Pepsi Spire’s Launch Fuels Competition and Innovation

Pepsi's range of the Spire. There are three different sizes and versions (1.1, 2.0, 5.0) to help customers cater to their consumers' needs.
Pepsi’s range of the Spire. There are three different sizes and versions (1.1, 2.0, 5.0) to help customers cater to their consumers’ needs.  From left to right: Pepsi Spire 1.1, Pepsi Spire Ice Dispenser, Pepsi Spire 2.0, Pepsi Spire 5.0 counter top unit, Pepsi Spire 5.0 freestanding unit, Pepsi Interactive Vending Machine, and Pepsi Smart Cooler.

Since 2013, Pepsi has been testing an interactive fountain unit similar to Coca-Cola’s Freestyle.  It looks like the testing is complete and they chose to launch the interactive fountain dispenser as Pepsi Spire (after trademarking Pepsi Touch, Pepsi Fusion, and Pepsi Smart Cooler).  The Pepsi Spire comes in three sizes offering restaurant customers up to 1,000 beverage combinations, here’s the media release from Pepsi.  It is currently available in over 50 locations in the U.S.  Spire’s launch comes nearly five years after Freestyle, but Pepsi has taken this time to tweak issues that were present during Coca-Cola’s launch: customer frustration and social integration.

Pepsi launched Spire with three different sizes, relative to Coca-Cola’s Freestyle launch in only one size.  This will certainly be pleasing to restaurant owners.  One of the initial concerns for Coca-Cola’s Freestyle was that some restaurant may not have strong enough customer traffic to justify the available flavor combinations.  This would exclude the Freestyle’s availability for smaller restaurant.  Having smaller units with fewer combinations solves this problem.  This leaves only the top flavors and most popular combinations available for the smaller unit (40 combinations for Pepsi Spire 1.1), and offers the broadest assortment for the largest unit (up to 1,000 combinations for Pepsi Spire 5.0).

Pepsi also understood that the “maker” movement is both interactive – and social.  Despite no direct mention of social media integration, Pepsi has demonstrated the ability to incorporate the usage of mobile phones, Facebook, Twitter and other social platforms with their equipment.  While it is widely understood that most dining experiences are social, Pepsi found a way to make this experience more inclusive with your peers.  Pepsi’s smart equipment also has the ability to provide the restaurant customer with popular beverage combinations at that location, further integrated social and local demographics.

Pepsi Spire 2.0 – the interactive fountain unit integrated with smart equipment to provide popular beverage combinations as well as real-time insights for restaurant owners.

The launch of Pepsi Spire has spurred Coca-Cola to improve the Freestyle.  Coca-Cola recently introduced a mobile app allowing users to share their drink combinations with other users and pre-mix drink combination to scan at the Freestyle unit.  Coca-Cola also announced two smaller Freestyle fountain units coinciding with the Spire’s launch.  To minimize market news and maintain a competitive landscape against the Pepsi Spire, Coca-Cola’s Freestyle has also introduced smaller Freestyle units that dispense 35 drink combinations or 80 drink combinations.

The Pepsi Spire’s adoption rate should be relatively quick given their unit size flexibility as well as their own customer exclusivity contracts.  Beyond customer push tactics, consumer trends and social integration will help pull the Pepsi Spire into more on-premise locations.

The Cola War heats up again with the arrival of Pepsi Spire, this time on the fountain unit frontier.

Pepsi Brings Propel Back to Gatorade

Propel - from the makers of Gatorade
Propel – from the makers of Gatorade

After a couple years differentiating itself focusing on the lifestyle space, Pepsi is re-launching Propel water under the Gatorade hydration portfolio.  From AdAge, Natalie Zmuda shares that the enhanced water brand will update its product packaging, remove the “zero” from its product name, and position itself as a hydration beverage for regular exercisers (article link here).  Unlike Gatorade, which is targeting the serious athletes and is a sports drink, Propel helps fulfill an athlete’s need with water – not an isotonic.  Still, the question remains how effective can Propel compete within the crowded enhanced waters space?  And given all the changes to the Propel franchise, how will consumers perceive Propel after another restage?

