Vacation mode

Merry Christmas everyone!  BevWire will be taking a short break for the holiday season and start back up in early January, Mondays as usual.  In the meantime, enjoy your holidays with a few bottles/cans of your favorite beverages!

– Jason

RTD Tea Category Growing – Driven By Convenience and Natural Food Stores

Arizona and Tazo tea

Packaged Facts published a research paper in early October stating that Ready-To-Drink (abbreviated RTD,  sometimes referred to refrigerated tea or bottled tea) is showing growth and resilience despite an economic downtown in the United States (link to the abstract here, but unless you want to buy the report you won’t know the full details of the research).  I’ve also wrote about the tea category’s growth in convenience stores earlier in the year (link here).

While the focus is entirely on the United States, there are some similarities between the two markets of U.S. and Canada, so the category’s growth is relevant to consumers here.  Packaged Fact’s research abstract points to the growth being driven by convenience stores and natural  food stores, although grocery stores remain the top channel that shoppers choose to purchase tea from.  In Canada, I would suggest that specific tea shops and also coffee shops (think Starbucks, Tim Horton’s, Second Cup, and Blenz, etc) also contributed to the tea’s growth.

Consumers already have a belief that tea is a healthier option relative to coffee, and many are sacrificing coffee beverages for tea or other caffeinated beverages.  Therefore the coffee shop’s survival depends on their ability to expand their beverage offerings beyond what they are experts at.  Walk into a Starbucks and you will see Tazo tea, Naked Juice, and Ethos water,  while Tim Horton’s will have a refrigerated section that includes Lipton bottled tea.  While these coffee shops’ main purpose is to serve coffee, having tea and other category options allows them to keep the customer happy and retain them, rather than losing them to a competitor.  After all, would you still go into a coffee shop with a friend if neither of you wanted coffee and they only served coffee, why not go into a tea shop?

Honest and Lipton tea

Focusing back on the growth of RTD tea, the report mentions that natural food stores drove double digit growth.  This point is intriguing because natural food stores are seen as niche and somewhat unconventional in their grocery offerings.  However, the growth of tea products in this channel may indicate that consumers are receptive to healthier alternatives, and bottled tea products that are stocked in these natural food stores may soon see wider distribution because of this healthy trend.  Another insight may be beverage manufacturers anticipating this trend and have looked to get their tea products listed and distributed in natural food stores to reach a wider audience.

In any case, it looks as if the tea category’s growth has very strong potential in the upcoming years.  As a healthy alternative to carbonated beverages and coffee, tea may be growing at these beverage category’s expense.  And it may provide competition in more than the traditional setting of your grocery store’s beverage aisle, as coffee shops and natural food stores are increasingly stocking tea options.

Taking this one step further, how can beverage manufacturers like Coca-Cola and Pepsi protect their carbonated offerings?  Since the beverage conglomerates also have tea offerings in their beverage portfolios (Coca-Cola with Nestea and Honest Tea, Pepsi with Lipton and SoBe), a solution may be a two step process.  First, gain distribution within these natural food stores (and other alternative channels like tea shops and pharmacies) for their respective tea beverages.  Next, understanding that there may be space and refrigeration limitations within the store, provide a health-branded cooler (of course, also include the manufacturer’s logo somewhere) to resolve these limitations, and bring in quick-moving and higher margin carbonated soft drinks.  These carbonated products can offset the cooler’s cost and provide these alternative channel retailers with a wider beverage selection to grow their customer base.

So the next time you step into a natural food store, keep a look out for the tea offerings they have available.  Are the tea offerings all-natural and names that you have rarely heard of?  If so, look out for these beverages in your traditional grocery store aisle in the near future, as they may be gaining wider acceptance in the market.  Or are they the Honest Teas and Liptons that you are familiar with?  If so, then the beverage manufacturer has successfully entered the alternative channel to expand their tea’s growth.

Coming Soon – Five More 10-Cal Soft Drinks From Dr Pepper

Dr Pepper Snapple Group company logo

Some months back I wrote about how Dr Pepper was releasing a 10 calorie version of their popular soft drink in select markets, trying to create their own niche market by targeting men specifically (link here).  It looks like the launch was successful, as they are now planning on expanding their 10 calorie portfolio to include five other beverages: A&W, Canada Dry, Sunkist, 7up, and RC Cola.

Larry Young, the beverage manufacturer’s chief executive was quoted,

Chief Executive Larry Young who said, “Now they [consumers] can come back, drink our ‘Ten’ products and enjoy the full flavor of our brands and not worry about the caloric intake. You have to keep the doctor happy.

