Monday, March 3, 2008

Fruit Punch

A look at why beverage companies are adding fruits to the drinks trolley

This juice is worth its squeeze. At least cola majors Coca-Cola and PepsiCo think so. A couple of weeks back, when beverages giant The Coca-Cola Company announced its results for the October-December 2007 quarter, it attributed the growth in its Indian market to its mainstay brand Coca-Cola and its expanding portfolio of fruit drinks (beverages with 20 per cent fruit pulp).
Fruit drinks are increasingly filling the crates that were otherwise capped with fizzy carbonates in the Indian market. In October 2007, Coca-Cola India took its orange fruit drink Minute Maid national after a carefully phased launch that first covered major cities. Last month, PepsiCo rolled out its fruit drink, Tropicana Twister, nationally.
PepsiCo also announced that it expects to treble its turnover in the next three years, expecting a good portion of this increase to come from fruit drinks. Coca-Cola India has meanwhile launched its second communication campaign for Minute Maid and the company has also finished its test-marketing 200 ml carton packs of “Mazaa Aam Panna” in Agra, Bhopal and Bareilly. The company plans to launch the drink this summer.
The action by the global giants is partly in response to the local players. In March 2007, homegrown beverages major Dabur had launched Real Twist, its fruit drink in three flavours – Mango-Orange, Mango-Apple and Mango-Pineapple.
“Growth in the fruit drinks segment has been accelerated by increased consumption by teenagers in the last two years. With RĂ©al Twist, we are meeting the needs of teenagers who were looking for a product that is different and with which they can associate,” says K K Chutani, general manager-marketing, Dabur India.
It’s also because the fruit drinks segment is ripe for plucking. At Rs 1,200 crore, the juice and juice drink category is among the fastest growing segments of the approximately Rs 9,500 crore packaged beverages category. While fruit drinks as a category is growing at 18-20 per cent, carbonated soft drinks are growing at 6-8 per cent.
However, more than 90 per cent of sales happen through the unorganised route — juice centres, street corner shops and so on. It’s this 90 per cent that companies are tapping. “Hygiene is a huge issue at most of these outlets. A well-packed fruit drink can surely tap this market,” says Venkatesh Kini, vice-president-marketing, Coca Cola India.
Competitors agree. “It’s the fastest growing liquid beverage category. The young consumer has clearly displayed a liking and a need for fruit drinks,” says Sucheta Govil, executive director- innovation, PepsiCo India.
The other part of the strategy is to cater to the evolving consumer tastes. “The Indian consumer of today is clearly seeking healthier alternatives,” says Sharda Agarwal, a former marketing director of Coca-Cola India and a co-founder MarketGate Consulting.
“Bottled water and fruit-based drinks are benefiting from the healthier tone that Indian consumers have taken. Moreover, the soft drink market is maturing,” agrees Sunil Alagh, chairman, SKA Advisors.
Hence, TV campaigns of both companies emphasise the presence of fruit. For instance, Pepsi’s campaign shows a young boy sipping from a bottle of Tropicana Twist only to find pretty girls hurling oranges at him, in a way symbolising the fruit rush that the consumer gets after drinking the juice. “We plan to spread awareness about health benefits of fruit and fruit juices through various nutritional programmes,” says Govil.
Coca-Cola India’s campaign for Minute Maid shows fruit pulp disappearing from oranges only to be found in the drink, promoted widely as Pulpy Orange. The company focused a large amount of it promotions on sampling.
Apart from television and print advertisements, Coca-Cola India distributed free samples to consumers at malls, offices, shopping arcades multiplexes and other places in most major metros to create awareness. “We distributed more than a million free samples. Once consumers taste our product they would be hooked to it,” says Kini.
But the same confidence seems to be missing on ground. In a dipstick study conducted by Business Standard, It was found that close to 50 per cent of restaurants, bars and hotels surveyed did not stock the new variants launched by Pepsi Co or Coca Cola India.
