Coca-Cola Expands “Official” Olympic Drink Portfolio

Courtesy of eprize.com

It’s another year for the Olympic games, this time in Sochi.  For Coca-Cola, every Olympic year is a boon based on the event partnership agreement where they hold the distinction of official Olympic non-alcoholic beverage partner.  As one of the Olympics’ global partners, the beverage giant pays about $100M to monopolize non-alcoholic beverage serving rights in all Olympic venues (other global partners hold exclusivity in their respective industries).  In recent years, the definition of “non-alcoholic beverage” has expanded to include more than just carbonated soft drinks.  Coca-Cola has gained exclusivity to serve sports drinks (Powerade), juices (Minute Maid), and waters (Dasani, vitaminwater) over the past few Olympics games.  The “Olympic Wolrdwide Partner” logo has also started appearing on Coca-Cola’s ZICO coconut water brand lately.  So given the substantial cost, how beneficial is it for Coca-Cola to be a worldwide Olympic partner?  And with the expanded definition of “non-alcoholic beverage”, which product categories are next to gain Official Olympic product status?

Despite a cost of $100M each active Olympic year, Coca-Cola has renewed their Olympic partnership until 2020.  It would appear that this agreement delivers substantive returns.  For one, Coca-Cola has blocked out their global competitor in all product categories that the conglomerate participates in.  No Pepsi-branded soft drinks, Aquafina, Gatorade, or Tropicana can be served within all Olympic-event venues.  Brand visibility is another partnership benefit.  Every game or after-party event that becomes broadcasted will feature a Coca-Cola logo or Coca-Cola beverage product.  Live viewers and spectators may only celebrate with Coca-Cola branded products and nothing else.  Positive associations is another partnership benefit.  Spectators seeing their athletes win also see them hydrating themselves with Coca-Cola products.  These same spectators will associate hard work, performance, and winning all being supported by Coca-Cola.  From a qualitative perspective, these are invaluable benefits that Coca-Cola has been able to enjoy – reduced competition, brand visibility, and positive associations.

Courtesy of designyoutrust.com

With changing taste preferences among spectators and athletes alike, incorporating other product categories as “Official Drinks” certainly makes sense.  Some people will choose carbonated soft drinks, some will want flavored water, and still some people prefer juices.  With coconut water emerging as a beverage category, expansion to include this as an Olympic-approved beverage makes sense.  However, increased exposure of Olympic branding potentially cheapens the Olympic brand with broader availability on all products – not just beverages.  Furthermore, not all products will be suitable to display the Olympic logo on its packaging.  For example, energy drinks may be one category that could be denied Official Olympic product status given possible negative associations despite the category growth.  Within Coca-Cola beverage portfolio, it’s likely that liquid enhancers (Dasani Drops, Powerade Drops) and teas (Honest Tea, Fuze) could gain approval should they apply for it.  Both these categories are enjoying growth and have fewer negative associations portrayed by the media.

Coca-Cola has been one of many key sponsors that has supported the Olympic games through the years, and it appears that both parties are satisfied with the results.  2020 is still three more Olympic games away, but given the goodwill both parties have been generated, it’s very possible that this relationship goes well beyond 2020.

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Pepsi Launches Liquid Enhancers: Aquafina FlavorSplash

The new Aquafina FlavorSplash line-up: sparkling water and liquid enhancers.  Courtesy of facebook.com
The new Aquafina FlavorSplash line-up: sparkling water and liquid enhancers. Courtesy of facebook.com

It’s been a few years after Kraft MiO revolutionized flavor enhancers, but Pepsi has finally launched their own liquid enhancers under the Aquafina water brand.  Following a beverage portfolio evaluation that lasted nearly 12 months, Pepsi will overhaul Aquafina FlavorSplash to include new sparkling water flavors and liquid enhancers.  On the liquid enhancer front, they will have three offerings: So Strawberry, Berry On, and World Peach.  Pepsi’s offerings are targeted toward a younger demographic primarily aged 13-19 years old (more on that later).  After waiting so long to enter this beverage segment, will Pepsi see success?

