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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At-Home Carbonation Reaching Critical Mass

It wasn’t that long ago that all we knew about at-home carbonation soda was Sodastream following their banned SuperBowl ad in 2013.  In the years since, Coca-Cola has joined up with Keurig and Pepsi has partnered with Bevyz to develop home brewing units and syrups.  We can now add another known competitor to the mix.  Sparking Drink Systems (SDS) International has a product called Viberation that produced carbonated soda all within one beverage pod.  It’s entirely possible that other companies are developing at-home carbonation units with its growing appeal.  Consuming carbonated beverages in an environmental-friendly way helps remove some guilt by reducing the plastic waste.  Sugar intake is another problem, but that’s a focus for another day.  As more competitors enter this expansive home-brewed beverage space, what will define their success?

The SDS Viberator, carbonating beverages within a single beverage pod.
The SDS Viberator, carbonating beverages within a single beverage pod.  Modified image via sparklingds.com.

One of the stronger products in the marketplace would be the SDS Viberation.  This Viberation has the capability to produce sparkling and enhanced waters, carbonate sodas, and even carbonate alcoholic beer without a CO2 cylinder.  The elimination of a CO2 cylinder increases the usability of the device, and possibly increase its adoption rate.  At this time, the Viberation is distributed across a variety of regional US-based distributors.  In order for this device to succeed, it must gain more exposure through securing distribution, marketing, and innovation.  Gaining distribution brings the Viberation to consumers that shop in bricks and mortar stores, or online.  Marketing efforts educate the consumer on the product benefits and its unique selling proposition (great-tasting carbonated beverages without a separate CO2 device).  Innovation makes meeting the consumer needs paramount with more flavors and assortment.  All three could end up being done through collaboration.  With a branded player (ie Starbucks? Dr Pepper Snapple Group) helps increase its reach, awareness, and appeal.

SodaStream’s main challenge appears to be part of its business model: carbonation cylinders.  With the competition’s ability to carbonate a beverage without any CO2 tanks, the Israeli-based company is facing an uphill battle to innovate.  Despite their recent marketing efforts at the SuperBowl to gain worldwide exposure, their growing stable of branded syrups, and their international distribution, the product still requires customers to invest in purchasing a CO2 device.  As the market shifts toward “all-in-one” devices, SodaStream’s may need to develop an at-home carbonation unit that can brew soda without a CO2 cylinder.  One of the core challenges SodaStream now faces is understanding whether their business model is still viable given the competitive landscape.  The C2 cylinders is a lucrative revenue stream, but it is also the barrier toward their adoption with more home-brewing appliances available.

The CO2 cylinder presents a great revenue source for SodaStream, but is also prevent fast product adoption. Sourced from coolest-gadgets.com.

Coca-Cola’s partnership with Keurig brought greater attention to this product segment.  Distribution and innovation likely are not challenges for the world’s largest beverage manufacturer.  In fact, these areas exist as its core strengths.  Keurig Cold will have the ability to not only brew Coca-Cola carbonated drinks, but also produce teas, sports drinks, juices, and a host of other Coca-Cola-manufactured beverages.  Marketing may actually be where Coca-Cola’s Keurig Cold device sees the biggest challenge.  The majority of their marketing dollars still reside with bottled beverages, and intensely promoting Keurig Cold will cannibalize their sales.  Another marketing challenge would be Coca-Cola’s ability to create the demand for beverage format when their bottled format is so successful and widely available.  Similar to Kraft MiO entering the liquid enhancers space first and Coca-Cola following, SodaStream pioneered the at-home carbonation space.  The challenge for Coca-Cola within liquid enhancers is not their product assortment, but their marketing efforts to create the demand for the liquid enhancer form of their beverages.  Coca-Cola beverage pods may endure the same fate as their liquid enhancers: broad assortment and distribution but limited marketing funds preventing the product line from reaching its full potential.

Pepsi’s Bevyz partnership will release an at-home carbonation unit to the market sooner than Coca-Cola.  The Pepsi Bevyz Fresh Machine was launched in the U.S. this past May.  Despite first-mover advantage, one of their core challenges appears to be marketing.  The market has not heard of Bevyz, and the majority still do not know Pepsi has developed an at-home carbonation unit.  While the product’s distribution and innovation are strengths, the marketing aspect seems to be the most significant barrier to overcome.  Despite the product’s versatility to carbonate beverages, produce teas, juices, and waters, and even serve as a water cooler, consumers are simply unaware of this machine.  Check out their 2011 Bevyz in Action video below.  Pepsi has been slow to react when Coca-Cola moved first in other spaces, such as in liquid enhancers and intelligent fountain units.  If Pepsi continues to think methodically before acting, they may stand to lose more ground to Coca-Cola and other competitors.

