Cola war to get health punch this summer

Cola war to get health punch this summer

Author | Source: The Economic Times | Saturday, Apr 15,2006 7:25 AM

Cola war to get health punch this summer

It's the summer of flavours for the cola majors in India. The new theme that seems to be weighing on the minds of both Coca-Cola and Pepsi is 'healthy indulgence'. And that, along with flavours, promises to occupy much of the cola battlefield this season.

Little wonder then that Pepsi began its campaign with John Abraham who signs off with 'Less Than One Calorie, Go Play'. If Pepsi is packing its punch behind Tropicana, Mirinda and Mountain Dew, Coca-Cola has been pushing Limca for a few months now and more recently Sprite.

If you see a bigger push behind non-cola (flavours) brands, it's been precipitated by the negative residual association that seems to have stuck with Coke and Pepsi post the pesticides controversy. Interestingly, flavours are perceived to be out of the carbonated soft drinks (CSD) ambit in the mind of the consumer.

Punita Lal, ED (marketing) Pepsi, sees a big opportunity in the growing consumer interest in health and wellness. “PepsiCo already has an advantaged portfolio of non-carbonated beverages, such as Tropicana juices, Aquafina water, Gatorade sports drink, and a pipeline of innovative products to address the needs and contribute to creating both healthier and indulgent choices for consumers,” she says.

Although it's yet to become official, sources say, Coca-Cola is putting a wager on its fruit drink, Maaza. And of course, there's pressure on Coca-Cola to bring in Minute Maid juices and blends to plug into the nocarbonate segment, which is growing 20-25% annually. “The launch could get advanced, which is scheduled by the year end,” says a company executive.

“This summer, we plan to unleash the power of our full portfolio,” says Vikas Gupta, VP (marketing), Coca-Cola India. “In addition to the line activations, some aggressive product sampling too forms part of our summer strategy.”While the two push their flavours and non-CSD brands, they have a blitz lined up for their respective flagship brands.

Coca-Cola plans to leverage its association with the Fifa World cup and the next few weeks will see a lot of action around that. “The campaign will be aimed at generating excitement through roadshows and contests,” say company sources.

Pepsi will be relying on more traditional efforts. Adds Ms Lal of Pepsi: “In CSD, our single point agenda this year is portfolio play along with category growth and expansion.” The company says it has “the first-of-its kind occasion-build programme” that actually seeks to unlock new consumption occasions and bring in new growth volumes.

“We believe that while this may be slow burn, we are committed to it because it will pay rich dividends, by catalysing consumption behaviour at home. Our exciting Pepsi TV campaign is built exactly on these objectives of driving category growth,” says Ms Lal. It is learnt that Pepsi has lined up a slew of initiatives, including the Pocket Pepsi pack, and new PET designs for 7 Up, Mirinda and Slice.

Having bled for several years due to low price gambit and scary attrition amongst its rank and file in the last few months, the beverage giants want to plug themselves to consumers. Of course with a firm eye on their bottomlines. Don't expect any high ticket experimentation this year, say industry sources as the beverage duo want to use their existing arsenal to grab a higher share of consumer mindspace.

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