With another household name entering the segment – be it Pepsi or Aquafina – liquid enhancers as a segment benefits from more media support.  Like Coca-Cola, Pepsi has their own distribution network as well as their own merchandising and cooler units.  Having your own branded equipment assets are important for consistent communication, and even more crucial to ensure flawless execution.  As we have seen Powerade Zero Drops and Dasani Drops merchandised within Coca-Cola coolers, we can expect Pepsi to do the same with Aquafina FlavorSplash droplets.  This will help Pepsi get prime location space within grocery channels and restaurant establishments to display their newest products.

Aquafina FlavorSplash Berry On flavor.  Courtesy of facebook.com
Aquafina FlavorSplash Berry On flavor. Courtesy of facebook.com

By targeting a younger demographic, Pepsi aims to introduce consumers to their beverages at earlier life stages.  While appealing to the product’s purchaser (moms) is a different challenge, Pepsi hopes teens will be able to influence the purchase decision.  If not, Aquafina FlavorSplash may be something teens can still buy in school.  AdAge’s article detailing the Aquafina FlavorSplash interviews Pepsi’s CMO Simon Lowden, which describes the possibility at getting Aquafina FlavorSplash stocked in high schools as well (article link here).  The younger demographic puts Pepsi’s liquid enhancer in a niche where no other competitive liquid enhanced is targeting.  So far, young adults, athletes, and tea drinkers have been the general target.

The product packaging itself will spur interest, as the candy-colored packaging is brightly colored that will attract the demographic’s attention.  With unique flavor names – unlike the many berry-pomegranates and mango-peaches on the shelf – the flavors should stand out among the competitive set as well.

As a new player enters the segment, retailers and consumers will benefit from all the healthy competition for their dollars and chance to quench their thirst.  Pepsi will see success within this segment, given messaging toward an audience where no other brand is explicitly communicating toward, their own equipment assets that allow for prime product placement opportunities, and a product that is on part with market trends.  Even with all the competition within the liquid enhancer landscape – Kraft, Dasani, Powerade Zero, Crystal Light, and Nestea to name but a few – Pepsi’s Aquafina FlavorSplash should be able to garner healthy sales.

Nestea Enters Crowded Liquid Enhancers Space

Nestea's Liquid Water Enhancer - image courtesy of bevnet.com
Nestea’s Liquid Water Enhancer – image courtesy of bevnet.com

It seems that Nestea is primed to enter the liquid enhancers space soon (link here).  In a segment that grows increasingly crowded with strong brand names like Kraft MiO, Crystal Light Liquid, Dasani Drops, Powerade Zero Drops, is this the right decision by Nestea to enter with their own liquid enhancer?  Aside from the well-known branded players, a host of grocery retailers already have their own store brand (per this BevReview article, Walmart, Supervalu and Winn-Dixie all have their own versions).  Can this beverage segment sustain another branded player?  With various offerings available and finite space in the grocery aisle, will this launch actually be beneficial?  It depends on who you talk to.

First, let’s take a look at what Nestea is introducing to the marketplace.  Nestea Liquid Water Enhancer will arrive exclusively to Target in three flavors:  Iced Tea with Lemon, Iced Tea with Peach and Half & Half Iced Tea.  Another flavor will hit the rest of the market afterwards: Green Tea Citrus.  The Nestea Liquid Water Enhancers will be available in 26-serving bottles.  Because there is no other tea-based liquid enhancer in the marketplace, the Nestea product is unique and certainly adds value to the grocery aisle.  The consumer will now be able to find their Nestea drink mixes in both powder and liquid formats.  So Nestea benefits from this product launch, giving themselves a broader consumer reach.  Now that Nestea has a unique product, they just need to go and “sell” it to the grocery retailer that their product is beneficial for them too.

Retailers, however, may interpret this as more of a headache than anything.  With liquid enhancers expanding so rapidly, it looks like manufacturers just want to launch a product and get in on the gold rush.  With another product added to the overall consideration set, the retailers must decide which ones to carry and help them grow their business.  Do they maintain the same space in the grocery aisle for these products?  Or should they rationalize some other products?  The retailer may simply pass the problem on to manufacturers, and have them create the most compelling sell story to gain retailer distribution.  What may ensue should certainly benefit consumers and retailers: manufacturers will undoubtedly be offering some form of pricing and promotional support to get them to take their product in-store.