Each competitor faces their own challenge within this home-brewing beverage space.  Roadblocks toward growth include marketing, distribution, and innovation – it just depends on your business stage.  What is certain is more organizations are dedicating resources to small home appliances to help consumers make their own beverages.  This in turn helps the segment approach critical mass toward being available in every consumer’s kitchen counter space.

Dr Pepper TEN a Casualty of “/1” Campaign

Courtesy of brandmagazine.com
Courtesy of brandmagazine.com

As Dr Pepper invests more support to highlight their “1/1″ campaign for Dr Pepper and Diet Dr Pepper, are they providing less support to Dr Pepper TEN?  The beverage manufacturer continues to feature their core soda offerings and exclude the low-calorie Dr Pepper TEN soft drink.  As much as the company says that this segment is growing, neither Pepsi (makers of Pepsi Next) nor Dr Pepper Snapple Group (makers of Dr Pepper TEN, RC Cola TEN, 7UP TEN, Sunkist TEN, Canada Dry TEN, and A&W TEN) have provided the same media support levels since the 2012 launch period.  Given consumer trends of shifting consumption away from soft drinks, what will happen to these Dr Pepper low-calorie sodas if they are not supported by Dr Pepper?

As seen above, the commercial’s final scene shows both Dr Pepper and Diet Dr Pepper but not Dr Pepper TEN.  The marketing message for Dr Pepper TEN is clearly different from Dr Pepper and Diet Dr Pepper, but it is concerning that there has not been additional support behind Dr Pepper TEN.  With market activity, consumer trends, and expert opinions all suggesting a continued decline toward carbonated beverages, it is understandable to support Dr Pepper and Diet Dr Pepper since it delivers the biggest return.  Conversely, not supporting these two brands will also provide the most detrimental effects to the business.  This is why Dr Pepper and Diet Dr Pepper will continue to receive the majority of funding.

With the low-calorie products receiving less funding, sales decline should be expected.  But by how much?  While the initial repeat levels were above expectations and more than half of all sales were sourced from outside the carbonated soft drink business, these early wins were not sustained.  Dr Pepper Snapple Group’s SEC  10-K filing from February 2014 indicated as much:

Our Core 4 brands, which included the impact of the launch of our Core 4 TEN products, decreased 1% compared to the year ago period. This result was driven by a a 5% decrease in 7UP, a 7% decline in Sunkist soda and a 2% decrease in A&W, partially offset by a 6% increase in Canada Dry. Crush, Squirt and RC Cola declined 7% , 4% and 4% , respectively.

The entire 2013 annual report can be found here.  So while it’s possible that other soft drinks within the 7UP, Sunkist, A&W, Canada Dry and RC Cola portfolio also declined, the fact that these TEN products sales did not balance the other beverage losses indicate that they were also losing sales thselves.  Times are tough within carbonated soft drinks right now, especially when you’re not a Coca-Cola or Pepsi with a broader more diversified beverage (or food) portfolio.  And even these two global conglomerates recently released results that were slightly less positive.

Dr Pepper TEN and the other TEN products still stand a chance at survival, because it is keeping in line with trends toward lower calorie consumption.  However, delivering growth with less marketing support and when everyone is pushing full calorie offerings makes it challenging.  At some point, Dr Pepper Snapple Group will have to make a decision whether they will re-invest in Dr Pepper TEN, or turn their attention toward other initiatives.  Let’s just hope they make this decision sooner rather than later.

