Sunday, December 21, 2008

Stevia... Is it really the Holy Grail?

Over the past few years, the various labs at Coke, Pepsi, Dr Pepper Snapple, P&G, and Unilever have been testing and learning about Stevia. Work that has been building to this week's announcements from all the bevcos that 2009 will see their first commercial uses of the ingredient.

The natural, non-nutrative sweetener has been a target for beverage companies ever since Clearly Canadian had their success destroyed by the advent of standard nutrition labelling (NLEA) back in the early 90s.

Stevia has been on the radar for a while. It had initial negative press due to a study that said the ingredient put holes into the rat livers. But since then the ingredient has become better understood, and (I guess) the rodents are healthier:

The ingredient itself is known to be tough to work with, and has a bitter aftertaste when used alone. Hence the initial Coke offerings (Sprite Green and an Odwalla flavor) also use some sugar. An interesting start that will allow TCCC to get some real world experience with commericalizing the ingredient at scale.

Within 24 hours both PEP and DPS also said that they would have stevia products in the market in 2009.

So, the Billion Dollar question remains - can stevia end the slide of Carbonated Soft Drinks?

At the surface the argument could be made that stevia will make soft drinks healthier - removing consumer's biggest concern about their consumption.

But, my feeling is that consumers have now experienced a vast variety of taste in different forms and functions, and they like it. Stevia in a CSD cannot stop their decline. But it could slow the decline down...

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Foods, Fluids and Beyond Blog by Neil Kimberley at www.foodsfluidsand is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

This Just In...

Follow this link for a well researched piece, with a different perspective on the state of Ocean Spray.

... From The Onion.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Battle Of The Snowflakes

Take a walk down the soda aisle at your local supermarket and you will notice that its seasonal packaging time on your favorite 2 Liter bottles and 12 pack wraps.

Starting at Thanksgiving, soft drink marketers struggle to create some relevance for when their products because they are out of season. They have to find a way to remain relevant to the holidays, but not make the product look out of date on December 26th.

The answer has become the winter scene on the label... And this year both Cadbury and Coke have decided to use the snowflake.

While this transition to seasonal packaging looks simple to the retailer and consumer, there is a whole industry of design studios, packaging managers, creative services managers, label printers, brand managers, bottling production managers who have to work together to make it all happen.

This is a lot of work, and since 80% of soft drinks are sold on deal (irrespective of label design)... you have to wonder whether there isn't a better way to use these resources...

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Foods, Fluids and Beyond Blog by Neil Kimberley at www.foodsfluidsand is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Neutrogena... Energy???

We have become used to all kinds of foods becoming "energy" through added caffeine, B Vitamins or other stimulant like ginseng or guarana. But the latest use of energy has me somewhat stumped.

The beautiful Jennifer Garner appeared on my TV last night (from - the video needs to be manually started) to tell me about Neutrogena Energy night creams.

I applaud the idea of a new energy delivery system but I think that the folks at Neutrogena are missing the reason why "energy" is successful - it provides the user with a tangible functional, noticable benefit. This product has no "buzz" involved.

Apparently the active ingredient is L Carnitine, an amino acid usually associated with fat metabolization in the health food community. Its not an active "pick me up".

Moreover the idea of "Energy + Night Cream" seems like a mismatch. Surely you would use an energy product in the daytime.

Just say'n...

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Another Entry in Overt Price Selling

In the main street of Ormskirk, Lancashire is this retailer, who leaves you in no doubt of what they are selling... and why!

Much has been written on the differences of US Vs UK culture on alcohol - now you can ad the economy as a driver!

There is also the backdrop of this Mintel study .

The View From Across The Pond

Was in the UK last week - and a few things stuck me.

Traditionally the amount of cold space for beverages in immediate consumption has been very limited, and the selection very small compared to your average US convenience store. Well that is changing, with cold space plentiful in new motorway service areas (an area where the US could learn a thing or two) and Gas/C Stores. And now cold drinks are making their way into places like WH Smith. Here's the set from a store in St Helens.

