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.

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.

Coffee War: Kraft & McDonald’s vs Starbucks

McDonald's McCafe coffee, now sold in grocery retailers by Kraft.  Courtesy of mcdonalds.ca

Ever since the 2011 break-up with Starbucks, Kraft had been looking for a beverage partner to package and distribute premium coffee.  Enter McDonald’s McCafe.  The quick service restaurant has been looking for growth opportunities outside of burgers & fries, recently turning their attention to premium coffee.  They have even started selling bagged ground coffee within the restaurant.  However, most coffee drinkers still enjoy their first cup of coffee at home, and gaining distribution to the traditional grocery channel is critical to McDonald’s expansion efforts.  While this partnership benefits to McDonald’s, how will it benefit Kraft?  How will it affect their current coffee brands: Gevalia, Maxwell, and Tassimo?  And what about Starbucks – how will this impact their grocery coffee business?

Kraft Benefits Greatly With a Strong, Already-Built Beverage Brand

It is much easier to leverage a well-known brand rather than build your own.  This is what Kraft is doing.  Even without specifically knowing about McCafe premium coffee, McDonald’s itself is a well-known household name.  McDonald’s has also worked hard to change its image as a destination with unhealthy food options.  This has culminated into their successful, award-winning “Our Food.  Your Questions” campaign (read about it here).  As such, consumers are more open and knowledgeable about McDonald’s healthier options like snack wraps or fruit smoothies.  Kraft is able to leverage on McDonald’s name to help them gain some shelf space in grocery retailers.

Gevalia coffee - courtesy of commonsensewithmoney.com

Before ending their partnership, Kraft had helped transform Starbucks’ grocery business from an initial $50 million to nearly $500 million in annual sales.  With Starbucks wresting full control of their coffee business from Kraft, they were forced to refocus on Maxwell House, Gevalia, and Tassimo.  Maxwell House was a value offering, and competed against store-brand coffee.  Growing this brand would only serve to devalue the category.  Tassimo single-serve at-home units were expensive (and still is), not to mention ahead of market trends and did not have a strong market presence.  Growing this would take a considerable amount of investment and still not fill the void left by Starbucks’ premium coffee.  Gevalia was Kraft’s best bet, and still they had to build this premium coffee brand.  You can see from the clip below that they fully intend on competing against Starbucks head-to-head.  And if you haven’t heard about Gevalia, then you’re not alone. It still has work to do before achieving high enough awareness levels to penetrate the shopper’s consideration set when it comes to buying ground coffee in the grocery aisle.

With McDonald’s McCafe coffee part of their portfolio, Kraft now brings another strong and well-known coffee brand to retailers.  However, it only partially fills the void created by Starbucks.  Tony Vernon – Kraft’s Chief Executive – says McCafe is considered a step above Maxwell House, but still below their premium coffee Gevalia (story link here).  That said, Kraft expects McDonald’s McCafe to fill a mid-tier coffee segment and regain lost shelf space, but they still expect Gevalia to be their premium brand to compete against Starbucks.

How Will This Affect Starbucks?

At this point, this partnership is something to monitor but not react.  Within the coffee segment, Starbucks consumers are highly loyal and may not interact much with McCafe coffee.  Considering where McDonald’s McCafe coffee are priced, Starbucks’ similar offerings figures to be priced at a 20% premium – at least.  Consumers also buy Starbucks because it is considered an “affordable luxury” item while McCafe is considered a broader appeal item.  Unless coffee drinkers suddenly change their taste preferences, McCafe will not steal away many Starbucks coffee drinkers.  Within Kraft’s portfolio, Gevalia still remains Starbucks’ top threat yet the brand itself has some work to do.  Gevalia still has to gain awareness and cultivate a rich premium coffee history.

The evolution of Starbucks.  Coffee has not been their core focus since 2011.  Courtesy of  brandautopsy.com

And while coffee still remains the core component of Starbucks’ business, they have been moving to expand their own portfolio.  They have smoothies.  They have tea.  They even have yogurt and baked goods.  They plan on having their own soda line at some point in the future.  What was a company that  only attracted coffee drinkers has morphed into one that attracts any thirsty (or hungry) consumer.

