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BOLD Promotions Drive Beverage Sales

December 16, 2011
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Non-alcoholic beverages such as exotic sodas, sports and energy drinks, and bottled water are seeing bolder packaging and promotions on the private-label side and diversification of offerings on the branded side as companies try to keep sales numbers healthy in today’s slow economy.

Branded energy drinks like Red Bull and Monster have distinguished themselves through marketing that appeals to young men, co-branding with alternative rock and hip-hop music as well as competition in extreme sports.

On the private label side, store brands are becoming considerably more sophisticated with their label designs, while trying to ensure product quality keeps pace, says Andy Dratt, executive vice president of Imbibe, Wilmette, Ill. “People will try it based on how it looks, and they’ll buy it again based on how it tastes,” he says.

Lorina Inc., Coral Gables, Fla., which makes premium private label French sodas, has introduced a 14-ounce single-serve bottle and a four-pack of the single-serve, says Sophie Rufin, director of marketing. She believes private label beverages need to find a central location in the refrigerated case and build eye-catching seasonal displays. “Visibility is the key,” Rufin says.

Steve Fay, executive vice president of Berner Food and Beverage, Roscoe, Ill., knows of retailers who have promoted their private labels through offers tied into the purchase of a branded product. “That is bold,” he says. “That is saying to the consumer, ‘Try, and compare it.’ ”

Displaying refrigerated beverages with other items in-store, such a ssandwiches or take-out dishes like salads, is another way to increase sales.

Energy drinks scored the largest sales increases during the year ending Aug. 7, 2011, with sales up more than 14 percent; sports drink sales rose more than 10 percent, while bottled water inched up a more modest 2.8 percent, according to SymphonyIRI Group, Chicago.

Between 2005 and 2010, sales in these subcategories remained largely stable, according to a May 2011 report from Mintel International, Chicago.

The numbers on soda have remained steady despite people’s wellness aspirations, especially among children and young adults, and people with lower incomes, Mintel reported. Bottled water dipped slightly from 2008 to 2010, possibly due to more people simply turning to the tap, the report says.  

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