Mountain Dew Dewito: An Example of Perfectly Targeted Messaging

A college student samples Mountain Dew Dewito - a Doritos-flavored Mountain Dew soda.  Image courtesy of reddit.com.
A college student samples Mountain Dew Dewito – a Doritos-flavored Mountain Dew soda. Image courtesy of reddit.com.

By now most people have heard of Mountain Dew testing a Doritos-flavored variant of their popular citrus soda.  Among a variety of flavors the soda brand was also testing out, this flavor garnered the most attention for its shocking combination of tortilla chips, cheese, and citrus soda.  Many people (including myself) believed that Mountain Dew would eventually launch this flavor nationwide.  It seems we were all tricked by the soda brand – thankfully.  Per Bloomberg BusinessWeek’s Venessa Wong, the “Dewito” flavor was merely part of a flavor test on college campuses but there were no definite plans for broader release (article link here).  Depending on its success, the Dewito flavor would have moved onto the next phase of product introduction though that now seems unlikely based on the chatter it created on social media.

The fact that the flavor stood out among other similarly surprising flavors (ie habanero mango, rainbow sherbet, and lemon ginger) is a sign that individuals talk and share what is most surprising to them.  And more importantly, it’s a sign that Mountain Dew recognizes how to reach their target consumers and leverage them to help create media attention.  As much as the BusinessWeek article states that this is not a PR stunt, it certainly seems like it was a PR stunt.  And ultimately a PR stunt that was successful at helping it garner significant press for a shocking soda flavor.

Understanding that Mountain Dew’s core demographic are millenials, the soda brand found a way to connect with this demographic break.  Mountain Dew could have announced flavor testing through a traditional press release, but instead had their Dew fans break the news via the news channels they are most likely to pay attention to.   It’s no surprise that millenials are heavy users of Reddit, Twitter, and Instagram, where news of the Dewito flavor first broke.   Mountain Dew could have chosen to sample less shocking flavors, and at more generally high traffic areas.  Instead, sampling took place on college campuses where strong concentrations of young adults exist.  All in all, this seems Mountain Dew providing its fans a chance to help generate some buzz.

As an edgy brand that puts its customers in a position to choose future soda flavors and create branded content for them, Mountain Dew has to take the good with the bad.  This Dewito example helped Mountain Dew generate a lot of positive publicity as a soda brand that listens to millenial consumers and anticipates their preferences.  Back in 2013, a partnership with Tyler the Creator to help the brand create commercials didn’t go over so well.  The commercials generated similar levels of media attention for racial stereotypes and downplaying violence against women (article link here).  Mountain Dew has been successful through leveraging fans to create content and carry out its brand communication, so there will be hiccups along the way.  For the most part, these are all examples of the soda company pinpointing content and communication channels that resonates with its audience.

The most surprising thing is that all this buzz was generated for a test product, not even one that was planned for limited release.  Mountain Dew never needed Dewito to be a successful soda – it just needed it to help it tap into their target demographic.

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Amazon Wins Big with Coke & Pepsi Exclusive Launches

amazonlogo

Looks like Coca-Cola and Pepsi are both experimenting with new frontiers to the Cola War.  This time, they are taking the battle to the online retail channel by enlisting Amazon.  Earlier in September, Coca-Cola announced that they were bringing Surge for a limited release and selling it exclusively through Amazon.  For those that aren’t aware of Surge, it competes against Pepsi’s Mountain Dew as a caffeinated citrus soft drink.  Within hours of it appearing on  the Amazon website, the resurrected soft drink sold out.  It sold out a second time quickly after its reinforcement shipments were made available.  Fortunately for Surge fanatics, the drink is still available on Amazon with replenished inventory (link here for US readers).  After the Surge news release, Pepsi announced that they were introducing Pepsi True – a stevia-sweetened lower calorie Pepsi soft drink – also exclusively on Amazon.  It seems that both soft drink makers want to test and see which beverage would sell better online, enabling them to claim the lead position for online sales.  At the end of the day, the test  may not represent anything more than a traffic driver for Amazon and a creative approach to launching new products for Coca-Cola and Pepsi.

