A Deep Freeze Smorgasbord

A FEW THOUGHTS WHILE waiting for the snow to melt, which should be just about the time we all arrive at Expo West…

Who would have thought that the fresh, healthy beverage (FHB) space  in the produce section would get to be so important that even shelf-stable juices (Zola, POM Wonderful) would fight to get a piece of that real estate? It just goes to show you just how appealing that crushed ice layer can be, and how little consumers are interested in center-store items. It’s been enough to turn even Bolthouse Farms into an enhanced water company, just to try to grab a little bit more of the produce section. I can’t wait to have to go down the grains and pastas aisle to have to pick up a potato or an onion.

…We have received word that Minute Maid Pulpy is the latest billion-dollar brand in the Coke lineup. As a juice brand the company launched in China five years ago and then expanded into other countries in the Far East, it begs this question: will it still be a billion-dollar brand if China allows the Renminbi to rise?

… We’re finally seeing a second wave of coconut waters – some are even dehydrated, which should make the folks at Amazon pretty happy.

… While we keep hearing that companies should master a specific region as proof-of-concept before they grow, we also keep hearing about incubators and master brokers who think they can pull in national accounts for brands. But here’s one roadblock: while national accounts are terrific, they’re only the key in some regions, like California and the Southwest. The Northeast is different – up-and-down the street is still important there. And it’s a combined model in other regions, as well. What works in Chicago doesn’t work as well in the rest of Illinois, let alone Michigan or Wisconsin. You have to wonder what that means for PepsiCo as it goes from six regions to four. Even the Russians in Red Dawn were more decentralized than that.

…So we’re in year nine or so of the functional beverage revolution (check out Gerry Khermouch’s column  in this issue) and we’re still knocking around not just the best functionality to deliver, but the best package to use to deliver it. Still, when ranging from shots to drinks to super-sized multiple-serving bottles, the hardest brand battle doesn’t just seem to be what to put out there, but the problem of “what else have you got?” And that can create a mean set of roadblocks for a developing brand. Would Function, for example, have had an easier time early on if it had just taken Urban Detox national, as it has long been the brand’s best seller?  For some products, the assortment might appear to be the key, but a single SKU is often the driver. Even vitaminwater, for example, had a clear leader in power-C, then focus, then XXX.  Still, that full line sure does make for a nice shelf, if you can get it. Wonder what will happen with the shot arrays like Tonic or I AM?

…Getting back to Minute Maid, who would have ever thought that Simply Orange could force changes in the way Tropicana goes to market? It just goes to show you that there is green space out there even in the tightest categories. Look at the inroads Xyience has made in energy drinks, the success of Xing and Sweet Leaf in cans, the growth of Neuro and Activate as strange-looking enhanced waters, even the ongoing inversion of the beer industry as all of the momentum shifts to craft. There’s always room for innovation, up and down the aisle.