Three More Canadian Beverage Trends For 2014

Many experts had created their own lists for food & beverage trends for 2014, how do you make sense of all of these?  Some are more macro-level and includes a generic view toward food & beverage (like this Innova report) while another taps into consumer needs that drive changing beverage preferences (like this CSP publication).  Euromonitor International’s white paper has also listed five beverage trends pertinent to the Canadian landscape (link here, must process credentials before report can be accessed).  These five trends are fairly on point, but may have missed out on some other additional activity that will change the beverage landscape this year.  Here’s some additional points BevWire has noticed and would like you to consider:

Improved Natural Sweeteners To Grow Zero/Low/Mid-Calorie Sodas

Pepsi Next - courtesy of rft3.wordpress.comDr Pepper & Pepsi had both launched mid-calorie sodas with combination sweeteners in the past two years, while Coca-Cola finally took the plunge last year with Coca-Cola Life.  Although Coca-Cola Life has yet to make its entry into the North America, this is a strong sign that everyone believes calorie segmentation for sodas is a step in the right direction.  Coca-Cola also has received FDA approval for Reb-X – their stevia sweetener developed in conjunction with Pure Circle.  In addition, Zevia & Steaz are also among a host of naturally-sweetened soda manufacturers that are gaining broader exposure and shelf space within grocery retailers.

These factors indicate that natural sweeteners are receiving just as much as attention as their regular calorie counterparts – if not more.  Optimizing a soda formula that removes the bitter aftertaste will go a long way toward restoring sales to this segment.

Aspartame Fears Continue to Depress Diet Sodas

The fear over safety of consuming aspartame came to a climax in mid-2013 as Coca-Cola ran an advertisement to dispel fears over this ingredient (link here).  With a greater focus toward ingredient consumption, consumers are leaving diet sodas for other beverage products.  The soda segment as a whole is facing scrutiny for contributing to obesity, but having extra attention on ingredients within diet soda has led to more consumers choosing alternative beverages such as juice, tea, and water.

With a continued rise in competition from adjacent segments and beverage categories, diet sodas will continue their rapid decline relative to the other soda segments.

Small Home Appliances Crowd the Consumer’s Kitchen Counter Space

Courtesy of sodastream.ca

SodaStream’s controversial in the 2013 Super Bowl ad really put them on the map, as well as put other carbonated soft drink manufacturers on notice.  Consumers also noticed this and SodaStream was rewarded with sales as well as increased availability across Canadian retailers.  SodaStream has also benefited with licensing agreements and partnerships to carry branded syrups like Kraft’s Kool-Aid and Country Time.  Starbucks is making inroads to get on your kitchen counter as well, trademarking “Fizzio” in 2013.  From trademark documents, Fizzio is their at-home carbonation unit that will carbonate water into soda flavors.

Outside of at-home carbonation units, coffee & espresso makers are also seeing a bump in sales.  Keurig, Nespresso, Tassimo and other coffee pod makers offering deep discounts on the coffee machine, attracting your initial purchase in order to have you buy exclusive coffee or tea pods from them in the future.

While BevWire doesn’t have an official list where these trends are being ranked, the rise of natural sweeteners certainly seems to be the most likely to take place in early 2014.  That said, we are only 13 days into 2014 and many things can still happen to change up the trends.  Let’s see how this plays out over the next 352 days.

Dr Pepper Highlights Individuality in “/1” Campaign

Starting today, Dr Pepper will be launching an extension to their previous T-shirt “I’m a Pepper” campaign.  The new campaign titled “/1” highlights the character’s uniqueness and that they are indeed one of a kind – 1/1 – truly unrivaled in what they do.  Dr Pepper’s advertising agency conducted research to ensure that those numbers represented in the video are statistically accurate, and that these people are peerless in what they do (how many models-turned-boxers do you really know out there?).  Dr Pepper says that the characters featured are real-life people and while they may not be world famous, these individuals are renowned within their respective fields (boxing, roller derby, and air guitar).

It’s worthy to note that this campaign extends to focus on Diet Dr Pepper as well.  Traditionally their commercials and features have been separate, but they have chosen to include Diet Dr Pepper as well in this campaign.  Dr Pepper TEN likely was left off because the messaging of “Not For Women” is on solid footing right now.  As seen from the commercial below, Dr Pepper wants to highlight your individuality in choosing not just Dr Pepper, but also Diet Dr Pepper

So would you rate these commercials as successful?  Do they get your attention? Does it make you pick up a Dr Pepper when you are at the supermarket or convenience store, especially when Coke or Pepsi also also available for your purchase?

I think it does…with some caveats.  While the messaging is solid and connects with the viewer, it still has a strong chance to get lost among all the other commercials that are playing.  Not to mention that Coca-Cola and Pepsi have more money to spend on advertising;  the chances of you being bombarded with soda commercials are quite high and remembering Dr Pepper over a longer time period are quite low.