Coca-Cola's Powerade Zero Drops - image courtesy of coca-colacompany.com
Coca-Cola’s Powerade Zero Drops – image courtesy of coca-colacompany.com

For liquid enhancers and the consumer, Nestea’s entry is a positive addition.  Nestea’s entry carves out a niche for tea-based liquid enhancers, similar to how Powerade Zero Drops and MiO Fit created the sports niche.  Despite further fragmenting liquid enhancers into more beverage segments, this launch will be beneficial to the category.  As more marketing dollars get behind liquid enhancers, this may spell opportunity for even more product launches.  If consumers are willing to mix water with enhancers for caffeine, electrolytes, and tea, what else may they be interested in?  How about juices?  Or carbonated soda?  In due time, consumers may be able to find liquid enhancers for any beverage that is currently available in can or bottle format.

While the Nestea launch further crowds the liquid enhancer market, it still benefits everyone.  Consumers get another liquid enhancer choice.  Nestea improve their consumer reach.  And retailers linking these two groups together will be rewarded with more profits.

what happened to vitaminwater?

vw+vw0 canada line-up courtesy of @vitaminwater_bc

Since the explosion of vitaminwater on to the beverage scene years ago, momentum appears to have subsided for the brand and enhanced waters.  It seems that a variety of market conditions has reduced excitement for vitaminwater to just another product on the shelf.  There are certainly more reasons behind the brand’s continued decline, but BevWire will detail three major contributing market conditions.  

Market Condition #1 – vitaminwater has benefited and been obstructed by being a part of Coca-Cola’s beverage family.  As highlighted briefly in an earlier post about Zevia, vitaminwater saw immense benefits from the Coca-Cola acquisition.  The enhanced water brand entered a broader distribution network that vastly improved the brand’s availability.  At the same time, their initial marketing strategy was to be driven by “consumer demand”, relying on key influencers to spread word for the product.  This type of demand ensured that consumers and retailers were willing to pay a premium, and made discounting less unnecessary.  However, as Pepsi’s Aquafina Plus (in Canada) and SoBe Lifewater (in the U.S.) kept on promoting at enormous discounts, vitaminwater was compelled to react.  Without their premium positioning, vitaminwater became just another brand in Coca-Cola’s portfolio that had to fight for promotional dollars.  And with Coca-Cola focused on growing its sparkling business of Red (Coca-Cola),  Silver (Diet Coke), and Black (Coke Zero), a host of beverage brands lost promotional funding.  After initial success in the Canadian market from 2007 to roughly 2010, the vitaminwater has slowly lost market visibility as advertising support shifted more to other Coca-Cola properties.

Evolution Fresh - courtesy of drinks-business-review.comMarket Condition #2 – shifting consumer trends and preferences, highlighted by more juice, tea and energy drink entrants.  Since 2010, we have seen more product releases coming out from the juice, energy drink and ready-to-drink tea segments.  Starbucks was a strong force that expedited this trend.  Their acquisitions of Evolution Fresh and Teavana, along with their Starbucks Refreshers product launch gave them greater market coverage and allowed them to capitalize on the consumer trends.  In energy, the big three of Red Bull, Rockstar, and Monster all had product innovations enter the marketplace.  And also some negative media attention that led to consumers increasingly purchase these products to find out what whether all the extra attention was merited.  With consumers increasingly empahsizing health benefits – and vitaminwater also paying attention to this with their vitaminwater zero production introduction – the natural benefits of juice and tea became top of mind.  Because vitaminwater was relatively less healthy than these other products in the emerging segments, consumers shifted their purchase dollars from enhanced waters to juices, teas, and energy drinks.

 

via forum.smartcanucks.ca – just one of many Aquafina Plus coupons. This one is a fairly reasonable 33% discount.