With popular brands like glaceau vitaminwater, glaceau smartwater, and SoBe Lifewater in leading market positions, Propel still manages to control a 13% market share.  It has remained competitive as a result of the brand’s equity and the consumer’s affinity with the hydration beverage.  The franchise will look to strengthen its market position by catering toward “routine exercisers” and piggy-backing on the Gatorade name.  Their updated packaging will feature the line “from the makers of Gatorade” to drive awareness and availability.  This point is critical to Propel’s growth, as owning a part of the consumer’s mind becomes increasingly important with the enhanced waters market expanding to include with more brands in recent years.  Even Pepsi themselves has plans on introducing a premium water brand – Qua – within the year. (article link here).  The competition within this segment is fierce, and owning a particular segment – the casual athletic segment – helps Propel stake its claim in enhanced waters.  With Gatorade also catering to the athletic segment, it would not be surprising to see more promotional efforts where Propel and Gatorade products complement one another.

Propel Water. In 2009 (L) and in 2014 (R).
Propel Water. In 2009 (L) and in 2014 (R).

The issue surrounding product perception could have been a tougher obstacle to overcome.  Propel was originally introduced under the Gatorade before moving away from the athletic consumer in 2011.  As consumers and their drinking habits evolved, the Propel brand followed the moving target to become more of a lifestyle water brand.  Instead of continuing to target males/females 25 and above, their core target demographic moved up to Boomers and Generation X.  Measured media spend to celebrate the new positioning was over $10 million.  Three years following this direction, Propel is changing their focus and advertising message.  Again.  If not for leveraging the Gatorade brand name, Propel may have a tougher time connecting to younger consumer segments after structuring the communication toward a difference audience.  With the sports drink’s backing, Propel has a stronger platform to broadcast their marketing message toward athletes and exercisers.

Regardless of the marketing message and target demographic, the product fits into the changing needs of consumers.  Propel is well-received as evidenced by their market position.  With the support of Gatorade, Propel’s path on the road to success becomes much less challenging.

Propel The Workout Water
Propel The Workout Water

Pepsi Next May Find More Success in Canada

Pepsi Next Canada

After launching in other parts of the world for the past two years, Pepsi Next officially launched in Canada.  Unlike the American version that contains 60% less sugar compared to the regular Pepsi, the Canadian version contains 30% less sugar.  The difference is a function of the sweetener composition.  The American version is sweetened with artificial sweeteners such as high fructose corn syrup, acesulfame potassium, and sucralose.  The Canadian version is naturally sweetened with stevia extract. This difference affects how Pepsi Next is marketed on both sides of the border.  How will Canadian consumers respond to Pepsi Next and its marketing communications?  More curiously, how much of the marketing communication will be customized to the Canadian market?

Pepsi supported Pepsi Next’s introduction with a pre-launch promotion, partnering with the NHL and the Heritage Classic hockey game in Vancouver.  Here is part of the Canadian consumer reaction to the beverage as captured by Pepsi below.  The initial consensus indicates positive response to the beverage.

While mid-calorie soda is still an emerging product area for Canadians, it is certainly on point with what most people are looking for.  Canadian consumers are more health-conscious and more proactive at seeking out healthy food offerings.  Sugar intake and calories per serving are more top of mind for Canadians shopping within grocery stores.  A product that provides the same taste without any bitter aftertaste (like the American Pepsi Next) and contains less sugar helps to lessen the guilty burden.  Naturally sweetened with stevia also helps to increase adoption since artificial sweeteners are also perceived to be less healthy.  Consider Pepsi Next similar to the early successes of the vitaminwater Canadian launch.  The enhanced water brand pioneered a new segment with a health-based product positioning at a time when consumers were beginning to question what they eat and drink on a daily basis.  The beverage met their requirements given its appeal as a great tasting healthy product.  While Pepsi Next is still a soft drink and cannot be considered “healthy” in the traditional sense, it is healthier relative to the other soft drinks.

Following it’s launch, Pepsi Next has ran a TV commercial adapted from the American Pepsi Next “Baby” spot.  The Canadian version included some very noticeable differences.  The key components being the refreshed packaging, the slogan of “Taste It to Believe It”, and of course, the “30% less sugar”.  The call to action of “Taste It to Believe It” is clearly catering to the Canadian audience.  The American slogan is “Drink It to Believe It”.  The customized “Taste” instead of “Drink” speaks toward a different value system between the two countries.  “Drink” implies consuming the entire beverage.  “Taste” obviously imply giving the product a try.  Perhaps the Canadian population may be more cautious at first toward trying a new beverage, but adapting the slogan clearly shows customizing the message toward the Canadian audience.  In order for Pepsi Next to succeed in Canada, this is a great first step.