Dr Pepper’s series of commercial stands apart from how other soda companies have advertised their trademark beverages.  Coca-Cola talks about happiness when you drink their carbonated soft drinks (Open Happiness) and Pepsi advertises on living in the moment (Live For Now).  Dr Pepper turns the focus to you, on how you are special and different from everyone else out there.  In today’s society, everyone wants to be known for being themselves, so Dr Pepper has tapped into how individuals want to think which makes it easier for them to identify themselves with Dr Pepper.  In my opinion, this is a stronger message than being happy or living in the moment.

Still, it is a matter of whether this will translate to any form of wins for Dr Pepper.  Are consumers more likely to buy more Dr Pepper because of this commercial?  Will these purchases come at the expense of Coke, Pepsi, or some other non-Dr Pepper-owned beverage brand?  Keep in mind that Dr Pepper also has to compete with other beverage products, like Red Bull, Gatorade, Nestle Water and the like.  At the supermarket or convenience store’s point of purchase, some of these products will undoubtedly be on sale and make that decision to choose Dr Pepper even harder.  It may come down to whether you are willing to pay more to be unique.

So the next time you are purchasing a soft drink – any drink actually – will you choose Dr Pepper because it reminds you of your individuality?

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.

Starbucks Buys Teavana, Diversifies Beyond Coffee

Starbucks Logo Evolution

It appears that Starbucks’ recent purchase of Teavana has some analysts and coffee drinkers scratching their heads.  Considering that the coffee giant already owns a tea brand in Tazo, why would they want to purchase another tea brand?

The simple answer is that Starbucks is readying their continued evolution to a diversified beverage company.  Having changed their logo to remove the words of “Starbucks Coffee” shows their seriousness of extending their brand beyond just coffee, and beyond the Starbucks name. Their past acquisitions of Tazo (1999), Ethos Water (2005), and Evolution Fresh (2011) have been instrumental for expanding their beverage footprint in the consumer’s mind and physical purchase locations.  And while most of these offerings have been incorporated within the Starbucks coffee shops, other products have expanded their reach into grocery supermarkets and other consumer outlets.  Products like the bottled Frappucinos, Starbucks VIA Ready Brew, Verisimo system, Starbucks Refreshers, Tazo Tea, and Evolution Fresh juices and smoothies have all permeated other channels and have seen some form of success beyond the Starbucks coffee shops.

So what can we expect the Teavana purchase to do for Starbucks?  How is this product differentiated from Tazo Tea?  Will there be some form of cannibalization between the two tea offerings under the Starbucks portfolio?

Teavana Logo

The Teavana purchase will undoubtedly expand Starbucks’ reach outside their branded coffee shops.  Teavana owns and operates their own stores, which may soon incorporate select Starbucks products that fits into the Teavana theme and strategy.  For example, selling Starbucks coffee within Teavana shops may not be appropriate, but selling Evolution Fresh juices and smoothies and Ethos Water may be a possibility.  This cross-selling effort will certainly increase the reach of non-coffee beverages under their portfolio.  Also, considering that Starbucks has started to open standalone Evolution Fresh locations in the U.S., those locations may also incorporate some Teavana offerings as well.  Aside from the bricks and mortar stores that Teavana operates, Starbucks also acquires their online infrastructure where the loose leaf tea products are sold as well.  This also significantly buffs up Starbucks online presence and can provide an entirely new set of learnings and opportunities.  Starbucks has mainly existed as a bricks and mortar presence insofar to create that “third location” away between the home and office, but expanding their online presence gives them a chance to offer additional products to the consumer.  How about purchasing some VIA Ready Brew with that Teavana tea tin?

With regard to product differentiation, it’s commonly understood that the Tazo-branded products are bottled or tea bags.  The main opportunity does not exist in offering a different form of tea packaging, but the expanded consumption occasion.  Tea bags or bottled tea are typically consumed on-the-go or at the office, because the consumer is in a rush and does not have the time to sit and enjoy the beverage.  Teavana’s loose leaf tea allows Starbucks to reach the consumer in their relaxed state – at home or at the office – when they have more time to enjoy their beverage.  In that aspect, these two tea brands should be complimentary to the overall “tea consumer” rather than cannibalistic.  It would also make sense that Starbucks only minimally incorporates the Teavana products into their existing Starbucks establish (similar to Evolution Fresh) while maintaining the operations separately and at arm’s length.

At the end of it all, this acquisition bolsters Starbucks’ presence and further entrenches their beverage offerings into the consumers’ hands – be it at the office, on the streets, or at home.

