January 31, 2008

Minute Maid: Health Trend Driving New Product Launches

Minute Maid North America's two new offerings, Pomegranate flavored Tea and Minute Maid natural Pomegranate Lemonade, address the growing consumer demand for products that satisfy health and wellness needs. In a soft drinks market in which sales of traditional staples are suffering at the hands of consumer interest in "better-for-you" products, Coca-Cola's move seems a wise one.

Minute Maid's new flavor offerings join a portfolio that already includes a pomegranate and blueberry-flavored fruit juice blend and orange juices that feature prominent packaging claims, such as "Proven to help reduce cholesterol" (Minute Maid Heart Wise) and "750mg Glucosamine HCI to help protect healthy joints" (Minute Maid Active). The new drinks are scheduled to reach supermarkets and other retailers across the US in February.

The growth of the health and wellness trend among consumers is prompting soft drinks manufacturers to respond with products that aim to secure a foothold in the market and provide an answer to the pressure that their traditional revenue streams in the carbonated drinks market have come under during recent years.

Juices, with their stronger 'natural' and 'healthy' credentials, have benefited in this environment and thus, Coca-Cola has recognized an in-house opportunity to capitalize on this through its well-established Minute Maid brand.

Pomegranate, a flavoring used by Minute's Maid, is a "hot" flavor among those trying to establish healthy credentials, given its meteoric rise in popularity with consumers. However, the longevity of such unusual flavors remains open to question, with the threat of fickle consumers consigning such products to the status of fad rather than a long-term trend.

Manufacturers such as Coca-Cola also still face a potential credibility gap in terms of their attempts to ally with the health trend, particular given their connection to the 'unhealthy' carbonated drinks category. Furthermore, by making strident product health claims, manufacturers could risk aggravating consumer skepticism if not positioned correctly or backed up with scientific evidence. Consumers are increasingly seeking out more information about the products they purchase and are, generally, well-informed. This is particularly the case for those seeking to enhance their health and wellness.

In pursuing strategies in this field, manufacturers need to make sure that they offer innovative products with realistic health claims and long-term appeal, cultivating a trusting relationship with consumers, rather than being considered opportunistic and reactive. Minute Maid offers Coca-Cola the advantage of well-established and trusted branding and increased healthy credibility over the company's core carbonated brands.