Market Condition #3 – retailers react to new reality of people’s purchase habits.  Following the economic recession (that some still think we’re in), many Canadians buying behavior has focused more intensively on price.  That is not to say that they are not willing to pay more, but the value-benefit equation is more influential of their purchase decision.  Retailers have long pressured manufacturers for price concessions and finally Coca-Cola gave in to price promotions on vitaminwater in 2010 – around the time its descent began.  What happened next was more price cutting by its competitors to maintain their own sales – Aquafina Plus discounts became much deeper than before.  Ultimately this leads to the current situation, which is reduced segment value.  Since vitaminwater is no longer the premium brand that it once was, retail support started to transfer to other segments.  Shelf space for vitaminwater was compromised, and sku rationalization also start to slowly creep in.

While these three conditions do not represent the entirety of why vitaminwater is losing steam, it summarizes what is happening.  There are both internal and external contributors.  However, all hope shouldn’t be lost on the segment itself.  More competitors will look to redefine the value equation because the market leader is down.  Bottled water sales itself is on the incline.  And other vitamin beverages like Karma, Activate, and even Rockstar Energy Waters look to carve out their own niche in the marketplace.  Liquid enhancers such as Dasani Drops, Kraft MiO, Crystal Light Liquid are also seeing sales gains too.

Just wait to see how vitaminwater will react to the competitive pressure and what they might do to revive the one-time darling of the beverage industry.

Liquid Enhancer Segment Legitimized With Powerade Launch

Sourced from www.coca-colacompany.com
Sourced from http://www.coca-colacompany.com

Funny how just a few years ago, no one has ever heard of liquid flavor enhancers but now many people have heard about and possibly tried MiO.  This is due in no small part to Kraft, which created the product segment and put a lot of marketing support behind their MiO to introduce and educate consumers on how to use this product.  And as Dasani introduced their own liquid enhancer to capitalize on the market trend, Kraft innovated to stay ahead of its competition.  These innovations include employing a dual brand strategy by launching Crystal Light Liquid, as well as extending MiO’s platform by branching out to energy and sports drinks.  With recent news about Powerade coming out with a liquid enhancer, this segment appears to provide legitimate profitable returns for manufacturers.  However, is the segment itself big enough for so many different branded offerings?  Will this spur Pepsi to participate in some shape or form?  Possibly with a Gatorade drop to maintain their market share in sports drinks?

Courtesy of www.makeitmio.com
Courtesy of http://www.makeitmio.com

Liquid enhancers have enormous growth potential and despite its infancy, have extended across sports drinks and energy drinks.  This has certainly broadened its consumer appeal and increased the segment’s awareness and adoption rates.  However, the segment still appears to be crowded with four branded players: MiO, Crystal Light, Dasani, and now Powerade.  And it only looks that way because the segment itself is still small.  For all the excitement around MiO, it is still only a $200-$300 million brand.  Combined with Crystal Light, Dasani, Powerade, and even private-label offerings, the segment itself is not predicted to be over $500 million.  But with more advertising support behind each of these beverage properties as well as higher levels of consumer adoption, the segment will grow to be large enough to house these four liquid enhancer brands.  MiO will certainly be rewarded for being the first mover.  Consider this the initial stage of energy shots, when 5-Hr Energy was the only one in the segment and it took some time to gain sales.  As more companies introduced their own energy shots, the segment gained popularity and market size.  Through all this, 5-Hr Energy became the de facto leader in energy shots and rebuffed Red Bull, Rockstar, and Monster.  5-Hr Energy capitalized on the news that other energy drink manufacturers brought to the segment and benefitted from being the most recognized name among the consideration set.  So while it currently appears that liquid enhancers is congested, the potential size of the segment mirrors energy shots, and may even outpace it given less consumer backlash.

With great potential, comes great competition.  We’ve seen Coca-Cola wait for Kraft to prove that this is a viable segment, and then furiously pursue them with their own offerings.  Why has Pepsi not done anything yet?  A Gatorade Drop would certainly gain lots of attention among athletes, not to mention give them another extension to complement their Gatorade Chew.  Pepsi could also come out with a tea offering to start off in a segment where there are no current liquid enhancers (though there are rumors that AriZona is coming out with one soon.)  Given that liquid enhancers can be sold warm and are so compact, they can be stocked on shelves and also at the cash register as consumers complete their purchases.  Pepsi would be missing out on a large opportunity if their only presence were in coolers or displays – far away from the point of purchase.  My guess is that they are likely in the works to launch their own enhancer soon, but only time will tell.