So as Kraft finds a partner to fill a gap in their coffee business, Starbucks has branched out to other beverage segments.  Coffee is a large part of the beverage market and one where a few manufacturers compete in.  It’s a good thing that despite the size of this segment, all three companies – Kraft, McDonald’s, and Starbucks – are diversified and have other focal points to turn their attention to.

 

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.

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.

Super Bowl Series: Kraft MiO Fit Needed More Than 30 Seconds

The fourth and final installment of BevWire’s 4-part Super Bowl Series focuses on Kraft MiO Fit’s ad with the 2013 Super Bowl.  Along with the standard participation of Pepsi and Coca-Cola, this year we will also see Kraft MiO and SodaStream.  The Super Bowl Series will take a look at each of these beverage manufacturers’ involvement with the Super Bowl.

Click through to read the rest of the Super Bowl Series:

Part 1: Super Bowl Series: Did Pepsi’s Crowd-Sourced Halftime Show Add Any Value?

Part 2: Super Bowl Series: SodaStream Banned Commercial Help Build Brand Recognition

Part 3: Super Bowl Series: Coke’s Social Engagement Effort Delivers Mixed Reviews

Kraft MiO Fit

While SodaStream made a lot of noise for it’s banned Super Bowl commercial, Kraft MiO also generated some buzz with its participation in the Super Bowl this year.  Having revealed that they will be featuring the Fit during the Super Bowl, they came up with this teaser campaign.  See the two videos below:

It appears that through the teasers, Kraft is aligning their liquid flavor enhancer with American patriotism.  With the colors of the American flag and the “America the Beautiful” being whistled in the background, would you agree?  The actual game day spot titled “Anthem” showcases Tracy Morgan asking you to welcome change to make America better.  After seeing the commercial, do you agree that MiO Fit is changing America for the better?  Did the commercial “work”? See the actual Super Bowl spot below:

Although MiO Fit could really be changing America for the better, it is highlighting a problem that no one really considered a problem in the first.  Was there anything wrong with Gatorade or Powerade that warranted improvement?  Most people do not think there was anything wrong with these sports drinks.  MiO Fit faces an uphill battle no matter what it does because it’s not just creating a product in an existing segment (flavor enhancers).  It is creating a new segment (liquid flavor enhancers) and must bring attention to a problem that no one was previously aware of.  In that perspective, it is changing America for everyone’s betterment since MiO Fit offers hydration and electrolytes to anyone with a bottle of water.  That is their end goal: raising awareness that there is a better delivery system out there for electrolytes.

In spite of this message, the feeling was that it lacked in overall effectiveness – the commercial did not work.  If you did not know already know about the MiO Fit, or if you were not a beverage fanatic, you would probably have dismissed this bland commercial.  Most successful Super Bowl commercials are funny or attention-grabbing, but it seems that the Fit’s commercial didn’t have enough of either component.  Super Bowl commercials tend to provide an easily followed storyline that can be communicated in 30 seconds or 60 seconds, using more imagery than words to convey this message.  Consider the GoDaddy Bar Rafaeli Smart-Sexy commercial.  Or the Doritos Goat For Sale commercial.  Both were memorable because it was funny, or it got your attention.  The Mio Fit commercial involved a lot of talking in 30 seconds, forcing the viewer to pay close attention in order to clearly articulate the message.  It lost the audience’s attention.  If it had kept their attention, then listening to the references about changing chicken nuggets and boy bands was actually funny.  Maybe if the spot was 60 seconds instead of 30, it would have had a stronger effect.  But cramming so much speech into 30 seconds without the showmanship of other Super Bowl spots is a recipe for disaster.  In the end, it seems this would be more suited for a YouTube release than a Super Bowl TV spot.

While the Kraft MiO Fit’s success cannot be judged by commercials alone, let alone one commercial, this one fell short of expectations.  It will depend on what else the liquid flavor enhancer comes up with in the future to promote this extension.  All great products fulfill a need, it’s just tough to get the right message across with only 30 seconds.

