Merchandising Features / Trend Features / Tactics
A Walk Down the Aisle - Beverages

What to Drink?

July 18, 2012
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The beverage aisle continues to be a very innovative category, especially when it comes to private label products. Read what else our secret shoppers found that can help you sell more PL beverages.
 
Speed to market is one of the key factors in the success of the fairly dynamic private label beverage category, according to Jim Wisner, president of Libertyville, Ill.-based Wisner Marketing.
 
“The beverage category in many ways is changing at light speed with new products, new flavors and new packaging, and it keeps coming,” Wisner says. “Sometimes you see some retailers sitting on their hands a little bit before they catch up to these new categories. It took a while before retailers started introducing vitamin waters, for example, and some of the other enhanced waters.”
 
Wisner adds that he sees an opportunity for beverages to add new flavors and things such as bright, graphic shrink wrapped, molded, fancy bottles such as V-8 uses for its juice drinks.
 
PLBuyer sent three of its secret shoppers to check out the beverage aisle of food retailers in Missouri, Arizona and North Carolina in June, and asked them to evaluate how their local stores market and merchandise their private label beverages.
 
In addition to looking for in-store merchandising, shoppers also recorded prices of comparable private label and national brand 2-liters and 12-packs of Cola, drink mix, and bottled water and conducted their own taste tests.
 
The goal of our walks down the aisle is to provide our readers with market intelligence and insight you can use.
 

MARKETING VARIES

Private label marketing in the beverage aisle continues to vary from retailer to retailer. Shopper Sarah C. reported that she did see in-store ads/signs for private brand products, but there were no shelf tags comparing private brand prices to national brand prices. In some cases, such as with the powdered drink mix, private brand products were shelved directly next to the national brand products.
 
Bill K. did see in-store ads/signs for private brand products in his store, but there were no shelf tags comparing private brand prices to national brand prices and private brand products weren’t shelved directly next to similar national brand products.
 
Mike G. notes that because Price Chopper is part of the AWG cooperative, which has private brand signage on its 18-wheel delivery trailers and occasional features in the newspaper flier advertising, it rarely promotes its private brands in-store or otherwise. He also didn’t notice any shelf tags comparing private brand prices to national brand prices and says in general in the beverage aisle, private brands were not shelved directly next to similar national brand products, except in the case of bottled water.
 
Most of the price gaps between the private brands and the national brands were fairly small, with a few notable exceptions.
 
The biggest price difference was a $3.30 difference between DejaBlue brand water and Price Chopper brand water.
 
At the Fry’s in Mesa, Ariz., shoppers get one 12-pack of Coca-Cola for $4.99 and they get two 12-packs of Big K brand private label cola for the same price, $5.
 
Some of the price gaps were minute, such as a 15-cent price difference between the Crystal Light brand drink mix and the Kroger brand drink mix, and a 50-cent price between the Coca-Cola 2-liters and the Big K brand 2-liters both at the Fry’s in Arizona.
 

TASTE TESTS

Shopper Bill K. tried the Laura Lynn brand Spring Water and said that it tasted unremarkable. “Tastes like water!”
 
Secret shopper Mike G. bought the Best Choice brand and cola in a 2-liter bottle. “It’s satisfying in that it is cold and sweet, but the flavor lacked a bit of the punch and distinctive nuance that I prefer in the cola category.”
 
Sarah C. says that between the national brand and the private brand bottled water, she would choose the national brand because it tastes better. “However, the store brand is fine; often I will buy it if I don’t have a coupon that makes the national brand less expensive than the store brand.”
 

OTHER OBSERVATIONS

One interesting observation from Sarah C. was that the Coca-Cola products and Dr. Pepper products were side-by-side on one side of the drink aisle and the Pepsi and private brands were on the other side.
 
Bill K. noticed that unlike in the deli category last month, where the private label packaging was similar to the national brand product, private brand beverages had a unified look, but didn’t attempt to mimic the national brand beverage packaging.
 
Mike G. did his shopping earlier in June and noticed that the week after the Memorial Day holiday, there were multiple specials on national brand products that made the prices more competitive, but still higher. He also noted that the powdered drink mix wasn’t in the beverage aisle, but rather on an aisle end placement adjacent to the beverage aisle. 

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Big K versus Coke, NO WAY!!

Andy Pigcarin
July 25, 2012
Big K always tasted like sucker water with some fizz to me as a kid. Yukon Club was the superior canned soft drink and sometimes even beat Pepsi in taste tests. Safeway Select hits some high points because it is bottled/canned by Cott. Cott's Lotacola was a good competitor to Pepsi.

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