Non-carb gets jiggy with new product, in-your-face ads

There are any numbers of ways to cool off during the hot hazy days of summer - holing up inside your climate-controlled house; taking a dip in the pool; and reaching for a cold one - a juice that is.
It's the peak season for beverages - especially the non-carbonated kind.

There are any numbers of ways to cool off during the hot hazy days of summer – holing up inside your climate-controlled house; taking a dip in the pool; and reaching for a cold one – a juice that is.

It’s the peak season for beverages – especially the non-carbonated kind. Consumers are gulping down litres of chilled ready-to-serve juice and juice drinks – often as a refreshing alternative to water, says Nicole Belovic, brand manager at Coca-Cola Canada, Toronto. Coke has seen a 35% growth rate in its non-carbonated category, she says, adding that ACNielsen pegs the growth of non-carb consumption in Canada at 39%.

Little wonder then that most major Canadian juice marketers have picked this time to peddle their summertime favorites as well as their newest concoctions. Coke’s latest campaign for its new Mad River Beverages salutes the outdoors, while wacky Snapple ads urge consumers ‘to make Joe stop singing’ by drinking Snapple. All the key players, including Coca-Cola, Perrier Group of Concord, Ont., and Alfresh Beverages Canada of Toronto have flooded the market with awareness campaigns.

Last year in Canada, according to Toronto-based market researcher NPD Group Canada, juice, ades and drinks consumption far outweighed the consumption of carbonated soft drinks, especially among those aged 18 and under. In 2001, the average number of times a youth consumed juice/ades/drinks was 303.9 compared to 86.1 for carbonated soft drinks. In 1998, those numbers were 303.1 and 105.4 respectively.

According to U.K.-based global research company Canadean, which publishes country reports on the soft drink market, growth rates of nearly 10% were earned in the U.S. by the small ‘but ever expanding’ sports and energy drinks sector, which doubled its volume in the last decade. Packaged water consumption rose by more than 15% in 2001, which Canadean attributes to consumer desires for a healthy and refreshing alternative to carbonates, plus significant investment by new entrants in the market, especially Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola.

In the juice and nectar market, successive years of 3% to 4% annual growth rates leveled off in 2001 with sales rising by just 0.5%. A slightly larger rise is expected this year, Canadean reports, with much of the volume being absorbed by still drinks [everything non-carbonated from premium 'new-age' fruit drinks to inexpensive traditional juices for children], which increased by 140 million litres last year.

The juice category in Canada is definitely surging, says Gary Krupa, director of marketing at Alfresh. ‘It’s staggering the number of new launches and variations – little twists on flavour,’ he says. ‘There are a lot of active forecasts of growth within the core juice and juice drink business. That’s exactly why all of the big guys are getting that much more active.’

And demographics is the differentiator, he says, adding that as the population ages, core soft drink consumption declines. Juice consumption, on the other hand, is U-shaped: it’s high among kids and tweens, flattens out a little in the teenage years and early twenties, but picks back up beyond the twenties and remains that way, says Krupa. ‘For us, the aging population is great.’

And as the consumers age, they also begin looking for healthier alternatives, he says. ‘In beverages, there’s a split between the ‘new age’ enhanced herbal group – like Pepsi-Cola’s SoBe – and the all-natural, no sugar-added beverages, including Nantucket Nectars. It’ll be interesting to see how consumers perceive that,’ he says, but adds that split is sure to drive increased marketing spend.

Stephen Crawley, marketing director for The Minute Maid Company of Canada, says the new-age beverages, which tend to be younger-oriented, will typically have large bursts of advertising followed by none. As well, ‘The juices and drinks category is working hard to benefit from [the ongoing health] social trend.’

Last month, Coca-Cola launched Mad River Juice Beverages, its first enhanced juice product in Canada. Available in four flavours (summit berry, cranberry orange lemon, wild citrus and orange carrot blend) and sweetened with pure cane sugar, Mad River Juices are enhanced with botanicals including guarana, ginseng and echinacea and contain between 11% and 18% real juice.