The truly telling piece will be how Pepsi Next is supported following the launch period.  We know from earlier articles that Dr Pepper TEN and Pepsi Next are not sustaining earlier launch-period sales following reduced media support (article here).  With less attention dedicated toward the product, consumer focus will shift toward other health option.  Pepsi Next can maintain its launch momentum and also continue its early success if it keeps advertising to maintain its awareness levels .  Let’s hope the Canadian marketing team learns from what happened in the U.S. and find more success than its neighbors south of the border.

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.

Coca-Cola’s Reply to SodaStream: Keurig Cold

Courtesy of nytimes.com

Most people by now may have heard of Coca-Cola purchasing an investment stake with the makers of the Keurig machines – Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (GMCR).  For those that haven’t, there’s some quick information from the New York Times here.  As a result of this deal, Coca-Cola appears to be making its first foray into small home appliances and endear itself more closely with consumers.  Experts have called this a great deal for both companies, providing each with mutual benefits.  But is this really the case where both companies benefit?  And what about other companies, should companies like Pepsi, SodaStream, or Starbucks be concerned?  Let’s take a quick look, first at the participating companies and then toward the others that are potentially affected.

For GMCR, this is partnership born out of necessity that will secure their footing in the single-serve beverage marketplace.  Following 2012, Green Mountain’ single-pod (K-Cup) cup patent expired and paved the way for other manufacturers (namely store brands) that could make these beverage pods cheaper.  To ensure survival of this increasingly rich revenue stream (more than two-thirds of the company’s revenues come from these pods), GMCR took to forming licensing agreements.  Coca-Cola was added to a licensing roster that already includes Starbucks, Lipton, Snapple, Timothy’s, Kahlua, and many more.  With a Keurig machine that produces single-serve hot beverages and now one that can product single-serve cold beverages, Green Mountain has certainly done well to ensure its survival.  With Coca- Cola’s reach across the consumer distribution channels, the Keurig machine will see dramatic business growth over the course of their 10-year pact.  Think of what Coca-Cola has done for beverage brands like evian, Monster, and vitaminwater.  An even better scenario would be signing Pepsi to a licensing agreement as well, which will further increase the Keurig’s machine placement among households and strengthen their dominance in making branded single-serve pods.

With Coca-Cola, this is a partnership that further segments the beverage landscape, and answers competitive pressure from new entrants to the ever-changing beverage market.  Coca-Cola is undoubtedly answering SodaStream’s “Sorry Coke and Pepsi” campaign about how the global beverage manufacturer is creating waste through its plastic bottles.  With single-serve pods and small home appliances, Coca-Cola is able to compete in a position similar to SodaStream – providing carbonated beverages at home without the need for plastic bottles.  And Coca-Cola now has an opportunity to exist on the counter shelf within the household, in addition to the refrigerator, pantry and garage.  Think about the ability to remind the consumer to consumer or purchase your product when your products are so pervasive within their household.  The next step to success for Coca-Cola may be investigating opportunities to leverage Coca-Cola Freestyle (create your own beverage mix) with the Keurig Cold, building on consumer insights to provide custom combinations and offer exclusive flavors “voted” by consumers.

Courtesy of belloblog.com. Scarlett Johansson stars for SodaStream’s 2014 SuperBowl spot – “Sorry Coke and Pepsi”.

For SodaStream, this marks their inclusion into the Soda Wars that has primarily existed between Coca-Cola and Pepsi over the past few decades.  If you keep on making eye-catching commercials targeted against the beverage conglomerates, they are certain to pay attention and respond.  This may be detrimental to SodaStream given the extra competition toward securing household counter space, but it also calls for innovation and a return to focus on the product benefits.  SodaStream’s foundation is still their ability to make soda at home, less expensive and without the use of plastic bottles.  Similar to GMCR, SodaStream must innovate and work to secure more licensing agreements.  Beyond Kraft and Ocean Spray, SodaStream may also work to sign on other brands such as Pepsi, Dr Pepper, and many more.

Now that Coca-Cola has invested into single-serve pods, it’s almost certain that Pepsi will respond in some way with their own pod offerings.  They responded in the past to Coke Zero with Pepsi Max and Dasani Drops with Aquafina FlavorSplash, amidst a host of other gap-filling products.  Pepsi surely won’t allow Coca-Cola to dominate the consumer’s counter space when their own offerings are just as robust, so it will only be a matter of time before Pepsi take the Soda War to the small home appliance.  The question is when and with whom.