Liquid enhancers are here to stay and has proven to be rich opportunity for the participants.  As the segment gets bigger, it will spell of a missed opportunity for Pepsi if they remain on the sidelines.

Kraft’s Dual Brand Strategy – Crystal Light Liquid

Courtesy of harpersbazaar.com

Most people by now have heard of Kraft launching Crystal Light Liquid to grow (or compete) in the liquid flavor enhancers marketplace.  Similar to some MiO offerings, Crystal Light Liquid is calorie free and sugar free.  It currently available the United States in 6 flavors: Strawberry Lemonade, Blueberry Raspberry, Iced Tea, Mango Passionfruit, Peach Bellini and Pomtini.  Their facebook page mentions that it may arrive in Canada sometime in March, but there is no guarantee all 6 flavors will make its way north.  It comes in a squeeze bottle that should satisfy 24 servings (of 250ml liquid), similar to the Kraft MiO squeeze bottles.  Although the product is predominantly targeted toward women – the packaging, colors, and communication portray as much – will this not end up cannibalizing their MiO product?  Or will this launch not cannibalize Crystal Light’s powder-based products?  Why introduce such a product when all signs point toward it being harmful to Crystal Light, and possibly Kraft overall?

Contrary to the traditional thinking of market cannibalization, launching Crystal Light Liquid  is beneficial for everyone – especially Kraft.  Back in September, BevWire wrote about Dasani Drops’ entry into this segment and how its presence helps in growing liquid flavor enhancers.  The Crystal Light Liquid will further bolster this growth and solidify the promise that exists for these products.  And since not all consumers are aware that MiO and Crystal Light are under the same parent company, this will help increase both product’s market penetration.  What appears to be three separate branded players in this space, is actually two manufacturers.  And as the market potential grows from $100 million, Kraft’s size of this market potential will grow as well behind the support of these two branded players.  This dual brand strategy of Kraft may be their response toward Dasani’s entry and a signal to others interested in saturating the segment.  It shows that Kraft is committed to defending their product and shelf space, and maintaining healthy margins for the retailer and themselves.  Crystal Light Liquid’s entry will also make it easier to get the retailer’s attention and gain shelf space, since it signals the manufacturer’s seriousness in supporting this segment and legitimizes it as an important focus.

This gain in shelf space may appear to be detrimental for Crystal Light since it could come at the expense of their powder-based offerings.  After all, both powder and liquid form products fall under the same category of “flavor enhancers” and are shelved in the aisle of grocery or mass supermarkets.  However, one must also consider that the Crystal Light Liquid offerings are potentially more profitable for both the retailer and Kraft.  While they may be trading shelf space away from powder-based products, the trade-off could potentially increase both parties’ “profit-per-square-feet”.  That is, consumers may ultimately be paying more for Kraft MiO and Crystal Light Liquid than Crystal Light powder.  Think of how the MiO Energy is priced identical to the MiO flavors but comes in a “down-counted” 18 servings instead of the 24 serving sizes.  The cost-per-serving indicates that the MiO Energy is actually a more expensive product than the regular MiO.  So while the drinking occasions have not increased with Crystal Light Liquid, the limited serving sizes increases the need to re-purchase the flavor enhancers.  This ultimately translates into wins for Crystal Light, Kraft, and the grocery store.

On the issue of cannibalization, Crystal Light Liquid is ultimately targeting a different consumer.  The company’s views may be that the two products are not cannibalistic but complimentary instead.   Crystal Light Liquid messaging and imagery concentrates on women’s lifestyle and social circles, while Kraft MiO’s messaging highlights individuality and customization.  MiO’s messaging is “Your Drink. Your Way” while Crystal Light Liquid centers around “For Every Shade of You”.  The female shopper that buys MiO may also buy Crystal Light Liquid, but for someone else (ie her friend, mom, etc).

From the Crystal Light facebook pageL: Crystal Light Liquid Peach Bellini highlighting a lifestyle.R:
From the Crystal Light facebook page
L: Crystal Light Liquid Peach Bellini highlighting a lifestyle.
R: The subtle hint toward customization with the different colored glasses, but the more apparent communication at the bottle “For Every Share of You” to again emphasize lifestyle and sociality.