Super Bowl Series: Coke’s Social Engagement Effort Delivers Mixed Reviews

The third of BevWire’s 4-part Super Bowl Series focuses on Coca-Cola’s use of “second screen engagement” with the 2013 Super Bowl.  Along with the standard participation of Pepsi and Coca-Cola, this year we will also see Kraft MiO and SodaStream.  The Super Bowl Series will take a look at each of these beverage manufacturers’ involvement with the Super Bowl.

Click through the below links to read the other two parts of the BevWire Super Bowl Series.

Part 1: Did Pepsi’s Crowd-Sourced Halftime Show Add Any Value?

Part 2: SodaStream’s Banned Commercial Help Build Brand Recognition

Badlanders, Cowboys, and Showgirls all race toward the finish line for a bottle of Coca-Cola. Coca-Cola wanted viewers to vote at CokeChase.com to determine which group will win.  The winning group will be shown in the Coke ad after the Super Bowl game.

The general prognosis is that this year’s Coke Chase campaign was more successful than last year’s talking bears for the Polar Bowl.  Coca-Cola had released the original Coke Chase spot online before the Super Bowl, and also provided strong media support to hype it up.  There was even a spoof by Pepsi Next of the Coke Chase characters fighting to get a Pepsi Next rather than settle for a Coke.  All this led to a high level of buzz for the campaign, so much that it crashed the website as it experienced an unprecedented surge of site traffic.  AdAge’s Natalie Zmuda has a piece outlining how Coca-Cola decided what to do in real time during the Super Bowl to reconcile this problem here.  The ultimate goal was to have viewers vote for one of the three groups (badlanders, cowboys or showgirls) to win the race and the beverage at the end.  Coca-Cola would tabulate these results during the game and show the winning group getting the Coke following the game.

It was another effort by Coca-Cola to engage with viewers and communicate via the “second screen”, where users watching the television also simultaneously interact with  the advertising company or TV program through their mobile and computer screens.  Interact they did, to the tune of 1.3 million page views and over 900,000 votes for the different competing groups.  Despite these strong numbers, could this be deemed strong engagement by Coca-Cola with the audience this year?  Did most people stay to watch the Coca-Cola spot after the Super Bowl to see who won?  Were the results what Coca-Cola wanted?  See the original video:

My opinion is that the engagement exceeded expectations, and would have been even better had the server crash not occurred.  The amount of votes (900,000) certainly seems low considering the amount of sabotages (7.8 million), video views (3.8 million) and site visitors (1.3 million).  Everything was in the millions and the total votes were only 900,000?  I would expect voting to equal the amount of site visitors, or why else would you go to the website anyway?  If you were intrigued enough to visit the site, surely you would be engaged enough to vote.  However, this represents an enviable problem for Coca-Cola.  Interested viewers will keep on trying to log onto the site to vote, and this can be translated to a longer engagement period than simply logging on and voting in the first place.  The winning video generated about 50,000 views online, but there’s no definite way to quantify how many people saw it live even with the close game.  Here’s the winning video:

Since most people tune out after the game is decided, running a commercial following the game seems less likely to maintain their engagement.  However, voting and page views mattered more than the group wining the Coke at the end.  The end goal was to drive social engagement and  not to have one specific group win over another group.  The page view metric would be equivalent to that of over one million people viewing the original site, and clicking through another 6 commercials to sabotage the two other competing groups.  The winning video did not matter and the Twitter image below proves it: only 77 retweets and 57 favorites.

Note the minimal amount of retweets and favorites? Seems low for a Coke tweet considering the high profile nature of the Coke Chase campaign.
Note the minimal amount of retweets and favorites? Seems low for a Coke tweet considering the high profile nature of the Coke Chase campaign.

All in all, not too shabby for a company that was not the official sponsor of the event.  Think of how Pepsi always tries to insert itself into a Coca-Cola sponsored event (ie the Olympics) and there never being too much heard about them, at least not to the same extent.  Now think of how this was a Pepsi sponsored event and we often heard of Coca-Cola.  And parallel this with how the neon green Nike running shoes stole the spotlight during the 2012 London Olympics despite it being an Adidas sponsored event.