Bar and restaurant owners believe that these drinks are of little use to them as customers prefer carbonated drinks as they mix well with other spirits. They also believe that most of their customers are not in an health conscious frame of mind at their joints and hence most do not see any value in stocking these drinks.
Hotel owners are also of a similar opinion that customers trust them on hygiene, but would not prefer such fruit drinks due to the preservatives present in them. Says one, Fresh fruit juice always tastes different, these drinks are just not the same.
Another points out that their fresh fruit juice are higher ticket items at Rs 30-45 a glass than these drinks. “Fruit juice and fruit drinks will sell more at kirana and convenience stores. They require the more traditional FMCG medium of distribution,” agrees MarketGate’s Agarwal.
But the other 50 per cent who stock support the products are positive. Pepsi retailers are optimistic that there will be demand for the drink once the advertising and campaign picks up. Minute Maid retailers claim that they already sell 1-2 bottles in the same time in which they sell 10-12 bottles of Coke or Sprite.
Further they believe that sales are low because its winter. It’s a common belief amongst them that once summer sets in demand will surely increase for these drinks. Hotel owners in affluent areas claim that they are already experiencing a pull for the drink.
This pull is essential as the focus on fruit drinks is also an attempt at portfolio diversification. Both Coca-Cola and PepsiCo discovered this, much to their discomfort, when consumers started to shy away from Colas following reports of contaminated water in the carbonates— twice in the last five years. A diversified portfolio, consultants believe, will empower companies when crisis strikes.
Both companies decline that this is the real reason behind pushing fruit drinks. They say that they are merely leveraging the market opportunity. Says Kini, “The market for carbonated drinks is 10 times larger than the fruit drinks segment. We are launching this product because our research shows that the Indian customer is ready.”
Globally, however, both Coca-Cola and Pepsi have no qualms in accepting that their focus is on building a strong portfolio of non-carbonated drinks. Coca-Cola’s global strategy has been to target newer markets with carbonated drinks and to build a strong non-carbonated drink brands and healthier carbonated drinks like diet-colas, sugar-free drinks and so on.
The results are also showing globally. For instance, Pepsi’s juice brand Tropicana Premium’s global sales is higher than carbonated drinks like Mirinda and 7Up. Also sports drink Gatorade and Diet Pepsi rank second and fourth in terms of world wide retail sales clearly signifying the shift towards health drinks.
Non-carbonated drinks is also more profitable. In 2007, 62 per cent of the volume sales of PepsiCo Beverages North America were accounted for by carbonated drinks, while non-carbonated merely contributed 38 per cent. However, in terms of revenue, non-carbonated drinks contributed to 69 per cent while carbonated drinks generated only 31 per cent.
While it’s too early to compare volumes in India, the pricing of the products can shed some light on the attractiveness of the segment. While a 500 ml bottle of Pepsi or Coke costs Rs 20, a 350 ml PET bottle of Tropicana Twister costs Rs 22, while Minute Maid costs Rs 25 for a 400 ml PET bottle.
While Coca-Cola and PepsiCo are climbing up the price ladder, Dabur is driving its price point down with Real Twist. That’s because the company has traditionally marketed fruit juice and nectar, which contain 80 per cent or more of fruit pulp.
After targeting, housewives, children and senior citizens with its premium juice offering Real and its variant Real Activ, the company has extended its portfolio with Twist to reach out to the youngsters. Real Twist is priced at Rs 45 for 1.2 litres on the other hand its fruit juices like Real and Real Activ are priced between Rs 72 and Rs 85 per litre.
Even PepsiCo and Coca Cola India are looking at the age group of 18-29 years and 20- 29 years respectively. Both companies have also tweaked the taste of their global products to suit the Indian palate.
“Indians like their juice with more orange and more sweet. Hence, we have made it so,” says Coke’s Kini. Will consumer response be equally sweet?

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