For Amazon to have secured exclusive launches with Coca-Cola and Pepsi is fantastic for the online retailer, but the test may not been as rewarding for both beverage companies.  The launch results so far (see below image).  Surge has claimed leadership not only against Pepsi True, but also against all other soft drinks, ranking as the #1 Best Seller for Soda Soft Drinks category.  Indicated by the customer reviews and ratings, the re-introduction can be counted as a huge success.  Pepsi True also ranks #1, among newly released items in Soda Soft Drinks.  It’s worth noting that Pepsi True’s 1-star rating is the result of a smear campaign by environmental activists, inundating the product page with over 3000 negative reviews and 1-star ratings (link here).  From a sales and popularity point of view, Coca-Cola Surge has benefited from launching exclusively through Amazon.  Pepsi True, not so much.  So what was the difference between the two drink launches?

Coca-Cola Surge & Pepsi True's ratings on Amazon thus far.
Coca-Cola Surge & Pepsi True’s ratings on Amazon thus far.
Coca-Cola Surge, available exclusively through Amazon.com.  Image courtesy of Amazon.com
Coca-Cola Surge, available exclusively through Amazon.com.  Image courtesy of Amazon.com

The chances that Surge would fail were extremely low.  After the drink was discontinued in 2002, the Surge Movement facebook page popped up and has been slowly gaining popularity.  While Coca-Cola credits the fan page for resurrecting the drink, launching exclusively through Amazon shows that Coca-Cola understands the customer and the market conditions. Consumers that remember Surge are at least in their late 20s, meaning they are comfortable with technology (ie social media, online shopping, etc).  More importantly, these fans are scattered across the U.S., meaning a product push into retailers may have resulted in less than stellar sales.  Coca-Cola’s bottler network may also be less interested in carrying this product over other drinks with a proven sales history.  Retailers themselves may also have been less inclined to give up shelf space and fridge space for a decade-old discontinued soft drink.  The Amazon launch solves all these problems.  Fans can order Surge online with free shipping that delivers a case of the drink to their doorstep.  Bottlers are not inconvenienced to sacrifice truck space and would still get a percentage of sales profits for Surge sold in their districts.  Retailers did not have to give up any shelf space, though I’m sure many are now interested in listing the soda in their stores.  In fact, the Surge Movement facebook page encourages fans to request their local retailers to stock the drink.  Surge had a lower chance of failing simply because of its history and cult status, which is still paying dividends post-launch.

Pepsi True, sold exclusively online. Initially only through Amazon.com but now also available through Walmart.com. Image courtesy of Amazon.com
Pepsi True, sold exclusively online. Initially only through Amazon.com but now also available through Walmart.com. Image courtesy of Amazon.com

Pepsi True is a different story.  Launching online was a calculated approach since retailer resistance and bottlers’ willingness to carry Pepsi True were likely problems just as they were for Coca-Cola Surge.  Without historical significance or a cult following, Pepsi True was left to target health-conscious soda consumers.   However, this consumer segment is also niche, possibly with little loyalty among any particular soda drink.   Pepsi would have to invest heavily into consumer marketing to educate the public on Pepsi True’s unique benefits, while also competing with Coca-Cola Life which launched into the same stevia-sweetened soda segment.  Have you seen any Pepsi True commercials or any Coca-Cola Life commercials?  Launching online was clearly the most cost-efficient for Pepsi True.  But their circumstance is very different from Surge, and they also have to deal with more competitive products.  As a silver lining, Pepsi True is now also available on Walmart’s website.  This could be a sign that retailers are slowly stocking the stevia-soda.

I would still term Amazon as the ultimate winner in this scenario, gaining exclusivity for two product launches.  After this test, Coca-Cola may be more inclined to try out introducing new beverages or reviving discontinued sodas with Amazon.  Pepsi may be just as willing, but hopefully they will fair much better.

Kenzo Designs evian’s 2015 Collector Bottle

evian+Kenzo 2014 designer water bottle.  Courtesy of thedieline.com
evian+Kenzo 2014 designer water bottle. Courtesy of thedieline.com

Every year evian releases a limited edition glass bottle designed by a fashion house.  This year is no different, with evian and the French fashion house Kenzo joining together to release their 2015 limited edition designer glass bottle.  This year’s bottle design features a wavy zig zag pattern in purple and yellow print.  Via popsop.com, Kenzo’s creative directors Carol Lim and Humberto Leon, describe the wavy pattern as the French Alps (purple lines) and the mountain spring water (yellow lines).

