Canadian Grocery Re-post: Gas Pump Vending Machines Coming Soon?

Gas Island Vending Machine. Courtesy of vendgogh.com
Gas Island Vending Machine. Courtesy of vendgogh.com

Recently, the American publication Vending Times reported on some interesting news that may increase sales for beverages and other food items as well (link here).  Vendgogh, a company that provides “gas island solutions” have come up with a concept where gas consumers can integrate their beverage and snacks purchases with their fuel purchase.  The gas pump machine that normally asks the customer which grade of gas they want to fill up and if they want a car wash, can now also be programmed to prompt about purchasing drinks and snacks.  As more and more fuel stations are fitted with technology to allow for payment at the pump, these same stations are seeing their basket size decrease with less opportunities to influence the fuel customer.  The National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) indicates that about half of all gas customers do not go inside the store, and therefore gas stations have half as many opportunities to drive incremental sales.  The premise of this concept gives petroleum stations increased opportunities to convert pay-at-the-pump consumers without them ever having to enter the fuel station kiosk or store.

While fuel is the core of this channel’s business, growing the basket size is just as important here as in other channels.  Customers may prefer paying at the pump since it’s convenient and quick, but gas owners prefer the customer come inside since there’s many more opportunities to up-sell the customer.  Have you bought a beverage or lottery ticket as part of your fuel-up?  That likely is a result of suggestive selling by the store clerk.  Without the ability to add on beverages, snacks, lottery tickets, or cigarettes, the gas station is only getting base business.  And with so many gas stations around, the competition is fierce for the customer’s dollar.  Even the same chain will be competing with the next closest gas station in the chain for the same dollars.

Vendgogh’s beverage gas pump unit re-establishes the suggestive selling opportunity for the gas station.  By maintaining the customer’s convenience to pay at the pump, the fuel station also has the ability to up-sell beverages and snacks, which drive over 40% of a gas station’s in-store sales.  Beverage purchases drive about 25% of the in-store sales, so popular beverage options such as energy drinks, carbonated soft drinks, and bottled water can be expected to be filled in the vending unit.

Gas stations can always rely on one thing: customer trips.  There will always be motorists that need to refuel, and therefore provide gas stations with opportunities to influence their refuel purchase.  Having a machine to assist in growing the customer’s basket should be a welcome tool across the overall petroleum convenience channel.

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Merry Christmas!

Christmas Tree

Merry Christmas Eve BevWire readers.  As this is Christmas week I expect all of us to be spending time with our loved ones so there will be no posting this week.  I can still be found on twitter where I will be sharing pictures or links to interesting beverage articles that I come across.

Merry Christmas 2012!

Coca-Cola Dominates Christmas, While Pepsi Waits for Superbowl

The above video is Coca-Cola’s 2012 Christmas commercial currently airing on TV.  Since Coca-Cola has typically heavied-up their advertising during this time of the year, this is nothing unusual or out of the ordinary.  However, one has to wonder why Pepsi has not done the same thing – increase their TV and other media exposure for their soft drink bevearges.  Pepsi’s recent focus has been announcing a new spokesperson (Nicki Minaj), a creative collaboration (Beyoncé) and quietly phasing in a different formula (for Diet Pepsi).  Is it because Coca-Cola tends to own the majority of the soft drink business during Christmas time, when they are also able to secure large displays in grocery retailers like the one below?  Is Pepsi giving up on Christmas advertising, and choosing to hold their TV dollars for another time of the year?

Walmart Christmas Coke

While many people from the advertising industry say that dressing Santa  Claus in red to resemble the Coca-Cola colors was manufactured by Coca-Cola, that simply is not true.  What Coca-Cola has done is take advantage of this association with the color red, and played it up in their advertising to benefit themselves.  And because of the close association, many people would think of Coca-Cola more than Pepsi during Christmas time.  This has traditionally helped the soft drink giant “win” Christmas time, but Pepsi not advertising during this time may also have played a role.

Instead of Christmas media, Pepsi has made headlines by aligning themselves with music artists and preparing for the Superbowl.  I thought Pepsi’s 2011 Summer Santa commercial (link to post here) had a lot of promise to return during the Christmas but they have never replayed the one commercial or added any more in the series.  Even with the close association to music artists, Pepsi has not made any additional commercials for the holiday season.  This certainly leads me to think that Pepsi recognizes the difficulties of breaking through Coca-Cola’s media support during this time of the year.  And instead of competing head on with them, they have chosen to “win” other times of the year, such as the Superbowl.

Better be prepared for lots of Pepsi advertisements during the Superbowl to accompany the Beyoncé halftime show.

Rockstar Energy To Launch Energy Waters

courtesy of Beverage Digest's Twitter feed - October 9, 2012

At the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) show earlier in October, Rockstar Energy revealed that they plan on launching a line of energy water.  While the timeline has not be revealed, the initial assortment listed on the sell sheet image include the following flavors:  Tropical Citrus, Blueberry Pomegranate Acai, Orange Tangerine.  BevNet has some more information and a quick video on Rockstar Energy’s new products from the show (link here).

This launch from Rockstar Energy pits them against Coca-Cola’s glaceau vitaminwater lineup, and PepsiCo’s SoBe Lifewater and Aquafina Plus lineups.  The question becomes how Rockstar Energy can differentiate themselves against these already established brands.  Despite their positioning as “energy water”, it will be difficult for them to be considered a dissimilar product from flavored water.  It is still an enhanced water beverage and may very well be shelved alongside Aquafina Plus or SoBe Lifewater (Rockstar Energy products are distributed by Pepsi).  And since consumers already have certain expectations for the price point, the new energy waters will have to be priced in a similar range.  There really isn’t that much room for differentiation given what we already know.