There will be many experts saying that Coca-Cola would have won this year’s cola war battle had it executed better.  This is likely true and will serve as a lesson for another broad scale event.  But being able to drive continuous engagement during a game, and getting over one million of these viewers to visit, vote, and click over six times to sabotage other competing groups is no small feat.  That itself already represents a win for Coca-Cola.

Super Bowl Series: SodaStream’s Banned Commercial Help Build Brand Recognition

The second of BevWire’s 4-part Super Bowl Series focuses on a portion of SodaStream’s involvement with the 2013 Super Bowl.  Along with the standard participation of Pepsi and Coca-Cola, this year we will also see Kraft MiO and SodaStream.  The Super Bowl Series will take a look at each of these beverage manufacturers’ involvement with the Super Bowl.  Click on each of the links below to read each of the 4-part series.

Part 1: Super Bowl Series: Did Pepsi’s Crowd-Sourced Halftime Show Add Any Value?

The above YouTube commercial represents the banned commercial from this year’s Super Bowl.  CBS rejected this version because it shows the Coca-Cola and Pepsi brands, as well as their bottles exploding.  These beverage giants are your annual participants that spend millions of dollars on your network, so it’s understandable that you do not want to upset them by having another advertiser humiliate the companies or their products.  For a relatively new player to the beverage market like SodaStream, this banned commercial marks a strong success – specifically because it was banned.  The new player must make some noise in the market to gain attention, and what better way to accomplish this feat than getting their commercial banned?  Traditional big-name companies want their ads to be seen during the Super Bowl since it has the largest viewing audience and helps them rename top of mind.  But for SodaStream and other emerging companies, this not necessarily be cost effective despite the desire to showcase their product or service.  These TV spots represent a significant investment ($4 million) and they may not want to get involved in a bidding war for only 30 seconds of publicity. They still want their ad to be seen, but their return on investment is much more critical to their bottom line.  By having their original ad banned and then creating a tamer version approved by CBS, SodaStream is maximizing their pre-game publicity.  Here is the approved version of that was shown on during the Super Bowl:

And like the banned version, the message still rings true.  You could have saved 500 million bottles if you had used their home carbonation product.

Since the day SodaStream publicized the prohibition of their original creative, they published the banned version online.  The commercial had already had amassed over 2 million hits after five days.  It’s no gangnam style or cute kitten video, but people are generally curious to see why certain things are kept from them.  Words like “banned” make it more intriguing to find out what was so alarming in the first place for it to be banned.   Consumers would go online to seek out the banned commercial after learning that CBS has prohibited them from seeing it.  SodaStream even advertises it now on their website, with the tagline of “Watch the SodaStream commercial they wouldn’t let you see during the big game”.

Despite all this heightened interest over the prohibited commercial, does this translate to anything material for SodaStream?  Will it generate sales or profits for the home carbonation beverage company?  The initial observation is that it will boost their Super Bowl return on investment, shortening the payback timeframe.  The total investment was $5 million given reports indicate that this ad cost $1 million to produce, along with the $4 million price tag of the 30 second spot.  To recuperate this $5 million, it would have taken Coca-Cola or Pepsi a few months since they have such a broad product portfolio and they are so well distributed in the marketplace.  SodaStream on the other hand is not as widely available and can be assumed to take longer to capture this $5 million.  They are also still trying to gain distribution in many locations, and lack the same level of brand recognition the other beverage advertisers has.

After this Super Bowl event, I do not expect brand recognition will be that big of a problem any longer.  Whether it was the company itself pushing to increase the public’s knowledge of their product or the media driving this exposure, SodaStream will become a household name.  And the stronger brand recognition will help them get into more retailers and sales locations.  For their existing outlets, this may represent increased sales.

What may have been 9 months or a full year to realize the gains could potentially be achieved in 6 months.  The total investment – $5 million – was certainly significant.  But the increased attention that resulted from the banned version along with displaying a Super Bowl commercial (during the fourth quarter of a close game) made this a worthwhile investment.