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.

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Diet Coke Reverts to “Just for the taste of it!”

Image courtesy of ispot.tv.

Diet Coke has changed their slogan – again.  After rolling out “You’re On. Diet Coke.” recently and receiving a lot of criticism, they have changed it back to “Just for the taste of it!”  It appears that the weight of the media backlash was too heavy to bear.  Diet Coke’s marketing executives acted once the slogan attracted continued negative publicity, necessitating a change and dissociation from this negativity.  Click the link to see new commercial below, where there is no visible reference to a Diet Coke slogan – only a verbal reference.

Going back to the “Just for the taste of it!” slogan is an interesting choice, seeing that they have returned to this slogan three other times.  This slogan launched alongside Diet Coke’s introduction in 1982, and was subsequently resurrected in 1986, 1995, 2006, and now 2014.  Seems like other Diet Coke slogans just don’t have staying power like the original.  The “Just for the taste of it!” turns the attention back to taste and calories.  No focus on drugs – cocaine or aspartame.

In a time when all brands try desperately to manage their image – especially across social media – returning to the basics is necessary.  Even as Diet Coke has worked hard to establish a strong image as a lifestyle beverage with slogans like “Stay Extraordinary” or “You’re On”, solidifying its foundation remains critical.  Beyond all the dreams and aspirations, it must continue to deliver on the “brand promise” of a great-tasting sugar-free soda.  With this latest debacle, here’s hoping that Diet Coke has indeed learned its lesson.  As soda became linked with obesity and aspartame became linked with adverse health effects, some of Diet Coke’s campaigns veered off course to defend against these claims.  Other Diet Coke campaigns focused on establishing a strong image outside of its product attributes.  Both these types of campaigns made the brand less tangible and may have led people to forget what Diet Coke truly stood for.  And it certainly opened the door for criticism by marketing bloggers like myself.  A re-dedication to its core is essential in reviving Diet Coke.

While no publicity is bad publicity, the staying power of this bad publicity mattered more.  A couple years of advertising the new-old slogan of “Just for the taste of it!” should help re-establish Diet Coke’s image of a great-tasting sugar-free drink.  Who knows, it could be the right time to expand as a lifestyle beverage  at that time.  Diet Coke just needs to find the right balance of their image of being a great-tasting drink and being a lifestyle drink.

You’re On. Diet Coke.

Courtesy of businessweek.com
Courtesy of businessweek.com

Diet Coke recently released a new marketing campaign with an updated tagline.  The “Stay Extraordinary” is now replaced with “You’re On”.  The problem is that across print and digital communication, the tagline comes off as “You’re On Coke”.  As such, the company is receiving numerous reports of negativity claiming the soda manufacturer supports the use of illegal substances.  A search across the web shows many people making fun of the new campaign (here’s one from the Gothamist and one from The Huffington Post).  While it has gotten a lot of people talking about Diet Coke with some form of negative emotion, is it really that bad?

A new marketing campaign of some type was necessitated by the brand and segment’s recent struggles.  The “Stay Extraordinary” campaign tagline has been in use since 2010 and was due for a refresh.  Diet Coke’s sales and volume have declined at a faster rate than the soda category itself over the past two years.  And last year, aspartame became front and center as a health-debilitating ingredient.  To that extent, Diet Coke had to issue a specific campaign around the safety of aspartame (see story here).  All these factors indicated that something needed to be done to stem the diet soft drink’s mounting losses.

The new campaign does have some positives.  It has helped increase awareness and spur discussion about the soft drink.  Part of the adage that “no publicity is bad publicity” is a consequence of this marketing campaign.  Also, like the The Huffington Post article describes (via The New York Times), the original version of soft drink did include cocaine so it’s not entirely false.  It should be noted that the beverage has not contained the narcotic for over a decade.  And in a cheeky sort of way, people are no longer concerned about the diet product’s aspartame issue.  They are more focused on the campaign itself.

Couresty of brandmagazine.com
Couresty of brandmagazine.com

Beyond the attention this campaign has generated, will it actually provide a sales uptick for Diet Coke?  It’s hard to say but the campaign’s intention has been described in a clarification note by Coca-Cola.

