‘A Coke and a smile’ too little for emerging mkts

By Reuters Staff
May 3, 2012

Emerging markets offer drinks manufacturers exactly what they’re looking for – millions of potential new consumers ready to buy their products. But it’s not enough any more just to sell EM consumers a distilled version of the American Dream, says Euromonitor beverage analyst Jonas Feliciano.

While consumers may once have bought Western carbonated drinks for the same reason they bought blue jeans, now people in the top five drinks growth markets of China, Mexico, Brazil, Indonesia and India want something adapted to local tastes, Feliciano says:

Growing consumer sophistication has put the focus squarely on developing products specifically tailored to consumer taste, to develop products, flavours and textures that local consumers find both familiar and satisfying. And, more often than not, these preferences are outside of the carbonate category.

In China, Indonesia and India, it is non-fizzy drinks that are going to lead the way, Feliciano says, and shows how the Coca-Cola Company’s success with Minute Maid Pulpy, the firm’s 14th brand to reach $1 billion in global retail sales in 2011, has provided drinks companies with a new model for success.

Coca-Cola launched Minute Maid Pulpy, a fruit juice with a texture adapted to Chinese tastes, in 2004. Through a combination of local adaptations and marketing, Pulpy became the most popular fruit juice brand in China in just seven years and Coca-Cola’s first emerging market “billion dollar brand”.

Minute Maid Pulpy is popular for two reasons – one is price, with Coca-Cola able to undercut its competitors by making a drink with less than 24% fruit juice and the second is a thick texture.

Western consumers value a juice drink being 100% natural, but Asian consumers associate healthiness with consuming actual fruit, Feliciano says, so Coca-Cola appealed to them by including bits of fruit in the drink.

And now other companies are following suit. In March, Kraft’s Cadbury India rebranded their Tang powdered concentrate as Tang Mango, which contains the same vitamins health-conscious Indian parents want for their children, but now has a thick texture.

Nestle has also added fruit pulp to its “Nestlé fruit-dimensional” powdered concentrate to attract South Asian customers.

And expect more changes to come from big brands, says Feliciano:

Whether it be adjusting soft drink texture, mimicking familiar flavours, or even modifying drink colours to better approximate local expectations, one thing is clear: the draw of a brand name is no longer enough to draw consumers away from local brands more in line with their tastes.

By Clare Kane

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