Next month sees Just Drinks’ sister company, Arena International, host the ‘Innovation in Non-Alcoholic Beverages’ conference in London. In the run-up to the event, we caught up with one of the speakers, Tata Consumer Products’ head of global innovation, Liliana Caimacan.

Tata’s head of global innovation, Liliana Caimacan

Just Drinks: What are your responsibilities at Tata?

Liliana Caimacan: It’s been almost three years since I joined Tata as head of innovation for the international business. I consider opportunities to innovate within beverages for business growth. My main focus is on three tea brands – Tetley, Good Earth and Teapigs. We also look beyond hot tea, so we have RTDs as well as energy drinks and kombucha.

JD: How successfully does Tata’s brands’ recognition transfer into RTDs?

LC: In any segment where there’s high competition, the unique proposition of a brand is very important. You need to deliver specific benefits for consumers, ideally in a segment where that hasn’t happened yet.

When you enter a new segment, you need to understand the competitive environment, the market opportunity, the trends and what fits with your brand. Combine all these elements, and you’ll have a strong proposition, even in a very competitive market.

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JD: How difficult is it to leverage a brand that is established with older consumers towards newer trends coming through from younger consumers?

LC: That’s always the challenge for any brand that’s been in the market for a long period of time. I remember from my time at Unilever, it was the same story: Girls don’t want to use the same soap or shampoo as their mothers!

Younger consumers don’t want to drink tea. That’s not necessarily because their parents drink it, it’s because tea got very boring and commoditised. An established brand has to reinvent itself and keep it relevant for younger consumers – That’s fundamental. The portfolio has to be fit for purpose, answer consumers’ needs and be relevant to current trends. Then, capture their attention and deliver the benefits.

When a brand stops communicating, it loses its connection with consumers and becomes a value-for-money proposition. Promotions will keep you alive for a while, but it’s not sustainable in the long-term – that’s a recipe for disaster and for decline.

Line extensions are a way of preventing a brand from getting old with its target group. You can stretch a brand, but not so far that it threatens its credibility.

JD: You’ve launched a Good Earth kombucha extension. How do you feel about the longer-term prospects for the kombucha segment?

LC: The segment is in strong growth in many markets, thanks to its ‘health & wellness’ cues. Consumers are very active in looking for propositions that will improve their health. That’s a good base on which kombucha can build.

As consumers become more aware of what kombucha actually is and what its benefits are, I can see it becoming a big segment in beverages.

The ‘Innovation in Non-Alcoholic Beverages’ conference takes place in London on 3 & 4 November. For further details, click here.

How soft drinks is trying to save the world, one bottle label at a time – Click here for a Just Drinks comment