“This advertising is one part of the new campaign for Diet Coke, which is called ‘You’re On.’ It celebrates ambitious young achievers from all walks of life and reminds them that Diet Coke is there to support them in the moments when they are at their best. Every single day, young people around the world experience ‘You’re On’ moments big and small. It could be a job interview or a national TV interview, a first date or a final exam, a presentation to your boss or a performance in front of thousands. The Diet Coke logo is the centerpiece of the ad campaign. Diet Coke in no way endorses or supports the use of any illegal substance.”

If consumers reward themselves (or prepare for big moments in life) with Diet Coke, then the campaign will be deemed successful.  In that vein, you can expect Diet Coke to maintain their award show sponsorships where actors and musicians will have opportunities to share their success with the refreshment.  Given that the core demographic remains 20-29 year old individuals, Diet Coke certainly persists as an rewarding moment for thirsty consumers.

evian Designer Bottles Spur Imitators

evian Elie Saab designer bottle - courtesy of fashionfoiegras.com.
evian Elie Saab designer bottle – courtesy of fashionfoiegras.com.

For the seventh consecutive year, evian has commissioned famous fashion designers to design a limited edition bottle for them.  Following in the tradition of Issey Miyake, Jean-Paul Gaultier, and Diane von Furstenberg, Elie Saab has agreed to design a limited edition glass bottle for evian.  Saab’s unique patterns is described to depict a lace gown, which showcases the strong attention to detail and expert craftsmanship for both Saab and evian.

It appears that evian has forged a strong partnership between their premium bottled water brand and the fashion industry.  With seven consecutive years of unique glass bottle designs and no indication of slowing down, this has become an annual tradition that all beverage shoppers look forward to (this one included).  As all successful ventures spur imitators, it is very likely that other beverage brands will follow in evian’s footsteps by collaborating with artists and designers.  Diet Coke has commissioned Marc Jacobs to design a collectible bottle for them, specifically available in the European markets.  Prior to that, both Diet Coke and evian have both sought out a collaboration with Jean-Paul Gaultier for limited edition glass bottle designs.  And most recently Perrier got into the designer bottles with Andy Warhol collector glass and plastic bottles.  However, in trying to imitate evian, which beverage manufacturer has done it right and which hasn’t?

It seems that Diet Coke has done it right and Perrier has not.  The partnership choices with Marc Jacobs, Jean-Paul Gaultier and Andy Warhol are all great choices.  Despite being artists and designers in different industries (fashion and art), they all represent important facets toward artistic culture.  However, while Marc Jacobs, Jean-Paul Gaultier, and Elie Saab were commissioned to design the bottles in their current years, the Andy Warhol  bottles are a design from twenty years ago.  The difference is that what was current twenty years ago is not necessarily current today.  And the designs with Jean-Paul Gaultier and Elie Saab were a direct collaborative effort with the designers themselves, Perrier’s collaboration is with the Andy Warhol Foundation.

Beyond the design, the other major flaw in Perrier’s strategy has been its packaging itself.  A designer bottle must convey elegance and prestige, which will certainly exist for glass bottles.  Even aluminum cans can have this elegant property when designed properly.  Plastic bottles do not carry this trait.  Plastic bottles carry with it a notion that it changes the taste of whatever beverage it holds with it.  It also carries with it the perception that it was born out of a replacement for glass bottles.  In addition to glass and plastic, see the image below for the various sizes that Perrier has made their Andy Warhol collection available for purchase.  Despite the different product sizes and shapes that Diet Coke can be found in, the designer products were only limited to glass bottles and select aluminum cans.  evian created a special 750ml size for their designer glass bottle.  Neither made it available across their entire portfolio.  Once this has been done, it takes away the prestige factor because it’s not as scarce.

Courtesy of businesswire.com.  Perrier's Andy Warhol collector bottles - available in both glass and plastic.
Courtesy of businesswire.com. Perrier’s Andy Warhol collector bottles – available in both glass and plastic.

