors through the use of social media, by having their fans and loyalists vote on some flavors and then manufactured the flavors that were the most popular.  The voting results can be see here on their website, where over 4000 votes were placed to determine the top 4 flavors for the 2011 Christmas holidays.  While I’m not too familiar with the annual custom flavors that Jones produces for Christmas, some of these flavors appear to have appeared in previous years.  Therefore the voters would likely vote for the flavors that they preferred the most from past years and re-live the glory of the Gingerbread, Pear Tree, Candy Cane and Sugar Plum flavors.  From the company’s perspective, a great low-cost way to generate excitement and buzz about the flavors, and also to ensure that its flavors that will sell out among the constituents since they voted for these flavors.  While some of these flavors are novelty flavors, others actually sound like they would taste good.  Some of these flavors may one day be added to their regular product line-up.

With the ability to vote and have their voices heard by Jones Soda, consumers may have the power to dictate whether some of these flavors will one day sit alongside the company’s most popular flavors of Green Apple, Cream Soda and Root Beer.  Not unlike any other business, Jones Soda is constantly looking for low cost opportunities to tap into what their customers like best about them and how they can better satisfy their needs.  By using social media to connect with their core audience and giving them a voice on which flavors they would most prefer to drink this winter, Jones minimizes the risk of having these flavors fail or sit in the storage room of some grocery store.  The ultimate dream may be to have a determined shopper going into a grocery store, not finding the product on the shelf and asking the store manager to bring the product into the store.  This ultimately helps the soda manufacturer get into more outlets and ensures that there is existing demand when they bring the product reaches the retail level.

All in all, a great way to first create excitement for the product before its even available.  Have the loyalists decide what will work best, then produce and sell the winning flavors for a limited time as a test run, and make them permanent if the sales surpass targets and can remain on store shelves without losing any other better selling Jones Soda flavors.  Normally an option to purchase Jones soda online for Canada, Jones Soda alerts shoppers that they will suspend customer-direct shipping since our winters may cause product freezing.  If these limited edition flavors were to be purchased, the shopper must go to an authorized retailer or will likely have to head south of the border.

While BevWire doesn’t have any plans to head down to the United States this winter, I’m hoping to find some of these limited edition flavors at my local grocery store, so keep an eye out on the twitter feed for some Jones Soda Gingerbread or Pear Tree pictures!

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Xyience Targeting Female Energy Drink Consumers

Xyience Energy Drink line-up, courtesy of www.urbanclimbermag.com

A few posts ago I talked about 5-Hour Energy targeting the older demographics to expand their reach outside of the typical energy drink user (link here), and it appears that Xyience is trying a similar strategy.  To be concise, Xyience has always been an all-natural calorie-free energy drink, but now has the opportunity to capitalize on their positioning.

Xyience became a major player through their partnership with the UFC, where the energy was originally featured within the Octagon as well as other UFC apparel such as round cards, towels and t-shirts.  The partnership has since expanded to cover UFC fighters, which appear at autograph signing events when Xyience launches into convenience stores and grocery stores (more info from a beverage industry article here).  With their calorie-free energy drink, female consumers are a prime target since they are the ones that really look at the ingredient table to check on the beverage’s contents.

As energy drinks transitioned from an emerging beverage category to one that is stabilizing, manufacturers must be innovative and look for new growth opportunities or risk becoming irrelevant.  We saw Red Bull try energy shots briefly before discontinuing them, and also saw 5-Hour Energy targeting senior consumers groups with their energy shot.  Now we see Xyience targeting female consumers.  The main difference between Xyience’s target and that of Red Bull’s is that there should be little to no cannibalization for Xyience.  Someone that buys an energy shot may not buy an energy drink since both products perform the same function.  And Xyience is not necessarily penetrating a category that has numerous competitors (there are some energy drinks that target female consumers – Rockstar Pink, Pink Energy, Tab Energy, etc – but not many manufacturers are targeting the female consumer).  And the difference between Xyience’s target from that of 5-Hour Energy is that they do not have to educate the audience on the product’s benefits since the female consumer is already knowledgeable about energy drinks.

After all is said and done, Xyience stands a stronger chance to reach the female consumer than other energy drinks.  However, simply relying on the product’s ingredients to appeal to the target is not enough, so Xyience may need to adjust some of their packaging to better communicate with females.  For example, Rockstar Pink comes in a 12oz/355ml pink can (stereotypically female targeting, as no males would want to be seen drinking from a pink can) with a straw.  The insight may be that females would prefer to drink out of a straw than directly from the can, so the straw’s addition may help with reaching females.  Xyience may consider adding a straw in addition to changing some of the Venn circles to white or pink (again, stereotypical female colors).  This will allow them to keep the core colors of  black and silver constant, while making slight alterations to appeal to the opposite sex.

