Coke’s Variant And Regional Products Strategy Loses Fizz

New Delhi: | Updated: Jul 30 2002, 05:30am hrs
Coca-Cola India’s aggressive strategy to launch ‘regional brands and flavours’ to expand the consumer base in the softdrinks market, seems to have backfired. For in the summer of 2002, the carbonated soft drink market has neither favoured its Fanta ‘flavours’/‘variants’ nor has it taken kindly to its regional brands like Rimzim.

Not surprisingly then, the soft drinks major’s deputy president Mr Sanjiv Gupta went on record to say that the company will henceforth pursue what it calls ‘only big ideas and dump small ones’. “We have realised that we haven’t been successful with small ideas,” Mr Gupta told The Financial Express.

In particular, Mr Gupta was referring to the launch of two variants of its fruit flavoured soft drink brand Fanta and two small regional brands RimZim and Portello. “The variants business has not done too well in the market and we have decided to withdraw all variants,” admits Mr Gupta.

Fanta watermelon, a variant of motherbrand Fanta orange was first withdrawn less than six months after its launch. The variant which was launched along with Fanta green apple in July last year, was taken off the shelves in November 2001 following its slow offtakes from the marketplace while the other variant—green apple—has been withdrawn recently.

As part of the strategy, the company has also decided to withdraw Rimzim, the masala soda drink which was test-launched in Gujarat and Maharashtra late last year. The fate of ‘Portello’, a black currant flavoured drink which is popular in Sri Lanka, also hangs fire.

Last year, both the soft drink majors CCI and Pepsi Co India extended their fight to a different turf ‘the Rs 200-crore fruit flavoured soft drinks market’ with a similar strategy: they dipped their hands into their global flavour repository and launched new flavours skewed towards regional tastes.

Interestingly, both the companies chose to leverage their existing brands—Fanta in the case of CCI and Mirinda in the case of Pepsi. While Pepsi introduced Mirinda brown apple, CCI on its part launched Fanta water melon and Fanta green apple flavours. The launch of Fanta’s new flavours was driven by the brand’s impressive growth—the brand was relaunched in 2000 and the product registered an impressive growth of 30 per cent.

Further, the southern market-where the variants were first launched—is skewed towards flavoured drinks. Pepsi’s Mirinda apple, on the other hand, also did quite well in the initial launch phase when the company extended its packaging from 300-ml glass to 500 ml PET bottles. However, not much was heard on the variant since then this summer.

The Pepsi spokesperson, however, maintains that the Mirinda apple variant has done well in some pockets. “We are focusing only on few concentrated pockets and have not invested in advertising in the variant this year,” he said.