The debut is being supported by out-of-home and radio targeting 18- to 29-year-olds in Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, Ottawa and Montreal. Coke worked with Marketing Drive Worldwide, Toronto, on the three original executions and one adapted U.S. spot (‘Rock Slide’). Mondialis of Montreal created the French campaign. Each execution features scenarios where nature has put its participants in tricky situations, says Belovic.

The ‘Bike Accident’ radio spot depicts a just-wounded mountain biker acting on the advice of the announcer to make a splint and drown his sorrows with a Mad River beverage. While the Mad River certainly won’t save the stranded biker (the sounds of wolves can be heard in the background), according to the voice-over, it might help him enjoy his last moments. The spot closes with the tagline, ‘Nature’s a Mother. Drink to it.’

Alfresh, which maintains the Everfresh, Fairlee, Sunlike and Tropical Grove brands, is the result of the merger of Sunlike Juice and the Fairlee Fruit Juice Company in 2000. It has debuted several new lines this summer including Berried, a berry-based beverage under the Everfresh brand, which is being supported by a first-ever consumer ad campaign (radio, transit and bus shelter) for the two-year-old company (see ‘What Were They Thinking?’ p. 7). This year the company also added Maple Berry Original and Fruit Fizzique to its roster. The latter, an all-natural, no-sugar-added carbonated fruit juice, is being targeted at older women, says Krupa, a group that is always looking for healthier alternatives.

‘This is a difficult group to reach – it’s harder to get trial and their media habits are incredibly diverse – unless you have Coca-Cola-style dollars, which we don’t,’ he says, adding that Fizzique may be advertised next year. ‘We’ve really got to pick and choose our battles. That’s why we opted to support Berried – our testing shows it’s easier to reach the 16- to 20-year-old male target.’

Minute Maid – a subsidiary of Coca-Cola – is currently hoping to make an impression with Fruitopia. ‘The Fruitopia brand has very strong equity with consumers in general and our target in particular. But that equity was beginning to soften and it was time to re-invigorate the brand,’ says Crawley.

TV advertising and cinema spots – with the tagline ‘Fruits of Imagination’- are being used to reach males and females 16 to 22 years old. The ‘Kaleidoscope of Colours’ campaign, which has been on air much of this year, is also being complemented by on online promotion with MuchMusic, where teens can enter to become a VJ for an hour on Much, as well as create their own ‘fusions’ of music.

Minute Maid is also pushing its Five Alive brand, which was recently expanded into four flavours (citrus, tropical citrus, passionate peach and berry citrus), with a series of five-second ‘Feel Alive’ vignettes targeting men and women 25 to 34.

Other category players, like Ocean Spray Mississauga, Ont., have also announced plans to join the fray. Ocean Spray, for example, which recently introduced white cranberry juice to Canada, is planning to begin advertising its latest product in the fall using U.S. television ads.

Crawley believes innovation will likely be the key driver in the category moving forward. ‘Innovation not just in flavours, but in formats,’ he says, citing as an example Minute Maid’s introduction of Fruitopia 2-litre cartons this year, and the re-emergence of tetra-pack offerings, both of which have experienced amazing success. ‘That’s where the juice and juice drink category is going to be getting its real growth.’

Flavour innovation is definitely what has helped the category make such inroads, agrees Marion Chan, VP, NPD Group, as have efforts in terms of trying to increase its network of distribution.

‘Five years ago, you were limited to grocery stores, a few independent grocers and major convenience store chains. Now they [juice manufacturers] are finding new places to make product available: look at all the gas stations with huge convenience stores – that’s becoming a huge market for both beverage and snacks – as well as new vending opportunities,’ says Chan.

So who’s making the biggest splash? We asked observers to share their thoughts on the category and the players’ various marketing strategies.