While Dr Pepper 10 successfully targeted men and gained significant media exposure with their recent campaign, will these five other sodas have the same positioning?  Should the 7up 10 calorie offering or the A&W 10 calorie offering target men specifically?  Or would the company exclusively target women with these 10 calorie products?  Dr Pepper came under fire for making fun of female consumers when they released Dr Pepper 10 nationally, so having history repeat itself in such a short time – even all in over-the-top good humor – may not be a good idea.  However, the free media and the conversation starter of whether the drink was for men only cannot be under estimated.  At the very least, Dr Pepper 10 may have gained trial when shoppers bought the beverage to see if it was really anything special, so it can be considered successful in that regard.  If given the chance to repeat the same marketing strategy, Dr Pepper may have chosen differently so female consumers are not alienated.

That said, it’s also unlikely that the company will be targeting men specifically for the five other 10 calorie beverages.  The more 10 calorie offerings that are specifically targeted at men, the more probable that Dr Pepper earns a reputation as a men’s only beverage organization and cutting off the company from half of the potential customers.  Something else to keep in mind would be that females are the shoppers for the family unit and if the beverages does not appeal to the female shopper, the end consumer (the husband or son) will likely be drinking something else that she approves of, and the 10 calorie beverage will remain on store shelves.   So while the research indicates that men do not want to be associated with the word “diet”,  keying in on males when females are the main shoppers are not likely to help them move product unless the shopping list has “Dr Pepper 10” written on it.

How should Dr Pepper target and position these upcoming products?  Is there a specific age group or ethnographic that they should go after?  Or should it be aimed toward the general calorie-conscious consumer, regardless of age, gender, or ethnicity?  Since Dr Pepper’s initial advertising platform for the Dr Pepper 10 raised the profile for their 10 calorie offerings, there is no need to continue on this line of positioning if it alienates shoppers from them.  Their upcoming focus should be on the product’s benefits.  The 10 calorie sodas should focus on the sweeteners that give them the 10 calories and the closest taste profile to the full calorie versions.

Since the news of the line-up expansion broke not too long ago, Dr Pepper may be in the infancy stages of releasing these other products.  Let’s hope that they gain media exposure for the right reasons this time.

Coca-Cola to Bring Back Red Coke Cans – Goodbye Polar Bear Cans

Coke Red Polar Bear - courtesy of breakingcopy.comCoca-Cola will be bringing back their trademark red Coca-Cola cans, replacing this year’s Arctic white seasonal packaging.  The Wall Street Journal has more information here.  The short summary is that Coke drinkers – especially Diet Coke drinkers – were unhappy with the white packaging because of its resemblance to Diet Coke.  The article goes on to describe how shoppers bought the wrong can from food establishments, how the red & white cans tasted different, and even told of incidents where consumers called Coca-Cola to complain about the packaging.  Some critics have even gone as far as saying this is the second coming of the “New Coke” fiasco.

My interpretation is that consumers are overreacting to the seasonal packaging.  Although this is the first time that the can packaging have changed to a different color, there has been numerous communications outlining that it is the same product inside the can, no matter the color.  Also, the 12- and 24-pack cans still come in the red cardboard packaging, and the boxes also communicate that the red cans are now white to support the World Wildlife Foundation.  It may be an issue of the shopper buying the product not paying attention to the messaging, and confuse  the fact that they may have bought Diet Coke when they got home.  They may even have gone back to the supermarket asking for an exchange before being told by that it is the regular Coke beverage and not Diet Coke.

For some shoppers that are fanatical about their beverages enough to call the company, not recognizing the packaging differences and the color differences may be testament of the brand’s strength.  Shoppers that routinely purchase Coca-Cola may no longer be purchasing the product based on price or the packaging communication.  Instead, they may be looking to make sure the price hasn’t changed dramatically (ie paying $3.99 and suddenly paying $5.99), and as long as the packaging is in the Coca-Cola red they will be picking it up.

Whether the packaging is in red or white, this helped generate numerous of media impressions for the company and the World Wildlife Foundation.  The unfortunate aspect is that the media took away the true focus on this seasonal packaging, which is to raise the WWF’s profile and the company’s monetary donation to protect the polar bear’s habitat.  When the red cans return, hopefully the message will go back to focusing on this aspect and not of consumers overreacting to red and white soda cans.

The red packaging will be slowly phased back into the supermarkets by mid-December and the white cans will be slowly phased out at the same time.  If you’re a collector, make sure to pick up the white cans before they’re all phased out.