By Ray Latif
With the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) show returning to Atlanta for the first time since 2010, executives from the Coca-Cola Co. didn’t have to travel very far from the company’s downtown headquarters to the show’s location at the Georgia World Congress Center. That was probably a good thing considering that they certainly had their hands full with a heap of new products and packages that Coke unveiled at the event.
Staffed by a small army of sales and marketing executives, Coke’s sprawling booth was packed with a broad array of line extensions and packaging updates, each highlighted by the company’s new Digital Cold Vault platform. The video-based technology uses demographic data and market insights that give C-store operators the ability to customized beverage sets each designed to increase sales and shopper satisfaction on a store to store basis.
Embedded within the Digital Cold Vault presentation were several of Coke’s new product introductions, which the company termed as “business-generating innovation.” From the recent launch of Sprite Cranberry, to an upcoming revamp for Vitaminwater’s 20 oz. bottles, to a new cold-activated 16 oz. can, Coke sought to offer retailers new ways to attract consumers and maximize shelf space.
“Retailers are looking for meaningful innovation that drives traffic,” said Doug Williams, Asst. VP of Shopper Marketing – Convenience Retail, The Coca-Cola, Co. Inc.
For Coke, part of that meaningful innovation meant doubling down on its presence in the liquid water enhancer category, which was pioneered and dominated by Kraft Foods’ MiO brand. Coke’s foray into liquid water enhancers began in October 2012 with the launch of Dasani Drops, and earlier this year, the company introduced Powerade Zero Drops, a likely response to MiO’s launch of MiO Fit, a sports-centric line extension. Coke will soon extend the “Drops” platform with products from Minute Maid and Vitaminwater Zero, both scheduled to debut early next year.
Minute Maid Drops is “the only liquid beverage flavor enhancer in the U.S. made with real fruit juice (an important driver of purchase intent)” according to a fact sheet that Coke distributed at the NACS show. The products contain 5 calories per serving and will come in three flavors: Lemonade, Pink Lemonade and Mango Tropical. Each will be packaged in a 1.9 oz. bottle.
Vitaminwater Zero Drops will launch in late March 2014 and is a line of naturally sweetened, zero-calorie liquid water enhancers that are packaged in 3 oz. bottles. Coke will debut the new line with four varieties: XXX, an acai-blueberry-pomegranate flavor, Revive, a fruit punch flavor, Squeezed, a lemonade flavor, and Rise, an orange flavor.
A line of liquid water enhancers wasn’t the only brand extension for Vitaminwater. Coke has reprised the short-lived Vitaminenergy with a new line called Vitaminwater Energy. Similar to Starbucks’ Refreshers brand, the products are naturally sweetened and formulated with an energy blend that includes green bean coffee extract and B-vitamins. Unlike the previous incarnation of the line, the non-carbonated beverages are packaged in slim 12 oz. cans (as opposed to a 16 oz. package) and contain 50 calories per can.
Coke also showcased a new bag-in-box fountain dispenser for Vitaminwater. The 4-value unit uses a Postmix Bag-in-Box, each of which holds 2.5 gallons of liquid. The fountain station will dispense four Vitaminwater varieties: XXX, Revive, Essential and Vitaminwater Zero Squeezed.
On the packaging front, Coke is planning a mild revamp of Vitaminwater’s 20 oz. bottles. Along with a slightly shorter package, Coke has simplified the look and design of the labels, which will more prominently feature the brand name, and eliminated much of the added text that has been a mainstay of Vitaminwater packaging since its inception. Additionally, the products also included the phrases “nutrient enhanced water beverage” and “naturally sweetened” in bolder font. The new look is scheduled to roll out next year.
Coke also introduced a few new packaging options for its flagship cola. Keying on recent innovation seen from beer conglomerates (MillerCoors) and entrepreneurial beverage companies (Hiball) alike, Coke has introduced a new 16 oz. cold-activated can. Like offerings from Coors and Hiball, the can features graphics that change in color depending on the temperature of the package. The front of the can features an image of a white contour glass, and when the can is chilled to 46 degrees Fahrenheit, three blue-colored cubes appear inside of the glass.
The cola giant also introduced a limited-distribution 19.2 oz. can which highlights Coke’s promotion with ESPN’s “College Game Day” show as well as partnerships with NASCAR and the upcoming 2014 FIFA World Cup. Described by Coke as “a traffic-driving package,” the can — which was first introduced to the market by craft brewer Oskar Blues – will be distributed in select markets around the country with a suggested retail price of $0.99.
While the new cans certainly garnered a significant amount of attention at the show, it was Coke’s new 6-pack of 12 oz. cans that turned quite a few heads. The “Sixer,” a name that Coke has trademarked, is a slim cardboard package that can be retailed and stored horizontally or vertically, an attribute that Coke says will appeal to consumers living in small households. The new 6-pack will be utilized for a variety of Coke products including Diet Coke, Fanta, Barq’s and FUZE.