The Crystal Light Liquid launch is certainly a positive news as it shows everyone’s commitment to supporting liquid flavor enhancers.  While Kraft wins with two brands and Dasani competes with Dasani Drops, both the retailer and consumer will benefit from aggressive promotions.  A win-win-win situation.

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.

Dasani Drops: Serious Competition For Kraft MiO

 Dasani Drops - courtesy of BevReview.com

I’m sure by now most people have heard of Coca-Cola’s entry into liquid flavor enhancer.  If not, Coca-Cola is launching Dasani Drops to compete with the Kraft MiO and is set to enter the U.S. market in October – you can read more about it at BevNet (link here).  BevWire had also previously written about the impending entry of Dasani Drops (link here), which should offer some top level insight to what this piece will focus on.  With a price point that rivals the MiO and more servings per package, Coca-Cola is ready to offer some serious competition to the original innovation.  What is the potential of this segment now that another branded player is entering the category?  Will Dasani Drops take away Kraft MiO’s share leadership and continue to grow liquid flavor enhancers?  Those are just some of the questions that comes to mind with this launch.

Liquid flavor enhancers exist as a natural transition away from the traditional delivery format.  Aside from the trade up story and the extra consumption occasions this product creates, it taps into the consumers today that want a customizable beverage.  The MiO’s Canadian messaging advertises on the fact of customization – that the user can squirt as much or as little of the MiO into their water to their liking.  The basis is that liquid flavor enhancers are geared toward a younger consumer, one that wants to choose the level of sweetness and flavoring in their beverage.  It would be much harder to do that with powder packets with limit the level of flavoring based on the pack size.

The liquid flavor enhancers market is believed to be worth slightly over $100 million dollars – contributed mainly by Kraft MiO sales with some minor contributions from store brands at the moment.  With another strong branded player, the segment is expected to have an accelerated growth rate.  And given the size of Coca-Cola, doubling segment sales double to $200 million may not be completely out of reach.  

Behind Coca-Cola’s distribution strength and their availability in all places with beverages, Dasani Drops may take away the MiO’s share leadership simply by being more widely available.  The immediate consumption and convenience/petroleum channels are just two areas that Coca-Cola will have access to that the Kraft MiO will not.  Kraft products may exist in the convenience store environment, but it will not be located in the same area that the Dasani Drops may be placed – by the beverage coolers.  Even within the grocery store environment, Coca-Cola may benefit by having the ability to exist in both the bottled beverage aisle and in the powdered drink aisle.  Given that both branded products offer the similar benefits and flavors, winning the liquid flavor enhancers segment really depends on which company can achieve strongest distribution at this time.

Price competition may not completely make sense from a category perspective.  However, beverage products are constantly featured items in the grocery channel and retailers may pressure either manufacturer to increase feature frequency and depth.  As long as both manufacturers understand that this is relatively new segment and a product innovation, neither would want to over-promote the segment since it would a longer time to recuperate their investments.  It’s just a matter of time before Pepsi wants to join the fight, and price promotions will be essential at differentiating each brand’s offering.

Kudos to Kraft for innovating and bringing something truly different to the flavor enhancers market, but now let’s see how well they can defend against a beverage manufacturer like Coca-Cola.

HappyWater Enters Vancouver’s Beverage Market

HappyWater – a premium alkaline-based bottled water product – is launching in Vancouver this summer.  From their Twitter account (@LiveHappyWater) and media kit, their bottled beverage can be described as a “100% blend of pure, natural spring and lithia waters from ancient Canadian mountain springs.”  Their Twitter feed also tweets where they’ll be around Vancouver this summer to sample out product to passerbys, so feel free to seek them out for a free bottle if you work downtown.