This also signals a warning shot to the traditional beverage manufacturers (ie Coke, Pepsi, Dr Pepper Snapple Group) that the total beverage landscape is changing dramatically.  Consumers are increasingly turning away from the the sodas, to coffees, bottled water, and teas.   And Starbucks is leading the charge in this area.  If you don’t believe me, check out their video below.

Cool-Ad Handles – Point-of-Purchase Innovation

Cool-Ad Handle in actionHave you heard of Cool-Ad Handles?  BevWire hadn’t either until recently, when I got sent some images about how cooler door handles were being widened and being replaced with advertisements in these widened panels.  After getting some more information and research, these handle panels are roughly 4.4″ wide x 14″ long with a protective cover on top to prevent wear and tear.  The ad itself are inserts that can be printed from either high quality professional printers or your regular office printer.  What will retailers think of these wider handles?  Or even more important, how will the shoppers react to a widen handle with an advertisement at the point of purchase?  Will these handle advertisements effectively replace cooler clings and the trouble it causes some retailers from switching up the communication?

These Cool-Ad Handles may not completely revolutionize the beverage point-of-purchase, but should come close if adopted by retailers and manufacturers.  The old adage is that nearly 70% of purchase decisions are made in-store, so it is paramount to influence the shopper behavior at this point on the buying process.  If adopted by retailers, this will allow them to generate more attention to in-store specials or cross-promote with other categories (ie chips, popcorn, and candy to name a few). It may even end up as an additional revenue source, should the retailer want to adjust the communication periodically and provide this as extra advertisements.  For manufacturers like Coca-Cola, Pepsi, or Dr Pepper Snapple Group (and the plethora of alcoholic vendors), fitting these handles onto their proprietary gives them  dedicated communication for their products in replacement of cooler clings.  For both retailers and manufacturers, these communications can vary greatly from the typical in-store promotion: the space can be used to feature nutritional information, environmental sustainability efforts, charitable foundation support and many more.

From a shopper’s perspective, the key point will be whether still obstructs them from getting to their end goal – picking the product from the cooler.  That said, the handle itself must be sturdy as they may be trying to pull from the right (strong side) as well as from the left (weak side).  Aside from the handle’s strength, these Cool-Ad Handles should not cover the entire product from view.  Beverage shoppers that are still “searching” for what drink to purchase may not open the cooler door and then decide on what to buy, so the sale could be at risk if product is hidden by the Cool-Ad handle or any other communication.  On a positive note, the communication benefit for the retailer and manufacturer also applies to the shopper.  Shoppers would may like to be reminded of cross-promotions with other product categories when they buy a beverage.  After all, the beverage aisle and the general snack aisle may not be the same aisle.  This may help jog the shopper’s memory to quickly run down the candy aisle to pick up some fuzzy peaches.  And who doesn’t like to be reaffirmed that they have made a good purchase decision or supported a good cause?  All the better if the communication is reinforcing message that 10% of each bottle’s sale goes to a charitable foundation.

While the Cool-Ad handle may not completely replace the cooler cling, it has opened up a myriad of options to retailers and manufacturers.  The cooler cling is still the most reactive component, since it does not have to be placed right at the handle.  Rather, the cling itself can be placed higher or lower, to match the product itself behind the cooler door.  However, the cooler cling itself may get ignored more often than the Cool-Ad cooler door handle.  The shopper has to open the door to get the beverage, so seeing the Cool-Ad handle communication is inevitable.

And while this has only be implemented in the United States so far, there is word for Canadian expansion.  Be on the lookout for these handles when you head into your local 7-Eleven or Mac’s Convenience, or your Loblaws or Sobeys grocery store.

Cool-Ad Handle

Mid-Calorie Sodas – Successful or Not?

Pepsi Next line-up - courtesy Robin Lee

It’s been over a year that Pepsi Next has first launched in test markets, and almost six months since it’s been available nationally in the United States.  Dr Pepper 10 will also soon be lapping it’s one year national launch in the market place.  These national launches proves that Pepsi and Dr Pepper both believe in the viability of the mid-calorie cola segment.  However, what are the results of this launch, and can it be considered a success so far?