The dark horse in all this may actually be Starbucks.  Starbucks had trademarked the name “Fizzio” with the intent to produce their own carbonated beverages.  To expand on their own burgeoning beverage empire, Starbucks may need to move up the deadline for when the Fizzio will be launched, or partner more closely with GMCR to serve both hot and cold single-serve beverage pods.

This news of Coca-Cola and Green Mountain Coffee Roasters signing a 10-year agreement has certainly created ripples across the industry.  The impact that has yet to be fully fleshed out with retailers as well, and that itself will be another article in the coming weeks.

evian Replaces Coca-Cola With Red Bull

Courtesy of designtaxi.com
Courtesy of designtaxi.com

It appears that Coca-Cola and evian have both outgrown their distribution partnership.  Come July 2014, Coca-Cola will stop distributing evian waters (read the full story here).  Consequently around that same time, some U.S. cities may see evian being distributed off Red Bull delivery trucks (that story found here).  While Coca-Cola & evian describe the agreement’s termination as an opportunity to refocus on their core businesses, it may simply be Coca-Cola wanting to re-focus on their own water brand as smartwater continues to build sales.  With this adjusted partnership, who wins and who loses?  Coca-Cola, evian, or Red Bull?

It would seem that Coca-Cola is constantly looking at ways to ensure delivery truck space is stocked with as much Coca-Cola-owned refreshments as possible.  Coca-Cola appears to be re-evaluating all their distribution agreements in order to locate new growth opportunities.  It was only two years ago in 2012 that Coca-Cola ended a distribution agreement with Nestea to focus their attention on Fuze – which so far has left consumers upset since Nestea is not as broadly available.  Fuze also appears to have failed to expectations given consumers still prefer Nestea.  Has Coca-Cola been supporting Fuze with the appropriate level of marketing?  This indicates that while in-house products (Fuze, smartwater) may offer better profit margins, licensed products (Nestea, evian) may perform better given a stronger sales record (that was built with Coca-Cola’s distribution network).  Will Coca-Cola look to remove Monster Energy from their distribution infrastructure as well?  While smartwater may have stronger sales than Fuze, the question remains whether smartwater will be able to outperform evian.  If smartwater outsells evian, then Coca-Cola would have benefited from the distribution change-up.  The same logic would apply for all other products that Coca-Cola distributes.

For evian, this change comes at a time when the company is in the midst of introducing new product packaging.  The fact that the premium water brand needs to revitalize their packaging to stay competitive is disheartening.  This is a sign that evian must re-align some aspects of their product (this time it’s the packaging) in order to re-communicate the product benefits to the consumers.  With distribution changes occurring simultaneously, the impact is amplified and more detrimental. Consumers looking to repurchase evian waters may find fewer selection in addition to not recognizing the 14-year-old evian plastic bottle.  Retailers may be less confident in evian, observing so much change in such a short time.  However, Red Bull is a strong partner and is building up their own distribution network.  With the partnership agreement ending in July 2014, this still gives evian a little time to build more infrastructure to replace Coca-Cola’s footprint.  evian appears to be disadvantaged in this new arrangement, given the fragmented nature of their distribution system.  Even if evian could establish the same footprint as before, they still must compete against smartwater for shelf space given the opposite sales trends of these two premium water brands.  Still, evian is part of The Danone Group and would be able to leverage the strength of their yogurt distribution network.  Possibly weaker distribution, but evian should be none the worse off.

Courtesy of asiantrader.biz
Courtesy of asiantrader.biz

For Red Bull, this is an opportunity for them to improve their business through new opportunities.  While their innovation track record outside of energy drinks has been poor, the sales of their energy drinks has been steady and growing.  The fact that the energy drink manufacturer has returned to their roots among product innovation, they have also been creative to find new revenue-growing opportunities.  This is where distribution becomes that great growth opportunity.  As they deliver energy drinks to their retail customers, they can now satisfy more of the retailer’s beverage needs by bringing them evian as well.  While evian is the first manufacturer to explore product delivery through Red Bull, there are other product manufacturers that may leverage Red Bull’s distribution infrastructure in the future.  If Red Bull can expertly manage the evian distribution relationship and help the premium water brand regain sales momentum, then Red Bull stands to have many other growth opportunities in the future.

