Most readers that also follow the beverage industry or the BevWire twitter feed know that Coca-Cola and Nestle Waters have altered their distribution agreement, with Nestea to be distributed by Nestle Waters after the end of 2012 (source article here). The article goes on to state that Coca-Cola will focus on increasing the visibility for their own line of teas, such as FUZE, Honest Tea, Gold Peak, and Peace Tea. How will this play out for the two beverage giants, Coca-Cola and Nestle?
Nestle Waters – a spinoff from the Nestle S.A. – originally bottled and distributed water exclusively, but has recently began to extend their offerings with a tea acquisition. Bringing Nestea back into the fold for them now gives them a much stronger and balance tea portfolio. Nestea will serve the value and price-conscious end of the tea spectrum, while Sweet Leaf Tea and Tradewinds cater to consumers at the organic and premium end of the spectrum. Nestea itself is also popular and likely ranks as one of the larger tea brands in North America (other major players in a oligopolis category being Lipton, AriZona, Snapple). Nestea may very perform better under new ownership, since its exclusive business operations are waters and teas. It may likely benefit with higher marketing budgets as they now become a key brand among some lesser known brands, and competes with fewer brands for funding. Business customers like Wal-Mart, CVS, and other supermarkets are not likely to be too affected since they already stock Nestle Waters products, so Nestea will now be brought to them by the same trucks that the Nestle Waters products come off of. Consumers may not even notice any difference, because the product is essentially the same as taste and packaging stay the same.
How about for Coca-Cola, how does this distribution partnership affect them? With Nestea no longer coming off their delivery trucks, the company’s focus is to grow FUZE first and foremost. Honest Tea, Gold Peak, and Peace Tea will also benefit from increased attention. However, although FUZE stands to have the most opportunity to make a name for itself in the tea category, the brand is somewhat struggling currently. FUZE is currently known for its juice offerings (except for Subway where it is already available as a fountain tea beverage) but struggling to fully differentiate itself among other competitors. With the exception of FUZE’s Slenderize juice line (low-calorie benefit), FUZE’s other offerings are not easily connecting with consumers as a vitamin-enhanced juice. Consumers currently see the FUZE line as just another emerging juice product that blends together unique fruits (peaches with mangos, bananas with coconuts, etc).
Coca-Cola’s first order of business is to ensure that consumers understand the value proposition and benefits of the FUZE. And because the company now understands that FUZE will represent both juices and teas, their positioning and c0mmunication will be markedly different from what it was before – simply raising the profile will not be enough. The key message can no longer be about vitamin-enhanced juices, but either vitamin-enhanced juices and teas or simply vitamin-enhanced products. In that vein, it will be interesting to see what type of advertising message FUZE will come up with.
Another key area of concern may be the pricing strategy for FUZE. Nestea exists as a value player in tea, while FUZE is a premium-priced juice offering. If FUZE were to replace Nestea as Coca-Cola’s value tea offering, FUZE will have to adjust its pricing strategy to enter as a value competitor. Is that in itself a good strategy? As a company, do you want to trade down from a premium offering (higher margin product) to sell incremental bottles but make significantly lower margins?
Although Nestea will not be officially transitioned to Nestle Waters until 2013, there is a lot of preparation for both companies to do. Coca-Cola will have to maintain its efforts on Nestea in North America, but be mindful that by 2013 Nestea will be a product that competes against their own tea offerings. They also cannot legitimately stop their efforts on promoting Nestea since Coca-Cola still holds distribution rights for Nestea elsewhere in the world (Europe, Asia, etc). At the same time, Coca-Cola must be working hard to raise FUZE’s profile as well as their other offerings to cover for the loss of Nestea. On Nestle’s part, they must prepare for taking on a large tea brand and look for opportunities to increase Nestea’s market position.
There’s no word on whether how much of this will affect Canada, but since Canada’s market is closely affiliated to the American market, there is likely to be some impact. Keep an eye out for these changes when Nestea changes hands.