For Pepsi Next, results so far can be considered average at best.   Wall Street Journal reported the Next to have gained 1% market share on US dollars (link here), although product reviews indicate that the aftertaste (end part of the Pepsi Next’s taste curve) is unpleasant and definitely feels like the artificial sweeteners (link here).  In spite of all this, Pepsi has launched two (limited for the summer) line extensions of the mid-calorie soft drink: Paradise Mango and Cherry Vanilla (pictured above).  That said, the launch can be considered a success so far, but the real test is converting these initial trail users into returning customers.

The line extensions and the continued advertising support for Pepsi Next would be much needed in order to help the brand sustain its momentum.  After all, it takes some time for a product to be accepted in the market – remember that it took Coke Zero & Pepsi Max a few years and some trying rebranding and repackaging before it caught on with consumers?  Beyond that, let’s hope for more products to enter the mid-calorie segment, and bring more attention to the category.

DPSG 10sFor Dr Pepper 10, test results have been similar to Pepsi Next.  On the Dr Pepper 10 alone, sales nationally have been strong enough to offset the declines across Sun Drop and 7UP.  And as the one year anniversary  for Dr Pepper 10 approaches, they have already worked on releasing five additional 10 calories colas.  The 7UP 10, A&W 10, Canada Dry 10, SunKist 10, and RC 10 are currently in test markets and some of these flavors should make it national (my bet is on the 7UP, A&W, and Canada Dry).

Overall, it would appear that there are two main players in the mid-calorie segment right now between Pepsi Next and Dr Pepper 10.  Coca-Cola has been reported to be trying a mid-calorie version of Sprite and Fanta in key test markets as well.  This segment will only continue to grow as consumers become more and more health conscious.  However, in order to make it a success, the main issue of taste must be addressed, since consumers likely wouldn’t sacrifice taste for calories.

And beyond that, let’s hope it makes it way up north to Canada so we don’t have to drive across the border to find some mid calorie beverages.

Kraft MiO Enjoying Exclusivity in Canada…For Now

Kraft’s liquid beverage enhancer MiO is now available in Canada, after being available in the U.S. for over a year.  My earlier post detailed the MiO’s impact on the American market, how it has led to line extensions as well as inspired copycats (link here).  While MiO is still in a state of infancy in Canada and offers very few challengers, it’s worthwhile to look at the example south of the border to see what type of impact it may have in Canada.  Here’s the first MiO commercial for Canada, followed by the American commercial link below.

American MiO commercial link here.  The differences are quite obvious in its message and communication, since each ultimately caters to different audiences.  Kraft Canada has decided to target 18-34 year old males with the MiO (article from Strategy Magazine details MiO’s Canadian strategy here).   With regard to the business impact, will the MiO inspire copycat products from Coca-Cola or Pepsi?  Will it also lead to caffeine-infused line extensions like MiO Energy?

While there exists a template in the United States, it’s important to note that the two markets are decidedly different.  As we’ve already seen, Canadians do not react to the same type of messaging and need customized advertisements.  Further to the differences, Canadian regulations also stipulate stronger focuses on health-consciousness (ie calorie listings on packaging) and product compositions (ie  mandatory nutritional tables).  This all boils down to the point that what may works in the United States may not work here in Canada.

Kraft Canada will work to grow the category of liquid flavor enhancers, and this will lead to copycats.  With Kraft bearing the education costs and the initial market research, other beverage organizations will be able to see what type of opportunities exist in this category.  Judging by how the American market is performing, the category does have growth potential and can sustain more than one branded manufacturer.  Understanding their own production & distribution capabilities, the entry of Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and even Dr Pepper Snapple Group in Canada seems just like a matter of timing.  Currently on grocery store shelves, the MiO sits by itself with powdered drinks like Crystal Light, Kool-Aid, Nestea without any store brands.  It would appear  that at this time, even private labels are hesitant of coming into the market and are watching to see how the MiO will perform first before jumping into the category.

How about the MiO Energy, will it enter Canada?  It is an intriguing product because the user can personalize their beverage and control the amount of caffeine they would like in their drink.  However, with the increased attention on energy drinks, their high caffeine content, and their adverse effects, will this product be successful if launched in Canada?  My perception is that it will extend into Canada, but their success hinges on their market positioning. Positioning it as a customizable caffeine drink against coffee, rather than energy drinks may be more successful.  Coffee is generally more acceptable as a caffeinated beverage over energy drinks due to their lower caffeine concentration.

In the meantime, Canadians still have the regular Kraft MiO to enjoy in four flavors pending more introductions.  Enjoy the exclusivity while it last MiO, because it appears that you’ll have to defend your shelf space soon enough.