I just read this and thought I might contribute but the thing that caught my attention is the comment that every major mega brand over the last 2 years has added a line extension except for Sprite.
Anyway, here is the article and read for yourself.
NOVEMBER 08, 2002
SALES SLACKENING FOR LEMON-LIME
Cox News Service
ATLANTA -- For the third year in a row, sales of lemon-lime soft drinks are sliding. Beverage makers want to solve the stubborn problem, but how? Caffeine? More ads? Both tactics will be tried, along with others, as all three major U.S. beverage companies try to invigorate sales of their lemon-lime brands.
Coca-Cola is considering a line extension of Sprite called Sprite Tropical Remix. Pepsi is preparing for a big boost in distribution of its small lemon-lime brand, Sierra Mist. And the makers of 7Up are debuting a caffeinated soft drink called dnL (that's 7Up upside down and backward).
But they're facing some trends that aren't in favor of lemon-limes.
"Part of the lemon-lime category's problem is that some consumers who like clear, light-tasting beverages have migrated to bottled water," said John Sicher, editor and publisher of Beverage Digest.
Analyst Andrew Conway of Credit Suisse First Boston also blames the big beverage companies' lack of focus on the category's problems. Sprite, for example, is "tremendously underutilized," he said.
Sprite also has lost space in key places like vending machines and convenience stores as Coke bottlers make room for new products like Vanilla Coke.
Sprite still leads its category, but sales are down 4.2 percent in supermarkets so far this year, according to Beverage Digest; 7Up is down 4.4 percent, its eighth straight year of decline. Sierra Mist is up 2.2 percent but with limited availability.
Coke has long talked about the need to turn around Sprite, its third-biggest brand in the United States, but has had little success. And it could get tougher, because Sprite, which holds 61.3 percent of the category, faces more competition.
Charlee Taylor-Hines, director of Sierra Mist, said Pepsi has changed its philosophy about the brand, which debuted in late 2000 after Pepsi decided it needed a player in the lemon-lime category.
"It's going to be much, much bigger for us," Taylor-Hines said. "It's gone from a gap player to a real contender."
The key is availability. Pepsi has lined up near-nationwide distribution for Sierra Mist. By Jan. 1, it will be in 93 percent of the country, up from about 60 percent now.
The markets slated to get Sierra Mist in cans and bottles for the first time include Atlanta, New York, Minneapolis and much of the Carolinas. Until now, those places have had Sierra Mist only in fountain locations.
As more Pepsi bottlers pick up Sierra Mist, they are dropping 7Up, which is owned by Cadbury Schweppes.
Dr Pepper/Seven Up, the U.S. unit of Cadbury Schweppes, is lining up a new distribution network for part of the 7Up brand. The company also is launching dnL, which has caffeine and is a different flavor than 7Up.
"Long-term, I think the whole thing will really strengthen 7Up," said Mike McGrath, president and chief operating officer. Sales of 7Up have suffered because of changes in the lemon-lime category, plus a lack of push from parts of the bottling network, he said.
A more widely available Sierra Mist could be a tough competitor, McGrath added, but the brand also might help the whole category by raising interest in all lemon-limes.
Pepsi is planning a heavy promotional push for Sierra Mist in 2003. A Super Bowl ad campaign is one idea being considered.
The wild card in the category is a possible line extension called Sprite Tropical Remix. If it works, Coke could bring back the Sprite Remix name again, paired with other flavors. Conway isn't crazy about the idea. He thinks the core Sprite brand needs to be strengthened before trying an extension.
But Sicher notes that every other big brand has had an extension recently, from Mountain Dew Code Red to Dr Pepper Red Fusion.
"Of all the big megabrands, the one that still has had no line extension is Sprite," Sicher said. "Sprite still needs one and will benefit from it."