Industry insiders unsure of Red Bull’s “Simply Cola”



Red Bull said Tuesday it is rolling out its new “Simply Cola” product in seven countries, but industry insiders are unsure what to think about the all-natural slim-can soft drink from the energy drink king.

@@img “This could be brand of the year in a year, or it could be shuffled out to Big Lots to get rid of it in a year,” said Jim Folsom, president of the Folsom Distributing Company.

Folsom said he was sure that the drink would make it on to the shelves because Red Bull has too much muscle for retail chains to resist the push. However, whether the cola product will capture its own piece of the cooler or cut into the parent brand’s space is something Folsom said he can’t predict.

“A couple of months from now, I’ll have the answer,” Folsom said.

Havana Beverage President Alexander Nixon called Red Bull “a great company,” and said they have good products, but didn’t understand the company’s intention behind their cola offering.

Prior to “Simply Cola,” Red Bull had only produced two products: Red Bull, and Sugar Free Red Bull. Nixon noted that neither of the originals fit the natural foods segment, while their cola offering – made of all-natural ingredients – could.

But, he said, he didn’t believe that buyers for natural food outlets like Whole Foods – which plans to introduce an energy drink section – would be interested in a product line with only one SKU available to them.

Red Bull may also struggle with cola pricing, Nixon said, which tends to require much smaller profit margins than energy drinks do. Nixon also compared the branding of the product to Crystal Pepsi.

“I think of Red Bull natural cola as an energy drink, whether it is or it isn’t,” Nixon said. He added that energy drinks have been acquiring a stigma that could hurt the Colas’ sales in both the natural channels and mainstream stores.

Ken Wrathaol, who runs the non-alcoholic beverage portfolio for Nevada Beverage, didn’t have high expectations for the drink.

“I think there’ll be some initial trial, but as far as long term, I don’t know if cola energy will make it,” Wrathaol said.

Since Nevada Beverage is a Budweiser wholesaler, Wrathaol said, the company deals in Monster energy rather than Red Bull products.

“We have Monster Assault as a cola energy flavor,” Wrathaol added. “It does well, but by far the regular and low-carb products are the biggest movers in the category.”