Perrier’s final flaw: distribution.  Not that Diet Coke showing up in grocery stores is any better, but the Perrier bottle has been found with the dollar channel.  Does this need any more explaining?  Collectible, and fashionable products rarely make its way to dollar channels or wholesale channels simply because of the channel’s image.  With Andy Warhol Perrier being found there, what does that do for the brand and the product?  I would imagine that it lowers its prestige and elegance.

In the end, it may only be a question of whether the Andy Warhol Perrier bottles actually helped Perrier sell more product.  However, the broader question may be whether this collaborative effort has actually been detrimental toward both Perrier and Andy Warhol.

Diet Coke Advertisement: Aspartame is Safe

It seems that the beverage manufacturers have to continually defend the health & safety of their products in order to keep it selling.  Most recently, energy drink manufacturers like Red Bull, Monster, and Rockstar had to defend the caffeine content of their products as well as provide a recommended daily dosage.  Prior to that, Coca-Cola ran a campaign calling for unification behind calorie consumption, to defend general claims that soft drinks contributed to obesity.  The latest defense comes from Diet Coke, defending the safety of their chemical sweetener: aspartame.

Here’s their print ad that they ran in some American publications.

Coca-Cola's Diet Coke print ad, describing the safety of aspartame from 200+ studies over the last 40 years.

While the safety debate continues to polarize consumers and manufacturers alike, it’s interesting to note the timing of the advertisement itself.  Aspartame controversies have been around since the 1970s when diet soda products have also been around, why the need to make a statement to calm consumers down?  It turns out that Diet Coke’s sales are slipping – faster than the average rate of decline itself.  When a category is in decline, the best case scenario is that your product is outperforming the category benchmark.  That is, your product itself is still growing and outpacing category performance or at least declining at a slower rate than the category.  It seems that Diet Coke is down 6% and is losing sales at a faster rate than the category.  This in effect makes this advertisement a campaign to stimulate sales, where calming aspartame fears is a means to an end.  If Diet Coke is able to change the negative consumer perception toward aspartame, it looks like they may be able to reverse their fortune.

In the meantime, Pepsi’s portfolio of products have not done anything to unite and combat against calories nor dispel the fears toward diet products.  Pepsi may be content to let Coca-Cola do the heavy lifting on these media campaign, while reaping the benefits of success if the campaigns work.  After all, if consumers regain confidence for aspartame as a sweetener, Diet Pepsi also stands to see a sales increase.

Also important to note is that Pepsi may see this momentary weakness of Diet Coke and look to restore their position as the Number 2 soda behind Coca-Cola.  If that is the goal in mind, they will indeed need to concentrate their resources on Pepsi, rather than join up with Coca-Cola to combat the negative perception toward aspartame.

BevWire Interviews Zevia CEO Paddy Spence

Courtesy of Zevia.com
Courtesy of Zevia.com

After my coverage that compared Zevia with vitaminwater, Extension PR (Zevia’s PR agency) noticed the post and offered BevWire an opportunity to interview with Paddy Spence, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Zevia.  What started as a 5-question interview lasted nearly 25 minutes with many insightful answers and comments by Mr. Spence.  Click through to listen to the interview, which is BevWire’s first post to a newly started YouTube channel.

For those that do not have the time to listen to the entire interview, here are some quick highlights that the chat touched upon:

  • 4:50 – Mr. Spence describes the differences between Canadian and American consumers, and why Zevia is well-positioned for growth in the Canadian marketplace.
  • 6:16 – Zevia’s distribution method is dual-pronged and retailer-friendly.  With sales data uncovering insights that customers were buying multiple cans each shopping trip in conventional grocers, this channel was their first arena for market penetration.
  • 14:27 – Zevia’s competitive set was initially benchmarked against steaz, Hansen’s and Dry Soda in the natural soda segment.  As their market status evolved, it now compares itself to the larger subset of the diet and zero-calorie soda segments.
  • 11:02 Zevia’s barriers to growth is a combination of building awareness, availability, and affordability.  Paddy describes that having the stevia ingredient regulated has helped improve awareness.  For availability, it is secured distribution across major Canadian retailers like Loblaws, Sobeys, and Safeway.  On affordability, Zevia’s consumers are willing to pay a slightly higher price given its healthier enhancements.
  • 16:44 – Paddy Spence comments on product proliferation, stating that Zevia is unlike vitaminwater in a few different aspects.  For one, Zevia’s marketed as a platform brand.  Also confirmed during Paddy’s ending comments were that they will have dedicated advertising and promotion support to feature the entire Zevia product line.
  • 21:33 – Zevia’s describes their marketing strategy and the evolution from a heavy digital component to the inclusion of traditional media.