Including Kenzo, this marks the eighth year that evian has partnered with fashion designers to launch premium collectible water bottles.  Starting with Christian Lacroix in 2008, evian has also partnered with Jean Paul Gaultier (2009), Paul Smith (2010), Issey Miyake (2011), Andre Correges (2012), Diana von Furstenberg (2013), and most recently Elie Saab (2014).

evian's designer bottles throughout the years, startingn with Christian Lacroix (far right) to Kenzo (far left).
evian’s designer bottles throughout the years, most recently in 2015 with Kenzo (far left).  evian began their fashion partnership in 2008 with Christian Lacroix (far right).

It seems that evian has really carved out a niche for themselves with these collectible bottle designs.  Consumers interested in fashion or otherwise (myself) anticipate the launch of these bottles and pick up a few of them.  After missing on first few bottle designs, I’ll be adding the Kenzo glass bottle to my collection this year.

Here’s some more photos of the Kenzo evian glass bottle design.

evian's 2015 collectible glass bottle, designed by Kenzo.  Courtesy of popsop.com
evian’s 2015 collectible glass bottle, designed by Kenzo. Courtesy of popsop.com
evian's 2015 collectible water bottle, designed by Kenzo.  This one appears to be a plastic bottle.  Courtesy of popsop.com
evian’s 2015 collectible water bottle, designed by Kenzo. This one appears to be a plastic bottle. Courtesy of popsop.com

5 Questions with Dollar Shots Club’s Darin Alpert

Dollar Shots Club - why pay more than $1 for a shot? Courtesy of facebook.com
Dollar Shots Club – why pay more than $1 for a shot? Courtesy of facebook.com

Most manufactured products are sold through retailers and typically include a mark-up.  This is necessary for the retailer to earn profits from carrying the product on their store shelves.  It also gives consumers a “one-stop shop” to find all products they need.  Online retailers and companies that sell directly to consumers cut out the retailer and thus can sell their wares at lower prices.  This is the case with Dollar Shots Club, an energy drink company that recently sprouted up that cuts out the retailer.  BevWire recently caught up with Darin Alpert, the Chief Marketing Officer of Dollar Shots Club.

BevWire (BW): First of all, what is Dollar Shots Club?  Are you guys product manufacturers, product distributors, or a combination?  How long have you guys been in business?

Darin Alpert (DA):  Dollar Shots Club is a monthly membership for great tasting, affordable energy shots.  We officially launched in September 2014. We are a combination of manufacturers and distributors. We don’t see a reason for consumers to pay for retail markup of their energy shots.

BW: How did you guys come up with the idea for Dollar Shots Club?  Did the success of “Dollar Shave Club” play into the decision and business model?

DA: Dollar Shave Club was a great motivator.  We saw that one company owns 90% market share of the energy shot market and charges $3 each for their shots.  The reason they are $3 each is because of all the layers of distribution.  We cut out those layers and know how much consumers enjoy products online over retail.

BW: Who is your target market, and how do you plan on communicating with them?  And what makes Dollar Shots Club’s energy shots unique from other energy shots on the market?

DA:  Our target market is people that drink energy shots or energy drinks and want to save money.  We communicate with them via social media. The biggest differentiation is price, taste and convenience. Ours cost less, taste better and are shipped right to your door without having to wait in line at the store.

BW: Seeing that cultivating a strong subscription base is critical, and finding new customers are equally important, what are some of your biggest challenges toward business growth?  What are some strategies Dollar Shots Club is using to overcome these challenges?  What consumer marketing campaigns can we expect to see in the future?

DA:  One of the biggest challenges we have is getting consumers to taste our shots since taste is so crucial. We offer our first month for free so people can try the shots. Once people try the shots they love them! As far as customer base, we are signing up 5-10 people per day and have been doing so since September. Our retention rate is currently above 80%.

The biggest strategy for increasing business exposure has been giving away the first month for free. We don’t want to build the infrastructure of going to events and taking on additional costs so our online advertising promotes the first month for free. We’ve also partnered with like minded partners that can help us get the word out. We’ve got a few things in the works that will increase our exposure 🙂 We can’t talk about them yet though.

BW: Seeing that the business model currently supports one flavor and one market (the 48 contiguous states of U.S.),  how would the expansion plans look like?

DA: We chose our one flavor (Berry) because it is the most popular energy shot flavor. We will expand flavors depending on demand from our membership. We’re here to serve our members needs. We don’t want to take on international expansion until we dominate the United States.

Certainly an interesting approach toward selling energy shots revealed in this interview with Darin.  While many people prefer instant gratification from product purchases, there are a growing number of consumers increasingly comfortable with stocking up and buying online.  Certainly looking forward to seeing Dollar Shots Club change up the energy shots segment.

