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.
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.