First of all, what is the difference between “alkaline” or lithia water relative to other types of water and beverages?  Scientifically speaking, there is a pH scale that determines the acidity and alkalinity of all beverage products. On a scale from 0 (acidic) to 14 (alkaline), 7 would be consider neutral.  Searching on the web revealed the following results on beverage acidity: soft drinks (~3.2), juices (~5.0) and coffee (~5.0) are acidic.  Waters have varying degrees of acidity or alkalinity depending on its manufacturing and purifying process.  Aquafina (~5.4) and glaceau smartwater (~5.9) are slightly more acidic on the scale while evian (~7.4) and Fiji (~7.6) are slightly more basic on the scale. HappyWater’s (~7.4) alkalinity puts it in the same arena as evian (~7.3) and Fiji (~7.6).  Since our stomach produces acid to break down our consumables, neutral (milk) and alkaline-based drinks would be some options to stabilize an upset stomach (or balance out the natural acids in our stomach).

Vancouver should be a good market to launch this premium product, given its local sourcing.  HappyWater originates from the Canadian Rocky Mountains, relative to evian (French Alps) and Fiji (Fiji Islands).  While I’m not sure if the location factors into the product pricing, they can be expected to be priced competitively with other premium waters.  Their current availability is localized to Vancouver and parts of the Lower Mainland at the moment, but national and American expansion would be a great opportunity given the premium waters potential in the marketplace.

Until their expansion out East or me making a trip to Vancouver, I’ll just wait to try a HappyWater.

Kraft MiO: Dasani Drops and Other Copycats

Kraft MiO

This week’s post focuses on the growing trend of liquid water enhancers.  Earlier this week, the Wall Street Journal, Bevnet.com, and BevReview.com all broke news that Kraft MiO will be expecting some branded competition fairly soon (BevReview’s article has some more information, and links to the other two articles here).  While the current market in the United States for liquid enhancers includes MiO and some smaller players, the entry of Coca-Cola’s Dasani Drops signals that the category is viable and ready for more competition.  After all, MiO has been in the market for just over a year and has extended their product line to include caffeine content to reach out to users that want an energy boost in their beverage options as well (MiO Energy).

As the leader and only well-known branded player, Kraft had to invest significant dollars into educating users and bringing attention to the category.  Their product can only be successful with more awareness about the product and liquid water enhancers market.  As a result of increased awareness, private label manufacturers have benefited greatly from MiO’s innovations by driving shoppers into grocery supermarkets and the beverage aisle.  Grocery stores have introduced their own version of the product and placed them side-by-side with MiO but at lower prices.  Shoppers originally came in-store to buy a MiO liquid water pack, but switch to a less expensive option at the shelf because they do not want to sink in so much money into an unknown product.  And now Kraft MiO’s growth and category promotion has attracted Coca-Cola’s Dasani to enter the market.

Wal-Mart's store brand of liquid water enhancers - courtesy of bevreview.com

Smart move by Coca-Cola to wait a year and then enter the market.  Let Kraft do all the work to bring attention to the category and products, monitor their sales and consumer reaction, then enter the category since it merits investment from the beverage giant.  Now they only have to focus on featuring their own product, while promoting the category becomes secondary since all the education costs were bore by Kraft in the previous year.  Kraft MiO will also benefit from the competition that Dasani Drops creates, since that will lead to more dollars spent on promoting products in the category overall.  The stronger category awareness is, the more chances that Kraft can sell their product without promotional dependence.

It’s likely that Coca-Cola’s entry will spark an entry from Pepsi and Nestle Waters in the near future.  When that happens, Kraft MiO will likely see diminishing returns since the category will have grown so much that now their focus will be product differentiation so shoppers are choosing their brand versus that of Dasani, Aquafina, Nestle Waters or some other product (note: there is no confirmation that Pepsi will be launching a liquid flavor enhancer, let alone extend the Aquafina name to the category – this is just a thought).

In Canada, the only liquid water enhancer that I’ve heard of comes from a company called Drink Intuition, which positions their product along the health and wellness trends of stress relief and detoxification.  The liquid water enhancer market would benefit greatly with more category promotion, but Intuition really is a niche player and does not appeal to everyone.  Canada could benefit greatly as MiO and Dasani potentially compete to see who can bring their product into the Canadian marketplace first.  With distribution all set up, it may only be a matter of adjusting their packaging and messaging to meet Canadian guidelines: including French copy and a nutrition table.

Until the product enters Canada, it looks like BevWire will still have to head south of the border to try and find some Kraft MiO and MiO Energy. Soon enough, I will also be looking for Dasani Drops.