Canadian Remembrance Day , American Veteran’s Day

Hi Everyone,

No post today for Canadian Remembrance Day and American Veteran’s Day.  Check back next week for regular posts.  In the meantime, I’m still actively tweeting.

Thanks!

BevWire

Pepsi Creates Caleb’s Kola By Recycling Pepsi Natural

Caleb's Kola - Pepsi's craft soda made with kola nut, cane sugar, brown spices, and citric acid.
Caleb’s Kola – Pepsi’s craft soda made with kola nut, cane sugar, brown spices, and citric acid.

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.

CalebsKolaCheers

Vegetable Beverages Hitting Mainstream

Gatorade Lime CucumberWould you drink a cucumber lime-flavored Gatorade?  How about blueberry mint-flavored water?  An article on Beverage Industry on emerging beverage trends claim that vegetable-flavored beverages are increasingly popular because of their “healthy halo” (article link here).  With everyone focusing on healthier options, it makes sense that vegetable flavors reach mainstream status and consumers seek to take in more vegetables.  After all, berry and other fruit-flavored beverages can only deliver so much momentum.  That said, the article describes that consuming a vegetable-only flavor is still in uncommon and many beverage options are a combination of both vegetables and fruits.  How will this particular flavor trend impact beverage makers?  Will these drinks ever reach a level of popularity to take down mainstream colas, juices, or waters?

Beverage manufacturers constantly monitor flavor trends and Pepsi has locked into this trend since 2011, when they launched a Cucumber Lime flavor under the Gatorade franchise.  Pepsi Japan’s limited-time releases of Pepsi Shiso and Pepsi Ice Cucumber also proves this point.  Since most (if not all) beverage organizations monitor consumption trends, it would not be surprising to see manufacturers build momentum and launch more vegetable-infused variants over the next few years.  It just needs to make its way into the North American market.  And this is beginning to catch on more in the U.S.; research firm Mintel tracked over 100 U.S. beverage innovations with vegetable or vegetable-fruit flavors launching in the past year, representing a 20% increase from 2013.  It still stands to be seen whether these vegetable-flavors will launch under the most popular and mainstream beverage lines like Gatorade, Coke, and Pepsi or launch under emerging beverage brands.  No matter the case, any approved product launch puts sales pressure on other items to perform or risk losing the shelf space.  This flavor trend may not have been successful replacing other products’ sales to justify shelf space though it looks that will soon change.

On the topic of reaching critical mass to take down mainstream product categories, it doesn’t look promising.  This isn’t to say that vegetable-flavored beverages will not reach mainstream status themselves, just that it will not overtake other mainstream categories.  For one, this is a flavor trend that integrates the product under a specific beverage segment; it is not a standalone beverage category in itself.  Consider these vegetable-flavored products to pattern after  Campbell’s V8 juices or Bolthouse Farm smoothies, where they represent a growing portion of a drink category (juices and smoothies, respectively) but are not large enough to overtake juices as a whole or smoothies as a whole.  Regardless, these healthier options will compete aggressively for retail shelf space alongside other beverage options.

Image courtesy of foodbusinessnews.net
Image courtesy of foodbusinessnews.net

The Beverage Industry article also describes other beverage flavor trends, include a growing preference toward sweet and spicy combinations.  Consumers increasingly look for flavors that will satisfy multi-sensory experiences.  Some examples include chocolate gojuchang tea (gochujang is a Korean spicy sauce),  spicy ginger mango juice, and mango jalapeno water.  So be on the lookout, soon enough you’ll see more cross-flavored beverages on store shelves.  Be in sweet and spicy or vegetable-fruit flavored, it will sound exotic but your taste buds and your body will thank you for choosing that over another drink.

5-hour Energy’s Quest for New Growth

The 5-Hour Energy Shot Line-up
The 5-Hour Energy Shot Line-up

It seems that the craze over energy shots have died down since 2012 and left 5-Hour Energy as the last company standing.  That shouldn’t be a surprise since existing consumers were fiercely loyal to the brand, to the extent that offerings from energy stalwarts like Red Bull and Monster failed to sustain sales in this segment.  After winning the battle for energy shot supremacy, 5-Hour Energy still faced challenges toward reaching a wider array of consumers.  The energy shot manufacturer need to reach other demographics to continue growing.  That spawned line extensions to reach women, as well as sampling events to reach seniors. This past summer, the company ran a “Yummification” campaign to leverage 5-Hour Energy as a mixer (BevNet’s Ray Latif has an in-depth look at the campaign here).  While all companies have growth barriers, what has 5-Hour Energy done differently to overcome these growth challenges?  And beyond its success, what other opportunities exist for them in the foreseeable future?