Its notable how many domestic UK brands are in this set Lucozade, Lucozade Sport, Irn Bru (the national drink of Scotland - full of sugar and caffeine), Oasis (the euro Snapple), Ribena (blackcurrant drink) and Vimto (a black fruit punch with pride of Lancashire. While this a little atypical of the country (no Red Bull, Coke and Coke Zero etc) it is interesting to see domestic brands in prime retail space (the checkout is 5' to the right of this cooler.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

You Know Times Are Changing When...

Forget the 21 club - A store called "99c Pizza" in midtown Manhattan!

45th and Lex in Manhattan, People are lining up for 99c Pizza - a price not seen in a decade in the city. But the owners of this establishment have made 99c Pizza into somethingof a brand with their neon sign and multiple deals - and regularly have people linedup down the sidewalk.

Monday, November 17, 2008

A little "inside baseball"...

Last week I contributed an opinion to the always insightful newsletter Beverage Business Insights.

The editor - Gerry Khermouch and I had an interesting discussion about how it was becoming tougher for new product ideas to reach the marketplace through the tradition Direct Store Delivery (DSD) system of beverage distributors... Here's the piece.

Since leaving job developing strategy at Cadbury Schweppes Americas Beverages, Neil Kimberley has been working with independent emerging brands. Here's Neil's take on what has been shaping up to be monumental impasse on DSD, from point of view of bev vet trying to get innovative new brands seeded into marketplace:

Every year in marketing departments and entrepreneurs' garages across America, hundreds of beverage ideas are created. Over the past 5 years, these ideas that have propelled total liquid refreshment beverage consumption growth at a rate 4X greater than population growth, yielding incremental consumption of almost a liter per week per US resident.

However, this growth is in jeopardy. Over the past year, fewer innovations are coming to the mainstream marketplace. This is not due to a lack of interesting ideas; it is because interesting ideas are not getting access to the marketplace.

To be fair to the DSD systems, incubation is more difficult than ever. The combination of past new-product failures, higher operating costs and line extensions bloating existing portfolios have made the DSD business so complex that the channel's ability to successfully incubate a new idea requires more support than ever. But these environmental changes pale in significance to the change in DSD mindset in the aftermath of Coca-Cola's acquisitions first of Fuze and then of Glaceau.

The deal requirements for a brand entering a DSD system are now reaching way beyond necessary support, and the list of demands is growing almost daily: personal equity, dedicated sales people, dedicated marketing teams, local media support, retailer funding, sampling funding, other guerrilla marketing, exclusivity, and license perpetuity are now commonplace requirements. ... and this is only if your product is of interest. If innovation success was then guaranteed, these concessions would be cheap at the price. The reality is that nothing is guaranteed beyond a slot in the warehouse, a kickoff meeting and a line on the order form.

In place of DSD systems, many innovators are now considering alternative ways to bring their products to market. Retailer consolidation is making direct sales a legitimate alternative; there is a hotbed of innovation in natural food channels; and now there are sports nutrition distributors experimenting in this space. Any of the alternatives can reach target consumers and build a success story - and may ultimately bypass DSD systems.

So, are DSD systems the right incubators for new ideas? The answer is an unequivocal "maybe."

Innovators and DSDs need to re-establish the mutual respect lost in the aftermath of recent acquisitions. Both innovators and DSDs need to have realistic expectations for each other, and re-establish a partnership that has been lost among the billions of dollars of the Glaceau deal.

If this partnership is not forthcoming, there will be a space in the market to be filled. Right now these distribution alternatives are small, but with one successful brand, a new system will emerge - and DSD systems will lose out once again. Remember that a great product can be failed by poor incubation, but a poor product will never be saved by it. If that was true, then the world today would be awash in Surge.

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Foods, Fluids and Beyond Blog by Neil Kimberley at www.foodsfluidsand is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Muscle Milk to PBG

Well the sweeps on where MM will end up has stopped at PBG. This is a big opportunity for both parties, and will CCE end up with EAS or up-and-comer Lean Body? Is there another play out there?

Interesting times - score one for Protein heads!

The Battle For The Bowel... Is there a beverage opportunity?