Peter Widdis, brand and marketing properties manager, Cadbury Trebor Allan, Toronto

In general with fast-moving consumer packaged goods, we as an industry have to continue to drive innovation. They’ve grown their portfolios immensely to include so many new flavours and benefits like calcium, vitamins and botanicals. But in my opinion, they’ve almost exhausted the recipe/flavour mix extension offering. And the risk is that you’re diluting your core brand equity, and you’ve got to be careful with that.

I think the next wave of innovation will be usage occasion expansion. To continue to increase consumption they may want to get consumers to buy more existing products, but for other reasons and at other times. The consumer right now is trained to drink OJ, for example, for breakfast. What about saying, ‘did you know it’s good to have orange juice for dinner because it’s got calcium and it can replace milk?’ They have to broaden the usage context for juices.

And packaging has been pretty stagnant. They should be looking at the next packaging innovation that could come into play. We just launched Mister Big Double Dunk, in a Vince Carter locker [box]. Clearly, our strategic intent is to position it completely differently from Mr. Big regular so that there’s minimal cannibalization. And I think that could apply to the juice category as well.

Randy Stein, CD, Grip, Toronto

Overall, this category is doing a lot of things right – Five Alive and Snapple radio are good examples. If you have fun in your advertising, your brand will simply be fun. It’s not rocket science.

I was first introduced to the Snapple campaign while listening to the radio in my car. This guy Jim sang a song about Snapple that made me laugh out loud. I think it’s the best creative on the radio right now. Then a few days later, I see a billboard that says ‘Drink Snapple or Jim Keeps Singing’. I don’t get it. I want Jim to keep singing. He’s funny. If buying Snapple means they pull Jim off the air, I’ll never buy Snapple again. If the goal of this campaign is to have people stop buying Snapple, it’s working.

I loved the Five Alive campaign the first time I saw it on TV. It’s wonderfully weird. Then I saw the outdoor. Squirrels doing action activities? Again, I’d be hard-pressed to articulate why it’s good advertising, but somehow it is. Squirrels on a dolphin make me smile.

I have mixed emotions about Fruitopia’s campaign. I give Fruitopia top marks for creating a brand and sticking to it. Too often we see brands constantly try to re-invent themselves. On the other hand, their TV kind of bores me now. I guess I’d love to see Fruitopia stay true to their brand while breathing some new life into their executions.

As for Mad River, it simply feels like new juice that’s trying way too hard to appeal to ‘outdoorsy’ people. The first time I saw the outdoor, the brand just felt like a poser.

Marion Chan, VP, NPD Group Canada, Toronto

The different flavours, the ‘niche’ additives like botanicals, are enhancing fruit juices in a way that is really hitting a chord with consumers who seem to be looking out for their well-being more and more. Kids are also going for the fun juices, but it seems there are certain brands – the Snapples and Fruitopias – that are really geared to teens and young adults, whereas some of the more sophisticated juice drinks are geared to the adult market. And as far as marketing goes, the target has to be top of mind at all times.

The opportunity for smaller brands is niche marketing, where they can really tout some of the benefits or differentiation between their products and the big brands. The major brands have the glitz and the marketing budgets. The smaller manufacturers can tout that they have a product with shorter runs, which means more freshness, for example.

Jennifer Goddard, Co-CD, Marketel, Montreal

The biggest thing I’ve noticed is that there isn’t much juice advertising here [in Quebec] at all. A lot of the products are on the shelves, but communications-wise, we’ve never heard of them. At the grocery store, they’re usually in completely separate sections – or refrigerated cases – for new or wacky California-style brands.

It may be the classic difference between Quebec and the rest of Canada: Quebecois don’t seem to have a care in the world about anything that’s natural or green or environmental, which a lot of the new enhanced drinks seem to be based on. I think here it’s either your basic orange juice or pop. Mind you, Five Alive TV does stick out for me. That’s a fabulous, wacky campaign – the five-second spots are great. My daughter’s 15 years old and she just loves it. As she says, it’s so random it’s perfect.