It would appear that targeting women and seniors are components of an overarching 5-Hour Energy growth plan, and the strategic objective is to increase consumption.  Reach new demographics isn’t all that different from what other companies do, so catering to women and seniors are not all that unique.  What is unconventional is their “Yummification” campaign.  5-Hour Energy recognized that taste was a blockage that would not be solved despite their efforts to highlight product benefits.  The “Yummification” campaign leveraged fans’ creativity in a contest to create recipes for mixing 5-Hour Energy with other beverages (mainly non-alcoholic ones) to lessen the medicinal taste.  As a side benefit, this contest required submissions through YouTube helped generate a lot of media exposure.  Beyond media impressions, the campaign showcase new usage occasions for 5-Hour Energy.  Contest submissions advertised concoctions to refresh the user during athletic training, waking up, and gaming among many others.  Athletic training, waking up, and gaming are occasions typically paired with other refreshments, such as sports drinks, coffee, and juice & water.  Energy drinks – let alone energy shots – seldom enter the conversation as refreshments during these times.  However, it looks like that will change following the success of their “Yummification” campaign.

5-Hour Energy's Yummmification Contest.  Courtesy of blog.5hourenergy.com.
5-Hour Energy’s Yummmification Contest. Courtesy of blog.5hourenergy.com.

Beyond the campaign’s success, it seems 5-Hour Energy has uncovered business opportunities that they were previously unaware of.  Serving as an ingredient as well as a standalone product gives them many more opportunities to sell itself.  Beyond the regular activities to feature the product as a strong standalone product, mixing the shot with other beverages now gives 5-Hour Energy many cross-promotion and marketing opportunities.  5-Hour Energy could try securing displays in the juice aisle to forge a stronger bond with the juices that could be mixed with their product.  Or secure displays in the coffee aisle to convert or steal coffee consumers.  Regardless of displays or other in-store activation tools, many opportunities have emerged to continue delivering growth momentum.

Judging by the potential that this campaign could provide to 5-hour Energy, it’s a surprise it took them so long to come up with it.  It may be the fact that the segment was riding a hot growth trend that nullified the need for marketing support.  Or that negative media surrounding energy drinks required more immediate attention than developing a sustained growth strategy.  Whatever the case, the campaign has now happened and translated fantastic success.  The one downside is that the campaign won’t be repeated, as said by Brandon Bohland, a special markets manager at the company.  Which means that the recipes submitted for the campaign are the only ones that will exist for the foreseeable future, until 5-Hour Energy creates other contests calling for recipe creations.

Visit 5hourenergy.com/yummification to see the videos and recipes for their Yummification contest.

U.S. Cola War Continues with Pepsi True Launch

Pepsi True

It seems the Cola Wars continue to expand across the calorie spectrum.  Where Coke and Pepsi used to spar over full calorie soda (Coke vs Pepsi) and zero-calorie soda (Diet Coke vs Diet Pepsi, Coke Zero vs Pepsi Max), the two beverage giants now go to war over the middle.  The contestants are Coca-Cola Life and Pepsi True, two sodas sweetened with sugar and stevia, with less calories, and green packaging.  That may be where the similarities end in this round though, because this iteration is very different from prior rounds.  Their product launch tactics differ greatly, and this particular fight appears to be highly contained with the United States.

What some people may forget is that Pepsi already has a stevia-sweetened mid-calorie soda on the market – just not in the U.S.  Remember Pepsi Next?  The American Pepsi Next contains artificial sweeteners whereas other countries with Pepsi Next have a stevia-sweetened version.  Unless Pepsi decides to discontinue the existing stevia-based Pepsi Next everywhere, this Cola War will only exist in the U.S.  And it is likely that the Pepsi True launch is primarily relevant to Americans given Pepsi Next’s presence elsewhere.  So in effect, this should be termed more of a Cola “battle” rather than a Cola “War”.  Pepsi Next against Coca-Cola Life in markets outside the U.S., while the U.S. battle will be between Pepsi True and Coca-Cola Life.