So with Product, Place, and Price (the 4 P’s of the Marketing Mix) already determined and largely out of their control, Promotion is the remaining lever Rockstar Energy can use to stand out.  Even then it is still a uphill battle.  In Canada, Aquafina Plus has constantly been on price promotions, to the point where there’s also expectations for feature price points.  In the U.S., many retailers had ran similar promotions but also drove unit sales with a “$10 for 10” feature strategy.  How can Rockstar’s Energy Water stand out?  Featuring on price – especially for a new entrant – will only upset the market dynamics and reduce profitability.

Rockstar Energy Water Lineup

One option may be co-promoting with their energy drinks, which has an established presence that is much stronger than that of Amped, Nos or Full Throttle (possibly only Amped and Nos in the future, read about Full Throttle’s de-emphasis here).  Leveraging on their stronger identity in energy drinks, they can offer consumers an alternative or additional Rockstar beverage when they are in-store.  Enhanced waters also do not carry the negative stigma that energy drinks have, so transitioning the “energy” equity from energy drinks to energy water may be a tactic to completely re-position themselves.

Another option would be to fully leverage their entertainment and sponsorship properties to feature this new product – in tandem with their energy drinks.  Offering samples of their energy water at their music and sporting events will increase their exposure to a captive audience.  Especially when their competitive products (vitaminwater, lifewater, aquafina plus) are shut out from these venues.  Especially when they offer a differentiated product than Red Bull and Monster Energy, should it be a multi-sponsor event.

While this is a very unique expansion from Rockstar Energy haloing off their “energy” brand association, it will be interesting to see how it can defend against the pressures of larger and more established brands.  This impending product launch has a chance to succeed, but only if they can carve out their own niche against glaceau, SoBe, and Aquafina Plus.

Starbucks Buys Teavana, Diversifies Beyond Coffee

Starbucks Logo Evolution

It appears that Starbucks’ recent purchase of Teavana has some analysts and coffee drinkers scratching their heads.  Considering that the coffee giant already owns a tea brand in Tazo, why would they want to purchase another tea brand?

The simple answer is that Starbucks is readying their continued evolution to a diversified beverage company.  Having changed their logo to remove the words of “Starbucks Coffee” shows their seriousness of extending their brand beyond just coffee, and beyond the Starbucks name. Their past acquisitions of Tazo (1999), Ethos Water (2005), and Evolution Fresh (2011) have been instrumental for expanding their beverage footprint in the consumer’s mind and physical purchase locations.  And while most of these offerings have been incorporated within the Starbucks coffee shops, other products have expanded their reach into grocery supermarkets and other consumer outlets.  Products like the bottled Frappucinos, Starbucks VIA Ready Brew, Verisimo system, Starbucks Refreshers, Tazo Tea, and Evolution Fresh juices and smoothies have all permeated other channels and have seen some form of success beyond the Starbucks coffee shops.

So what can we expect the Teavana purchase to do for Starbucks?  How is this product differentiated from Tazo Tea?  Will there be some form of cannibalization between the two tea offerings under the Starbucks portfolio?

Teavana Logo

The Teavana purchase will undoubtedly expand Starbucks’ reach outside their branded coffee shops.  Teavana owns and operates their own stores, which may soon incorporate select Starbucks products that fits into the Teavana theme and strategy.  For example, selling Starbucks coffee within Teavana shops may not be appropriate, but selling Evolution Fresh juices and smoothies and Ethos Water may be a possibility.  This cross-selling effort will certainly increase the reach of non-coffee beverages under their portfolio.  Also, considering that Starbucks has started to open standalone Evolution Fresh locations in the U.S., those locations may also incorporate some Teavana offerings as well.  Aside from the bricks and mortar stores that Teavana operates, Starbucks also acquires their online infrastructure where the loose leaf tea products are sold as well.  This also significantly buffs up Starbucks online presence and can provide an entirely new set of learnings and opportunities.  Starbucks has mainly existed as a bricks and mortar presence insofar to create that “third location” away between the home and office, but expanding their online presence gives them a chance to offer additional products to the consumer.  How about purchasing some VIA Ready Brew with that Teavana tea tin?

With regard to product differentiation, it’s commonly understood that the Tazo-branded products are bottled or tea bags.  The main opportunity does not exist in offering a different form of tea packaging, but the expanded consumption occasion.  Tea bags or bottled tea are typically consumed on-the-go or at the office, because the consumer is in a rush and does not have the time to sit and enjoy the beverage.  Teavana’s loose leaf tea allows Starbucks to reach the consumer in their relaxed state – at home or at the office – when they have more time to enjoy their beverage.  In that aspect, these two tea brands should be complimentary to the overall “tea consumer” rather than cannibalistic.  It would also make sense that Starbucks only minimally incorporates the Teavana products into their existing Starbucks establish (similar to Evolution Fresh) while maintaining the operations separately and at arm’s length.

At the end of it all, this acquisition bolsters Starbucks’ presence and further entrenches their beverage offerings into the consumers’ hands – be it at the office, on the streets, or at home.

This also signals a warning shot to the traditional beverage manufacturers (ie Coke, Pepsi, Dr Pepper Snapple Group) that the total beverage landscape is changing dramatically.  Consumers are increasingly turning away from the the sodas, to coffees, bottled water, and teas.   And Starbucks is leading the charge in this area.  If you don’t believe me, check out their video below.