There were certainly more insights from the interview itself, but I tried to note down the above as a quick summary.  Should you find time to listen to the whole thing, you will find out more about Zevia’s next steps in terms of entering the Canadian marketplace.

Stay tuned for more Zevia developments and more BevWire interviews in the future!

AQUAhydrate Grows Through Distribution and Celebrity Partnerships

The AQUAhdyrate Family, courtesy of B | W | R Public Relations.

Has anyone noticed the amount of press that AQUAhydrate has gotten recently?  After their rebranding effort in 2012, they have reached some significant milestones.  Most recently, they gained more national availability in the grocery channel with new distribution agreements at Safeway and Kroger’s.  They secured even more publicity after Mark Wahlberg and Sean “P. Diddy” Combs announced they were partnering with AQUAhydrate to help develop and execute the beverage brand’s business strategy.  What does all this mean for the brand and for Canadian consumers?  Will their continued success lead to stronger availability in Canada?  And how will celebrity partnerships help the beverage refreshment perform better?

Let’s answer the latter question first: will celebrity partnerships with Mark Wahlberg and Sean “P. Diddy” Combs help deliver stronger business performance?  It all starts with making the right choices; there must be mutual benefits beyond previous arrangements like the celebrity endorsement compensated financially.  When you are endorsing a beverage or any other product, you are mainly communicating the product or service benefits to the public.  There is no guarantee that you believe in its success or benefits – you are simply saying what you’ve been paid to say in order to make money.  However, what more and more companies realize that without any vested interest from the celebrity, it’s mainly a one-way transaction.  There is no passion for the refreshment beyond the financials.

Mark Wahlberg and Sean Comb speak to the media at the AQUAhydrate press conference.  Courtesy of AQUAhydrate's facebook page.
Mark Wahlberg and Sean Comb speak to the media at the AQUAhydrate press conference. Courtesy of AQUAhydrate’s facebook page.

Through this realization, more companies are finding celebrities that truly believe in the product’s success.  Diet Coke found Jean-Paul Gaultier, Taylor Swift, and Marc Jacobs.  Pepsi found Beyonce.  Evian has been doing this for years, and has found a plethora of fashion designers willing to put their mark on collectible glass bottles each year.  All these celebrities are not just being paid to talk up their favorite beverage, rather they are involved with the business in some shape or form.  Beyonce is involved with Pepsi’s creative process and how the soda brand is represented to music fans worldwide.  In a similar sense, Wahlberg and Combs are expected to be involved with the business strategy component for AQUAhydrate.  They are expected to actively participate in helping get AQUAhydate into more grocery stores and more consumer shopping carts.  The fact that both celebrities chose to partner with AQUAhydrate, they must believe in the beverage’s business prospects and how they can add value.  Therefore, this business partnership should stand a very high chance of success.

To answer the former question on what this means to Canadian retailers and consumers, the new distribution arrangements should help.  Safeway is a grocery chain with an American presence as well as a Canadian presence, so the incremental distribution for AQUAhydrate could likely be the result of having the refreshment merchandised in Canadian Safeway grocery stores.  Some research and a quick question to the AQUAhydrate team revealed that the water beverage is indeed found in Safeway stores, as well as most Canadian GNC and Quebec Couche-Tard outlets.  Some readers have said that the beverage brand was also found in high-end grocery stores, so it can be expected that AQUAhydrate will continue to expand its Canadian presence.

Since its September rebranding effort, AQUAhydrate has rebounded and made some great strides forward.  With its expanded distribution and strong celebrity partnerships, there’s no doubt that the beverage brand is primed for even more success in the future.  With Walhberg and Combs on board to help with the business strategy, who knows what celebrity wants to sign on next with the brand to help propel it to new heights?

