With consumers increasingly embracing new types of soft drinks, such as health and energy brands, the more traditional players in the market know they have to evolve in order to keep growing. Re-branding, range extensions and new flavours are the order of the day for the established players and, as Annette Sessions found, there is no shortage of activity.
Arguably of all fast moving consumer goods soft drinks top the league in new product development. Functionality and health are the current drivers, recently acknowledged by both Coca-Cola and PepsiCo at a consumer conference held in New York.
Coca-Cola predicts that non-carbonated drinks will overtake carbonated beverages in Europe within three years and it sees teas, energy drinks and non-carbonates becoming the most profitable part of its business in Europe, Eurasia and the Middle East. PepsiCo too says it will seek out healthier additions to its portfolio of drinks.
To keep both their traditional carbonates alive and well the companies have added flavour extensions along with new-look packaging. Fanta, the flavoured carbonate from the Coca-Cola stable, has shown the way by successfully introducing line extensions such as Fanta Fruit Twist and Fanta Exotic. Sprite, another Coca-Cola brand, has added Sprite Remix, Sprite Ice – with a hint of mint – and Sprite Zero.
PepsiCo, for its part, now has a cherry version to its Mountain Dew brand called Code Red and a blueberry flavoured Pepsi Blue which is currently being launched in France. And, as to colas, both companies have benefited from successful launches of added lemon and vanilla variants, with Diet Coke with Lime now tipped to be the next big launch in 2004.
In the UK, Lucozade has proven that a brand can reinvent itself. This drink developed by a Newcastle pharmacist in the 1930s and thereafter marketed as an aid to convalescence in the 1950s by Beechams, was given a new lease of life in the 1990s with the launch of Lucozade Energy. Since then it has never looked back and in many respects has spearheaded the UK energy drinks sector. GlaxoSmithKline continues to support the brand with vast marketing spend, the latest being a £5m support package to promote the ‘brain and body’ energy benefits.
New advertising for Lucozade bears the strapline of ‘Stop your concentration wandering keep it happy with Lucozade’. Rachel Harris, Energy Group brand manager, said: “The new news is that Lucozade Energy has been shown to help maintain concentration and alertness. This means that it is ideal for those who suffer from mental energy slumps during the day.”
Britvic Soft Drinks’ brand Robinsons, which can trace its brand heritage back to Victorian England, has just announced the biggest change in its history with a total brand investment of £31m for 2004. Richard Collins, Britvic’s director of brand marketing, said the goal was to transform Robinsons from a British institution into an “iconic brand, resulting in a retail sales value growth of 50% in five years”.
Activity gets underway in January with the launch of a new fruit drink for adults called Fruit Spring. There will be three variants, Raspberry & Lemon, Apple & Lime and Apple & Cranberry. With no artificial sweeteners, colours or flavourings and made with still spring water, the drink will, says Richard Collins, satisfy a grown-up palate that seeks healthy refreshment. March sees the launch of a new dilutable ‘Robinsons for Milk’ aimed at children aged between 3 and 12. It contains 10% fruit juice to create fruity milk drinks.
“This demonstrates Robinsons’ ability to stretch into new sub-categories and occasions with a product that will appeal to kids and also have the backing of parents because it comes from Robinsons,” said Richard Collins. The brand’s traditional squashes are also getting a makeover, with new look packaging with new descriptors and new flavours in the pipeline.
Tizer, launched in 1924 and the brainchild of Fred Pickup from Manchester, has maintained its popularity and modern image via a number of rebranding experiences. To reflect the increasing demand for low-calorie drinks, Sugar Free Tizer was introduced in 1988 and in 1993 the whole range was redesigned to reflect an upbeat image. Then in 1996 a new design change took place that introduced the now familiar strapline ‘Refresh your head’. This month sees a further rebranding exercise with £1.5m being invested in new packaging, website and an advertising campaign with the aim of repositioning Tizer as a cool, quirky, irreverent brand in the competitive market with a new strapline ‘Itz a Red Thing’.
Meanwhile, in the US Dr Pepper, with its acknowledged unique taste, is one of the oldest mainstream soft drinks in the country. It was developed and first sold in Waco, Texas, in 1885. Today, with regular and diet versions it is now the leading brand in the soft drink portfolio of Plano, Texas-based Dr Pepper/Seven Up Inc, the largest beverage division of Cadbury Schweppes plc.
What keeps Dr Pepper in the top league of US soft drinks is the management’s commitment to provide ample resources to grow the brand, accompanied by ongoing consumer research. Addressing an annual bottlers meeting in October Jim Trebilcock, senior vice president, consumer marketing, said diet soft drinks numbers are up by 5.4% so far this year as he outlined a comprehensive and aggressive marketing plan for 2004. “We call our 2004 Diet Dr Pepper marketing plan ‘Diet Riot’ because we are tapping into the consumer trend.”
At the same time the brand’s marketers will be targeting Hispanic consumers with additional emphasis on the brand’s ‘heartland’ region in Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Arkansas. And on the innovation front, a new football-shaped bottle is being tested as part of the collegiate football conference promotions.