Monday, December 21, 2009

Getting The Holiday Spirit...

Any excuse to use this picture

The issue of alcohol (and more precisely beer) pricing in take home channels in the UK has been under debate for a while. From a pub culture where most alcohol was consumed away from home, Britain is now buying alcohol cheap at the local supermarket and drinking at home.

While this is good in that it keeps drunk drivers off the narrow and icy streets at this time of year, it has also created a bulge for cheap booze at the bottom end of the market.

The Times has some interesting coverage of this issue
, now saying that "Beer is Cheaper than Water", but read a little more closely and you will see that the comparison is between the cheapest beer and "brand name" mineral water. If you went into just about any store in the US and compared PBR to Fiji Water on a $/oz basis you would see the same thing.

From my perspective, it is interesting to see that the government is considering a price floor for alcohol, something Canada already does. Also it may have implications for the future of sugared soft drinks here in the USA. Currently we are seeing an influx of promotional dollars into take home channels that are driving branded soft drinks to almost Private Label levels.

Price floors for our beverages? Due to sugar for CSDs, alcohol for beer and plastic for bottled water? Stranger things have happened...

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Pulp Cola... Anti Cliche Beverage?

Enjoyed this piece of advertising humor from Paraguay...

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Alcohol/Caffeine Debate Continues...

RIP Sparks...

This morning there is coverage of a study by Dr Thomas Gould of Temple University that discusses a study of mice who are given ethanol or ethanol and caffeine. The result of the study (not surprisingly) is that Caffeine does not sober you up - you remain drunk. The more interesting finding is that caffeine still boosts your alertness but the alcohol reduces your ability to learn and inhibitions.

Dr Gould's inference is that "the co-use of caffeine and alcohol could actually lead to poor decisions with disastrous outcomes", "people who have consumed both alcohol and caffeine may feel awake and competent enough to handle potentially harmful situations, such as driving while intoxicated or placing themselves in dangerous social situations".

The evidence for this was that it appears in the mice who are given both alcohol and caffeine "ethanol blocked caffeine's ability to make the mice more anxious. Conversely, caffeine did not reverse ethanol's negative effect on learning. As a result, alcohol calmed the caffeine jitters, leaving an animal more relaxed but less able to avoid threats."

This is the first time I have seen some real evidence against caffeine + alcohol.

In effect the argument is that if people behave like mice, they will make more poor decisions. They are more likely to drive while drunk, that "sexual misconduct" may a problem (or more likely that the "beer goggles" effect gets worse). And finally - "needing "medical assistance" (maybe because people will drink more because of the caffeine).

So what do we do? Is this enough evidence to restrict caffeine/alcohol products? Should bars stop selling Vodka/Red Bull? Irish Coffee? Rum and Coke? Or just selling coffee, or Coke.

Ultimately, as with any functional product, I think this becomes a personal responsibility issue. I think that there would need to be greater availability of information the combination of caffeine/alcohol, but enforcing the restriction of its use will be almost impossible.

And back to the first question, should the FDA ban caffeine/alcohol products? I am still in the camp of allowing them. Frankly it does not matter since those consumers wanting the combination will create their own.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Retail Storm, Brand Shipwreck?

The average price of food is down, now to pre-2006 levels. And with this decline will come value compression for food retailers, distributors and brand owners. In past posts I have highlighted some of the drivers behind this fall (low commodity prices and retailer competition), but this is beginning to really signal some big challenges for these businesses. Six months ago beverage businesses were celebrating that their price increases had held despite the state of the economy.

In recent calls, executives have expressed concern that retailers just aren't getting the traffic they used to resulting in an ever more aggressive marketplace. In fact the marketplace is -2.8% so far this year, the fastest deflation since 1959 (WSJ).

Now these business have to really figure out how to compete...

Thursday, December 3, 2009

A Dose of Reality

The discussion of nutrition and health is impacted by preconceived opinions that manifest themselves as "food politics". From the soda in schools debate to GMO vs organics to HFCS, much is portrayed as a conspiracy rather than looking at facts

A very interesting study from the University of Alabama has brought a new perspective to the debate, identifying that often studies that show "no significant difference" are shelved in favor of those that make headlines - and match their preconceived opinions.

Now, we will probably find out that Coke financed the study, but it is a welcome dose of reality in a field that is often over-simplified and misunderstood.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

NPD and the Future of Food

This looks like an interesting read. NPD's Future of Food since it claims to examine the changes likely with an aging population.

Too bad my budget will not stretch to it...

Naya Reborn

Naya has always been a great tasting water. Very clean, very pure with an almost Evian-like smoothness that is rarely found in a North American spring. In the late 90s they spent big on a new manufacturing facility, but lost their Coke distribution - resulting in a swift decline into financial hell.

Now, as bottled water has been hit with the challenges of filters on fawcets, ecological concerns, private label gains and declining growth, Naya is poised to return to the market by using a recycled PET package and focusing on the gay market to rebirth the brand.

Any water proposition faces multiple challenges: Its low margin, highly commoditized and there is a low cost producer (Nestle) that has massive resources. It will be interesting to see if more ecological packaging and a niche marketing campaign will be enough to create a successful venture.

Not Your US Orangina...

In the USA, Orangina is considered a sophisticated, cosmopolitan beverage. Orangina is left bank cafes, it is summer in Cap d'Antibes. A idealized version of the best things about La Belle France.

In Europe they are taking a different approach...