Related Post: Pepsi Next May Find More Success in Canada

Both companies are also more cautious in their launch approach.  Coca-Cola Life has experimented in multiple countries outside the U.S. first to measures its market viability, and only recently started rolling out in U.S. regions this past August.  The American rollout isn’t national and they have yet to provide marketing support welcoming Coca-Cola Life to America.  Pepsi True is taking a similarly conservative approach by not even stocking this product in traditional channels.  Pepsi’s mid-calorie soda variant is set to launch exclusively through Amazon, where shelf space is limitless, operating costs are lower, and product delivery does not come from their distributor network.  After all, Pepsi distributors work with limited storage space and a delivery system optimized for sales and profitability; carrying Pepsi Next could mean sacrificing sales of other better-selling products.  To satisfy American distributors, Pepsi indicated that they will reimburse distributors for Pepsi True sales in their regions.

Related Post: Coca-Cola Life Commercial Review: Open Your Good Nature

It makes sense for both beverage manufacturers to take baby steps first.  Launching anything in the mid-calorie segment has been challenging for over a decade.  The 2004 introductions of C2 and Pepsi Edge marketing sucralose as a sugar alternative proved unsuccessful.  The 2012 Dr Pepper Snapple Group TEN-calorie soft drink line-up hasn’t received marketing support to keep up its launch momentum.  Earlier this year, Coca-Cola’s vitaminwater reverted back to its original formula after consumer complaints about its stevia formula.  The beverage industry’s history is littered with more failures than successes when companies attempt to bring mid-calorie refreshments to the consumer.  And as much as Pepsi Next could be deemed a global success, the results undoubtedly vary between markets.

Going forward, the road will only become more difficult.  Consumer perspective toward mid-calorie soda in general has not been overwhelmingly positive.  Taste is always the first consideration and most stevia-sweetened beverages contain a bitter aftertaste.  Consumers have also persisted in choosing drinks that offer health benefits and less calories over mid-calorie soda.  Regardless of consumption trends, soft drinks are still a significant part of the beverage landscape.  Even though the Cola War has evolved, both Coca-Cola and Pepsi will find new frontiers to wage their battles.

Odwalla Upsizes and Updates Packaging

Odwalla's updated 2014 packaging.  Courtesy of facebook.com
Odwalla’s updated 2014 packaging. Courtesy of facebook.com

Odwalla’s most recent packaging update has upset some consumers.  The premium juice maker was considered a leader in sustainable packaging by using Coca-Cola’s PlantBottle technology, but the makeover has them abandoning the PlantBottle in favor of the regular plastic bottle used by other beverages (BevNet story here).  This update also sees Coca-Cola’s premium juice brand forsake their color-coded cap system implemented in their previous packaging update – just last year.  Does this imply that the 2013 changes were unsuccessful, and confused consumers?  Will that the recent changes return their competitive edge?

With consistent product packaging for six years prior to the 2013 update, it would seem that their 2013 changes were geared toward attracting new consumers to the Odwalla business.  After all, if the product was fantastic and equally adept at generating repeat purchases, why change it?  Introducing a color-coded cap system was designed to build the juice franchise through educating consumers on their product portfolio.  Green caps denote “superfoods,” red meant fruit smoothies, blue equaled proteins, orange represented juices, purple for quenchers and finally yellow communicated seasonal products.  Do you think six different cap colors for over 20 different juices and smoothies help educate the juice browser, or frustrate them to the point of walking away?  Despite good intentions, this packaging change likely turned consumers away rather than bring them into drinking Odwalla.

Part of Odwalla's updated 2013 packaging.  Courtesy of facebook.com
Part of Odwalla’s updated 2013 packaging. Courtesy of facebook.com

Rectifying this fiasco necessitated the 2014 packaging changes.  Though a stronger competitive set meant returning to the old system wouldn’t suffice.  Everyone (Evolution Fresh, Bolthouse Farms, Naked, and a host of other niche players) had larger bottles compared to the Odwalla 12oz (355ml) bottle.  In order to properly compete, Odwalla brought in a bigger bottle in addition to making it clear.  They also returned to green caps to (hopefully) simplify the consumer’s shopping process.

It’s hard to say if these packaging updates helps restore the premium juice maker’s competitive advantage, though it’s a step in the right direction.  Anything that simplifies the shopping process has a higher probability of getting sold.  What may also help them increase sales is securing produce placement, which is what they are trying to do.  The product section is a stronghold juices made by Bolthouse Farms, Arthur’s Fresh, and POM, so getting product placement in this area will certainly help Odwalla enter the conversation among premium juice purchasers.  Only time will tell if this new, simpler packaging will help move the needle for Coca-Cola’s premium juice brand.