The declining trend for soft drink consumption has not deterred Pepsi from launching a craft soda to attract an elusive demographic: millenials. Maybe five years is long enough for everyone in the beverage industry to forget, so it may be worth reminding readers of Pepsi’s history. It wasn’t that long ago that Pepsi launched Pepsi Natural (Pepsi Raw if you’re in United Kingdom) patterned the same way, with its natural ingredients and glass bottles. Are Pepsi Natural and Caleb’s Kola essentially the same thing? If yes, does Pepsi stand a better chance of making Caleb’s Kola a success five years after the Pepsi Natural failed?
From the ingredient list and glass bottle packaging, Pepsi Natural and Caleb’s Kola look very much alike. Both sodas are made with kola nut and cane sugar, and come in glass bottles to highlight its authenticity. Both drinks are also available through limited distribution, with Caleb’s Kola only available through Costcos in Maryland, New York, Virginia and Washington, DC. Both products came off Pepsi-branded delivery trucks. And both are produced in Pepsi bottling facilities rather than Caleb’s Kola being made by small, localized independent bottlers. It seems that many aspects of the product and business practices are identical between the two. A key point of differentiation does exist between them – which could help Caleb’s Kola succeed – is the marketing. Branding the product as Pepsi may have been a factor of the Pepsi Natural’s failure. The overt association with Pepsi may have made the “natural” aspect of their product less believable.
Prior to its launch, Pepsi Natural’s UK team gave out product samples for 6 weeks. Results were favorable. More than 1.2 million bottles were sampled and over 80% of samplers claimed they liked the taste. An additional 75% of respondents stated they would be purchase the soda. As we now know, the sales results did not mirror the sampling efforts. Pepsi Natural was discontinued quickly after its launch. Pepsi UK discontinued the natural soda in 2010. Norway had it for nine months before ceasing sales support in 2011. In the US, its end date is unknown by certainly by 2011 Pepsi had moved to focus on other sodas. It certainly looks like the odds are stacked against Caleb’s Kola, but times have changed and it may actually fare better than Pepsi Natural with its new name.
Maybe Caleb’s Kola will find more success in 2014 than its 2009 predecessor. Millenials and consumers generally have valued healthy consumption more highly in the years since. Branding the product under a different name also limits the association with Pepsi. And tools to market Caleb’s Kola are better than the ones available to promote Pepsi Natural. If Caleb’s Kola is to be a success, let’s hope Pepsi has learned from its failures with Pepsi Natural.