The beverage business blog from Andy Morton
If you would like to offer your comments, opinions, suggest topics or just have a good rant, please feel free to email: Andy Morton.
Coca-Cola by any other name as PepsiCo hams it up
25 Jul 2012 17:41
Euphemisms abound on a PepsiCo conference call today. In a display worthy of the most superstitious of actors, CFO Hugh Johnston delicately dodged all direct references to arch-rival Coca-Cola Co.
Johnston instead referred to the company as “our primary competitor” before throwing out an assortment of "them", "they"s and other non-specific pronouns.
I half expected him to talk about “the Scottish Play” before wishing one and all a broken leg.
How not to interview the Bacardi family
16 Jul 2012 15:48
Bats in the belfry
As a journalist, we're charged with asking the difficult questions. Unfortunately, it's very easy to ask the wrong ones.
Late last week, I was at the Savoy in London for the unveiling of Bacardi's 150th anniversary blend. It costs just shy of US$2,000 a bottle and, because the Bacardi family took a personal hand in its blending, some of them were there for the occasion. Which is how I managed to fall into conversation with family patriach Toten Comas Bacardi about the company's long-running court battle with Pernod Ricard over the Havana Club name. (For a crib sheet on the long, but often fascinating, affair, click here.)
Toten was immensely happy that Bacardi can lay claim to sole rights of the trademark in the US and can go ahead with expansion plans that could see Bacardi's version roll out beyond Florida.
For some reason, I decided to follow this line of questioning up by asking him if he thought there was a marked difference between Bacardi's Havana Club and Pernod's. "Ha!" exclaimed Toten. "Night and day, night and day." And with a polite laugh he left me to it, impromtu interview over.
Journalists are taught that they have to ask the stupid questions. But sometimes stupid questions are just that. Stupid questions.
Getting lobsters on the shelf in China is not just the snack industry's problem
11 Jul 2012 14:14
Cheesy does it
A guest blog from PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi the Financial Times today caught my eye. The company has just opened a new manufacturing plant in China that, it hopes, will help extend the reach of its Lays potato chips, which Nooyi says have now been tried by 40% of the country's population.
Lays has done well because the company has marketed flavours that fit in with the vast choice of snack options people in China look for. So, instead of boring old beef & tomato, there's hot-and-spicy fish, wasabi, and Sichuan-style hot pot flavours. My favourite when I lived in south-west China was lobster and cheese (see picture), mostly because of the packet's decidedly decadent cover model who seems to be enjoying what can only be described as a cheese waterfall.
Let's hope PepsiCo can be as imaginative with its beverages, even though the need is less - beverages don't have to deal with the traditional range of choice in snacks.
Where the two industries do share a problem is the lack of uniform grocery stores across China. I bought those lobster potatoes chips in WoWo, a chain of convenience stores you'll only find in Sichuan. If I'd been in Shanghai I would likely have bought them in Lawson. Other provinces have their own grocery chains, while there are also the ubiquitous mom-and-pop shops that sell the same things but in one-eighth of the space (and never cold beer). This means manufactures must strike separate deals with all of these regional variations to cover the whole country, severely limiting a company's reach.
Like most things in China, though, it'll change soon enough. The Japanese-owned 7-11, which has been in China since 2004, is expanding rapidly through China's second-tier cities and, from what I could see, is winning the fight against local convenience stores by having clean, brightly-lit units and a good range of items (plus cold beer!).
That's got to be good news for PepsiCo, and fans of lobster and cheese potato chips.
France vs England - now big in Japan
28 Jun 2012 17:03
Just the other week they battled to a 1-1 draw in the football, but it seems France and England are continuing their centuries-long grudge match on the soda shelves of Japan.
Our exclusive picture, snapped in a Japanese convenience store this week, shows Schweppes and Orangina fighting it out shoulder to shoulder just one week after the 97th anniversary of the battle of Waterloo.
It's one for the ages, this. After all, what's more English than good-old Schweppes, now owned by US-based Dr Pepper Snapple Group. Or as French as Orangina, where the concept for the drink originated, but now owned in Japan by Suntory and in North America by, er... Dr Pepper Snapple Group.
It seems in this incarnation of the Anglo-Gallic feud, it's the Americans (and the Japanese) that win.
The ultimate doggie treat - beer
25 Jun 2012 16:34
Give the dog a bone, or a beer
Beware booze hounds. A family-owned firm in the US has released a beer for dogs.
But don't worry, there's no chance of Fido getting a hangover, or any of those other nasty side effects canines get from drinking fermented beverages; like dying. Bowser beer is non-alcoholic, non-carbonated and contains no hops, which can be poisonous to dogs.