I have spent some time recently getting into digestive health. It is the most rapidly expanding area of functional foods and is getting ever more retail space.

The functional ingredients driving the digestive health opportunity are live probiotic bacterias that can exist in refrigerated yogurt cultures.

Danone has been the leader in this area, segmenting the market into two main benefit areas: Immunity which is targeted by DanActive, and the larger opportunity euphemistically described Transit Digestion (ie anti constipation) benefit, led by Activia.

Just look at dairy this section in my local A&P and see how much space and effort is being put against probiotics as a functional ingredient.

Selling "Transit Digestion" is a challenge. You need to communicate the benefit without adding a negative badge value. If Slimfast says "I'm fat", what would Activia say about the user? Not Pretty. See this UK TV ad as an example.

And inevitably has spawned multiple parodies, for example this one from SNL... "the yogurt that makes you crap"!

The good news is that all the Activia promotion has acquainted consumers with the function, and now other products can take advantage of the opportunity... For example Rachel's yogurt - exotic flavors, contemporary packaging and probiotics...

There have been a couple of beverage plays into the area, through Lifeway Kefir and Next Foods Goodbelly, but both have significant issues to overcome: Taste and Convenience. Since probiotic cultures have to be active, they cannot be shelf stable - and require are not the most refreshing of beverage choices.

So... is there an opportunity here for mainstream, shelf stable beverages? My guess is that there is. Not as a probiotic alternative - but as a prebiotic alternative.

Probiotic bacteria turally occur in the digestive tract. They require sustenance to survive in the form of prebiotics - inulin and fiber: Ingredients that can be shelf stable, and target the same opportunity.

Aquafina Alive is an interesting venture into this space... adding some fiber to their product.

But Pre may be the better way to approach the marketplace, using the term "Probiotic Enhancer", with a more attractive package with added legitimacy from the use of the Jarrow ingredient trademark.

The growth in dairy suggests that these ideas should find favor with consumers... and another blow will be struck for functional foods.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Here Comes Protein...

I must admit that before the Atkins fad I never paid attention to the protein content of my foods. But since I dabbled in the Atkins diet (with some success) and gained a better understanding of the nutritional benefits of protein, I have been stunned at the low levels of protein and the high levels of carbohydrate in everyday consumer foods.

Protein does great things for the eater/drinker besides the obvious (fuel for muscles and recovery): Protein provides satiety (ie fills you up), can increase your own immunity and reduces the craving for other food. All this is well known within the Sports Nutrition community, and any trip to a GNC/Vitamin Shoppes store confirms this.

But protein is a tough to create products from. It is expensive (just go to a GNC and look at the prices of protein powder), has a terrible off taste, has no RDI (because protein use is sex and body size dependent) and can grow all kinds of bacteria if your product is improperly made.

It is interesting that there is no brand that is known for Protein. No brand has taken the ingredient into the mass market with a product that meets a mainstream need, with a great taste.

Two years ago Accelerade made an initial play into RTD sports drinks without success.

EAS and Muscle Milk are starting to make plays for the mainstream with TV advertising and mainstream plastic packaging respectively. But these products are self-limiting because they continue to directly sell to a sports nutrition crowd - not the mass market.

Bookoo Burner
and Whey Up have attempted to build a crossover into energy, but are still reliant on a sports nutrition positioning - and have a compromised taste.

Kronik Protein Energy (just launched in 7 Eleven's) has a more mainstream position - using the idea that Energy + Protein = Power.

(OK - Full disclosure here - I worked on this project... and the good new is that the product has been received with multiple positive reviews (there are more in google), and the initial reception on the shelf has been positive.)

Elsewhere Kellogg's appears to be in the process of converting Special K into the protein brand with Protein Cereal, Protein Water and Protein Snack bars. Special K is older and more female - and more diet oriented.

So what does all this mean? I believe that protein is moving into a mainstream place. It will take well formulated products, effective consumer positioning and communication, but it could be that protein is about to take its rightful place as an ingredient of true efficacy in consumer goods.

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Foods, Fluids and Beyond Blog by Neil Kimberley at www.foodsfluidsand is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.