Coke Zero Targets Men For 2013 March Madness

Have you seen the latest Coke Zero commercial?  If not, click on the link below, also found from Advertising Age’s article detailing Coke Zero’s new advertising agency, Droga5.

Unlike last year’s Powerade commercial, this year’s March Madness commercial by Coca-Cola features Coke Zero.  The question is why focus on a soda rather than the sports drink?

Inherently, the message and audience is geared toward a completely different type of beverage consumer.  The Powerade commercial was a signal to Gatorade that Powerade realizes that they are the underdogs in the sports drink segment, and they must work harder in order to compete with the sports drink giant.  It was targeted toward the athlete.  This year’s March Madness commercial broadens the reach by focusing on men, not just athletes in particular.

An office drinks a Coke Zero to confirm it's not his fault he's working on the March Madness brackets during work time.  From creativity-online.com.
An office worker drinks a Coke Zero to confirm it’s not his fault he’s working on the March Madness brackets during work time. From creativity-online.com.

Coke Zero wants to identify with the spectators, not just the athletes.  The message is that even the casual sports fan can enjoy everything and participate in March Madness by drinking Coke Zero and picking the winners.  The change in Coke Zero’s focus is understandable, given that CSDs (carbonated soft drinks) are a larger segment than sports drinks and offers greater sales potential.  Also, why would you fight from the position of an underdog (Powerade) when you can  fight from a position of strength, and build on your leadership (Coke Zero leads zero-calorie CSD market)?

Keeping in line with Coca-Cola’s theme on focusing on the intangibles, there is no mention of calories.  Notice how Coca-Cola’s tagline is “Open Happiness” and Diet Coke’s tagline is “Stay Extraordinary”?  There is no focus on tangible attributes, and tries to position the beverage as a lifestyle choice.  For Coke Zero, men do not want to be reminded that they can “Enjoy Everything” by consuming a beverage without any calories.  The less the messaging focuses on calories (and more on sports or happiness), the better it should perform.

All in all, the winning potential is great, and offers them the ability to leverage themselves from a position of strength.  Smart move to switch the focal point from athlete to casual fan and spectator.

Everyone Wins With Up-Sized Fanta

Fanta Upsize

BevWire recently noticed that Coca-Cola’s Fanta flavors has made some subtle changes to their packaging.  The take-home 1.5L bottles were upsized and replaced with 2L bottles to align with the rest of their take-home offerings like Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite, and so on.  I believe their packaged cans were also 10 to a case before, and now those have been increased to 12 cans per case.  Not sure what led to this decision, but it should be viewed as a good move all around.  Manufacturer, retailers, and consumers alike should all be happier at the end of the day.

The increased 500ml for Fanta will provide cost savings for Coca-Cola.  They no longer have to source a different shape & size for their take-home bottles.  With the exception of the Canada Dry Green Tea Gingerale, all of Coca-Cola’s take-home bottles all take the iconic Coke contour shape.  This will also provide for stronger brand recognition as a Coca-Cola beverage product since this bottle shape is patented, and only Coca-Cola products can be bottled in this format.  The cost savings also transfer onto the production floor.  The up-sizing for both bottles and cans means that the automated assembly lines do not have to refitted to bottle and package different sized products.  Delivery to customer also also made easier as the case stacking inside the delivery trucks are are uniform.  Pretty much a no-brainer for the beverage organization, which leads me to wonder…why was this not done in the first place?

At the retailer level, the shelf sets don’t appear to be affected (see image above).  The pricing also does not really change since it must line-up with the rest of the 2L take-home bottles.  Ultimately, it’s business as usual for the retailers.

Among consumers, this may be an unexpected bonus when they intend to buy this refreshment.  Coming in-store and to the beverage aisle, the shopper may very well expect to pick-up a 1.5L bottle of Fanta and instead find that Fanta has given them an extra 500ml.  Will this lead to stock-up behavior?  Possibly.  There will also be some form of short-term gain when larger value is perceived (in this case, more Fanta for the same price).

