BevNET 2007 best packaging innovation: Fuze's NOS

Fuze didn’t exactly get off to a blazing start after its acquisition by the Coca-Cola Co. First there was a packaging switch for its core new-age tea line, then spotty rollouts plagued its Rehab recovery beverage. But the company-within-a-company had an ace-in-the-hole in its NOS energy drink, which had long held sway over a small but dedicated group of au­tomotive enthusiasts.

But things have turned around for Fuze ever since it caught nitrous in a bottle, modeling the NOS 22 oz. container after automotive afterparts maker Holley’s Nitrous Oxide System tanks. Having already licensed the drink’s name from the company, moving into the form of the product seems to have been a brilliant move.

“It’s our number one SKU,” says William Meissner, the chief marketing offi cer at Fuze. “It’s been absolutely a game changer for us [at Coke]. If you think of your company as a brand inside the system, I cannot emphasize enough that we are with the best system, but there are a million other things they can do and take to retail. It’s really given us a presence.”

The NOS bottle took a simple licensing ploy and turbocharged it, mak­ing it the kind of product any gearhead worth his axle grease would be de­lighted to see drinking. In fact, the jumbo-sized tank of energy has helped NOS break into a pile of exciting new channels, like Napa and CSK auto parts stores, Home Depot, and even NASCAR vending.

“Because it’s iconic to motor sports, it’s really going to be our prod­uct for the automotive channel,” Meissner says. “With that valve cover and the gleaming blue look, it’s become a real… I’m not a fan of the word novelty. Especially since it’s our number-one package in the [energy drink] category.”

Fuze has always had a strong emphasis on packaging for its core new age tea line, but hadn’t yet done major experimentation with the NOS brand. But one day Meissner was looking at a PET bottle for the drink, and it got him thinking.
“It just had this shoulder that re­minded me of the canister. We’ve got them here in the offi ce and we use them in our adver­tising, and we saw the bottle and the shoulder looked very similar. We went to [package designer] Zucker­man Honickman, they got after it and came up with the design. We saw it and said, ‘that’s close, is there any way we could make a closure that would look like the valve top?’”

By the time the design was done, Fuze had a great package – and a dedicated marketing angle.

“We literally bought every single auto magazine over September and October, so in that respect, marketing was really simple,” Meissner says. “And through Coke’s relationships, we now have the ability to serve it at a lot of racetracks, where we used to guerilla market.”