It would appear that Red Bull and Coca-Cola have more upside than evian in this new arrangement, but upside nonetheless.  It would also be important for other beverage manufacturers to take notice of what is happening here.  Would evian be better off approaching Pepsi to see if they can leverage a partnership with them?  And if you’re Monster Energy, this offers short term gains with more truck space.  Question is, will Coca-Cola one day end their distribution agreement to focus on Nos and other Coca-Cola owned energy drinks?

Coca-Cola Expands “Official” Olympic Drink Portfolio

Courtesy of eprize.com

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

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

Courtesy of designyoutrust.com

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

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

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.

Revisiting the Mid-Calorie Soda Segment

Courtesy of adage.com

Does anyone still remember Pepsi Next or Dr Pepper 10?  Anyone know how well these drinks are performing?  It seems that since their launch last year, not much has been said about these hybrid-sweetener sodas.  Pepsi has been focusing on their core offerings of Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, and Pepsi Max, while Dr Pepper has been left with the task of bringing news and excitement to the entire mid-calorie segment.  So far, it seems that mid-calorie sodas have taken a backseat to regular and diet cola products.  In the past two weeks, there has been some major stories from Advertising Age (link here), brandchannel (link here), and even myself at Canadian Grocer (link here) on how mid-calorie soda is doing.  While manufacturers recognizes the importance of this segment, it’s just not gaining momentum within the consumer market.  So what is wrong with mid-calorie sodas?  What will it take to make these drinks a success?

The jury is still out on whether mid-calorie soda is a success or a failure, but it’s certain that the beverage companies have not been supporting it at the levels necessary for long term success.  It seems that marketing efforts were most prolific during the launch period to gain awareness, but has not kept pace over time when it was most critical to win consumers over: the repeat purchase.  At release, news reports indicated that these drinks endured high rates of consumer sampling.  Pepsi and Dr Pepper gave away these carbonated drinks for free to stimulate trial.  However, the repeat rate has not been mentioned as much.  That is, how many consumers given a free can of mid-calorie soda ended up purchasing these particular drinks later?  Not much apparently.  Reports have indicated that the mid-calorie drinks’ sweetener leaves a bitter aftertaste and has led drinkers to stay away from it.  Therefore, people that were given that free can may have liked it because it was free, but would choose to drink another soda (or an alternate beverage) when they have to pay for it.

Courtesy of Forbes.com

Both sodas companies should have maintained marketing support to focus on championing the benefits of these new products.  Despite the bitter aftertaste, the fact remains that fewer calories are consumed per serving.  Pepsi Next and Dr Pepper 10 should have talked up these benefits relative to other sodas in order to win over consumer perception of a bitter aftertaste.  Instead, they continued on leveraging against the humor (Pepsi Next with their Baby commercials) and gender exclusivity (Dr Pepper 10 with their Manliest Man commercials).  It would have been better to educate the consumer as an alternative to other beverage segments with an identical amount of calories, or other sodas that were sweeter but contained the most calories.

So how can they make these beverages and the overall mid-calorie segment a success?  Or are these drinks primed to quietly disappear like so many other beverages before their time?  Does anyone still remember Coca-Cola Blak?  Or Pepsi XL? Or Orbitz?

Advertising and promotions.  Both Pepsi and Dr Pepper should keep up their mid-calorie advertising efforts to maintain brand awareness.  It seems like an obvious solution to ensure mid-calorie sodas stay alive long enough to see their potential through.  However, in organizations where performance is judged by quarterly performance and not much else, there is no room for tweaking unless it’s on-the-fly.  The interim period from when a new mid-calorie sweetener will be introduced is very crucial for manufacturers to preserve their shelf space.  These beverages must be afforded marketing support and in-store promotions to drive repeat purchases.  Without consumer incentives to stimulate purchases, retailers will have no choice but to remove slow sellers from the aisle.

The fact remains that health groups have picked out carbonated soft drinks as a strong contributor to obesity.  Consumers are also more focused on the sugars and calories they put in their bodies.  Mid-calorie sodas taps into these trends very well.  These soda innovations contribute less to obesity (relative to their full calorie counterparts).  It will also meet the needs of calorie-conscious individuals that want less sugars.  Whatever the case, mid-calorie sodas are here to stay and are crucial for the survival of the soda segment.  If not Pepsi Next and Dr Pepper 10 this time, it will be something else in the near future.

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.