Fanta Tangerine 473ml - courtesy of iflair.bizThe next step for the Coca-Cola would be the align their single-serve Fanta bottles with the rest of the single-serve assortment.  The Fanta bottle contains 473ml, while the rest of the beverage manufacturer’s single-serve portfolio houses 591ml.  With the cost savings seen for the take-home adjustment, wouldn’t there be even more cost savings if the changes were applied to the entire Fanta assortment?  Retailers wouldn’t notice too much of a difference in terms of stocking, but this may lead to a short spike in sales.  Your move, Coca-Cola – just putting the idea out there.

vitaminwater zero Quietly Arrives in Canada

vw+vw0 canada line-up courtesy of @vitaminwater_bc

Has anyone noticed the subtle changes to the low-calorie vitaminwater lineup in Canada?  There used to be three vitaminwater10 variants available: go-go, resilient-c, and recoup.  Now they have quietly replaced the go-go and resilient-c 10 calorie offerings with zero calorie offerings.  The recoup (peach mandarin) doesn’t appear to be on the market anymore, in favor of a zero calorie version of XXX, renamed as XOXOXO (acai-blueberry-pomegranate).  It appears that the United States’ transition in December 2010 has finally made its way north of the border this past April.  As it stands right now, there are 9 regular calorie flavors of vitaminwater, along with the three new low-calorie offerings.

One has to wonder why glaceau did not simply launch the zero-calorie offerings from day one, rather than wait a year to eliminate the 10 calories inside the bottle.  How did the 10 calories get eliminated after a few months’ launch into Canada?  Was it fear that Canadians would not adapt to the zero calories right away and needed to be transitioned away from calorie-filled beverages?  Was there a delay in getting approvals on the ingredients, particularly the sweetener?  In any case, the complete Canadian vitaminwater line-up still stands at 12 flavors.

Having 12 flavors makes it challenging to manage the product portfolio.  The benefit of this vitaminwater zero transition is that it will not impact the overall shelf spacing – only the existing area that vitaminwater product occupies.  However, 12 flavors for any product is quite significant, and getting a retailer to list all 12 at the same time will certainly be difficult.  Take for example Red Bull, which has found success with only three variations (Red Bull, Sugar Free Red Bull, and Red Bull Total Zero).  Or Coca-Cola, which also has three offerings (Coke, Diet Coke, Coke Zero).  Both these brands have fewer flavors and have been very successful.  Monster Energy and Rockstar Energy are also successful as a result of their broad portfolio of products – but not all products get listed in the retailer.  The most successful brands have fewer variations and can command more shelf space.  They also tend to be leaders in their respective categories.  vitaminwater seems to be buck that trend.

Is vitaminwater a leader in the enhanced or flavored waters category?  Sales data would almost guarantee it as such.  Why would they need so many flavors, when traditionally four or five flavors will be enough?  The answer is portfolio shelf space relative to sales.  If the vitaminwater portfolio commands 40% of the category sales, they should be allocated 40% shelf space.  After all, the argument is that the cooler space should reflect market conditions for the consumer.  This is why in the summer there are less shelf space allocated to juices, but more to water and sports drinks.  Having a broader portfolios always gives you more opportunities to create shelf space and in turn sales.  Just look at how Gatorade has been able to gain more shelf space following its prime/perform/recover extensions.  So while the majority of sales may come from the most popular flavors, the less popular flavors also have a significant role to play in creating and extending shelf space for the vitaminwater total portfolio.  Imagine that the sale for one vitaminwater flavor was marginal relative to the total portfolio, but had two shelf facings.  That flavor still remains on shelf to “hold space” for other better performing flavors, and allow the retailer to reduce that flavor to one facing while increasing facings for another better performing flavor.

Optimizing the shelf space ultimately falls onto the beverage category manager’s responsibility.  As long as vitaminwater’s broad portfolio keeps making sales, it makes difficult for other enhanced waters like Aquafina Plus to gain shelf space.  Once you secure the shelf space, it’s up to you to structure and space out your products to protect your shelf space.