In fact, there's not much in Bowser Beer to mark it out as a beer. It does come in an authentic-looking six-pack, however, which could come as a shock to bleary-eyed owners fumbling around for a morning stiffener after the night before. And, did I mention that it's meat-flavoured? This is one hair of the dog you don't want to be bitten by.
Take a look at these dogs enjoying a bowl-full.
A rare old time at the LIWF
25 May 2012 11:21
Another year, another wine fair. Isn't that what you're supposed to say? Except this was my first LIWF, and there's no jaundiced-eyed view here - I had a rare old time.
My colleague Chris Mercer wrote a far more involved summary of the show, which you can read here, discussing whether it is still worth holding. But for this first-timer, an annual get together where you meet face-to-face with people that more often than not you only speak to on the phone, or through a keyboard, is surely worth keeping.
Plus, it's a lot of fun, something that was abundantly clear yesterday afternoon as chucking-out time approached and everyone unloosened collars and ties.
Old-school journalists used the euphemism “tired and emotional”, by the end there were a few visitors doggedly pinballing from stand to stand. One happy chap even presented the just-drinks booth with a fine bottle of Riesling. Meanwhile, the press tent was under attack from someone who kept evading staff to scoff the area's free biscuits.
The wine fair, though, is much more than a chance to steal snacks from hard-working journalists. As Chris points out in his article, it offers the opportunity for the wine industry to learn from each other. The seminars and masterclasses can give back so much, and where else can you sample wine from India or Greece or other new emerging wine markets?
My only disappointment was I didn't get a chance to wander the floor as much as I had hoped, which is the great treat of shows like LIWF. So don't call time on it yet - I want to go back next year.
Vimto's sweet success for Ramadan
04 May 2012 09:43
Vimto has been sold in the Middle East for the past 25 years
A trading statement from UK soft-drinks maker Nichols this week unearthed an interesting nugget: apparently, Nichols-owned Vimto is very popular in the Middle East during Ramadan.
The brand has been sold in the region for the past 25 years, Nichols told just-drinks, and performs well throughout the religious festival because it's non-alcoholic and sweet.
A quick call to a handful of popular Ramadan restaurants in the UK backed this up.
"People like fruity drinks during Ramadan," said Ali from Imran's Restaurant & Sweet House in Birmingham's famous Balti Triangle. "When people have been fasting all day they like to drink something sweet before they start eating food."
Imran's doesn't stock Vimto, however, and neither does the Lahore Kebab & Sweet House just down road. But, when told that it's a big-seller in countries such as Saudi Arabia, the manager there suggested that might change.
"What's good for the goose is good for the gander," he said.
Nichols should get on the case.
Singapore puts Coke on sale for love, not money
12 Apr 2012 14:00
How much is a hug worth? In Singapore, at least, it's worth exactly one can of Coke.
That's not bad, especially at today's exchange rates. But then, this is merely Coca-Cola's latest marketing campaign, a vending machine that delivers cans of Coke in return for a correctly positioned squeeze, not the beginning of a new world bartering system (be it one that would enliven the weekly supermarket trip).
So far there's just one machine, at Singapore University, but it has already received much attention from the world's media, just as previous innovative Coke dispensers around the world have.
There was the Friendship machine in South America that gave out two Cokes for the price of one, but only if you roped in a friend to help you reach the extra high coin slot.
A machine at a US university racked up more than 4.5m YouTube hits when it dispensed multiple cans as well as flowers and balloons.
These “Happiness” machines were all one-offs, promotional stunts that worked wonders for Coca-Cola's social media profile. The 'Hug Me' version is the same, although vending machines in Singapore do have previous in the area of product development.
A Singaporean source told me that Coca-Cola uses the city-state to test run some of its more advanced technology. Back in 2000, Singapore piloted the SMS vending machines that customers texted to buy a drink. Those machines were later rolled out globally.
My source said Singapore is a good testing ground for vending machines because locals use them for all sorts of things, including buying fresh bread. Also, he says, there is a high population density, many early adopters, low vandalism and an excellent public transport system that offers highly visible locations.
It all adds up to vending machine utopia.
So, if the 'Hug Me' machine performs well in the Lion City, there's every chance the rest of the world will be able to get their hands on one in the near future.
And judging from the official Coca-Cola press release, Singaporeans have welcomed it with, ahem, open arms.
Unfortunately, there's no word yet on whether the company will limit the 'Hug Me' system to machines that just vend individual cans.
The big question is, if a can is worth a hug, what would you have to do for a multipack?