The female energy drinker is both elusive and profitable, and if Xyience effectively reaches them and can translate sales from this group, then we may see this mid-size energy drink player rising to the same status as Red Bull, Monster and Rockstar.

Starbucks Buys Evolution Fresh, Naked Juice to Disappear in Starbucks?

Evolution Fresh - courtesy of drinks-business-review.comNumerous headlines were made this week when Starbucks bought Evolution Fresh, a super-premium healthy juice company.  For Starbucks, this signals their entry into the health and wellness juice category, and may also spell the end of Naked Juice in Starbucks locations.  First of all, who is Evolution Fresh and what makes them so special?  Second of all, how will this affect the partnership between Starbucks and PepsiCo, with Pepsi bottling and distributing Starbucks Frappuccinos and Doubleshots?  Will Pepsi’s Naked Juice follow the path of Happy Planet juices, the first juice and smoothie manufacturer in Starbucks coffee shops that was later replaced by Naked Juice when Pepsi and Starbucks entered into the distribution agreement?

In answer to the first question, Evolution Fresh differentiation is its unique pasteurization technique called High Pressure Pasteurization (HPP).  This technique allows the liquid to be pasteurized in the bottle using little to no heat, maintaining the juice’s nutritional value as well as prolonging the shelf life.  Other juices like Naked and Odwalla uses a  technique called Flash Pasteurization”, which uses high temperature heat for 15 – 30 seconds to kill off bacteria and microorganisms.  The main difference would be the use of heat to pasteurize the beverage, as flash pasteurization’s use of heat may slightly shorten the juice’s shelf life and also cause the loss of some vitamins.

Relating to the business and marketing aspects of this acquisition, Starbucks may have to look for a new distribution partner for their Frappuccinos and Doubleshots.  With Naked juices being replaced with Evolution Fresh in Starbucks coffee shops, Pepsi may likely decrease their priority on re-stocking Starbucks products when inventory runs low.  Other distribution options for Starbucks include regional beverage distributors or food distributors that sells products int he same grocery supermarket channels.

It will be  interesting to see how the two companies treat each other when the partnership officially terminates – amicably or otherwise.  With Starbucks initiating this juice purchase, they will be direct competitors in the juice category.  Will Pepsi purchase or create their own coffee brand?  After all, Coca-Cola does have their own boutique Chaqwa coffee brand, so maybe Pepsi will be developing their own coffee beverage to add to their overall refreshments portfolio.

iCoke.ca – More Prizes But No More Instant Wins

iCoke logo - courtesy of userlogos.org

Remember the old days before the iCoke websites existed, when instead of getting a PIN code in the cap liner, you actually get to win a prize instantly?  Of course, there’s also the likely scenario where your cap liner tells you that you’re not a winner and should try again.  However, those instant winner prizes included a free drink, a trip to somewhere sunny, or even $25 000 cash.  While these prizes are still available, the “instant win” phenomenon is no longer there in my opinion.  The steps to get a prize is a more involved and cumbersome process.  You must log onto a computer and go to iCoke’s website, then become a registered user, then enter the PIN to collect the points.  Sounds like a lot of steps that makes me not want to go through with the whole thing.

With this more involved process, only the most drawn-in and engaged beverage customers will bother going onto the website to collect the points from their drink.    While iCoke offers a more robust selection of rewards than the “instant winner” days years ago, they also get a better sense of who is actually buying their products.  The registered users become part of a consumer loyalty database for the beverage company, where they have the customer’s age, gender, location, e-mail address, as well as their preferences for their beverages.  This becomes a powerful tool for targeting communication messages to a captive audience, and makes sure that Coca-Cola’s messages reach a specific grouping of Canadian consumers.  And although the iCoke website requires more servicing than instant winner caps, the trade-off makes this a great win for the beverage giant.  A success story on creating a strong relationship with people that drink your soft drinks, juices and waters.

There may not be many successful consumer loyalty programs or databases in Canada, especially those ran by company that does not have it as their core business.  But because the program has been around before other loyalty programs were around, and is so well integrated into a consumer’s life, it has stood out as a success.  And despite being a cumbersome process for some people, the prizes and contests make it worthwhile to go through the extra steps of entering your information online to become a registered user.

Are you an iCoke user?  What are your thoughts on the program and have you redeemed any prizes from the website?  Let me know in the comments!