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Opinion: Orange Coca-Cola is making retailers see red

Opinion: Orange Coca-Cola is making retailers see red

By Jonathan Gabay (pictured) from Brand Forensics

This summer, Coca Cola is hoping consumers will turn Orange.

As part of its ‘2007 - Coke Side of Summer’ campaign, Coca Cola Orange (available in 330ml cans and 500ml glass bottles) will be hitting the shelves from July 2007.

It’s to be supported by a £2.5 million media campaign throughout July including product sampling, bespoke packaging, point of sale and outdoor advertising.

Coca-Cola’s own post trial research suggests that 70 per cent of consumers said that they would definitely or probably buy ‘Coca-Cola’ Orange with nearly half (46 per cent) saying they would definitely buy it.

Special edition campaigns are great for injecting a sense of novelty in an established brand.  However to maintain the novelty value, a brand must remain vigilant to ensure that the amount of time and stock of any given special edition item is limited.

If not, firstly consumers wont be sufficiently motivated to try out a novelty product as part of an impulse buying decision. 

Secondly the entire exercise could backfire as the consumer notices piles of stock left behind the on shelf through lack of interest.  If the product is a success, a brand can always bring it back, ‘by popular demand’.

Another brand: another flavour

Another source of concern is consumers being confused between Coca-Cola Orange and its existing premier sector brand: Fanta.

This brand too has tried several special edition flavours.  In fact there have been over seventy flavours available through the world including: Watermelon, Apple, Lime, Orange, Sour, Chocolate, Strawberry, Passion Fruit, Raspberry, Grape, Sour Apple, Wild Berry, Pineapple, Lemon, Blue Lemonade (basically Sprite).

In South East Asia, Fanta is planning to introduce new ‘special edition flavours including: Fanta Passion by the end of the year. In terms of volume, Brazil is the world’s largest consumer of Fanta. Fanta remains more popular in Europe and South America than in the United States.

A product forged in war 

Coca-Cola’s history with orange drinks has been a checkered one.  Fanta was devised during the Second World War, by the German Coca Cola (GmbH) bottling company.

Restricted shipping between Nazi Germany and the United States forced Max Keith, the CEO of the German plant, to keep his factory running by formulating a fruit flavored drink using apple fibre left over from cider presses and whey; a byproduct from cheese manufacture.

The original German Fanta had a yellow hue and different flavour from Fanta Orange; the flavour varied throughout the war, depending on the availability of ingredients.

The name 'Fanta' was chosen in an employee contest Inviting names for the new product (The CEO instructed his employees to let their ‘Fantasie’ (German for imagination) run wild.

Ingredients under scrutiny

A report earlier this year from Sheffield University suggests a universal preservative found in drinks such as Fanta has the ability to switch off vital parts of DNA.

Particular concern surrounds the additive E211, known as sodium benzoate, a preservative used for decades by the €110bn global carbonated drinks industry.

Sodium benzoate derives from benzoic acid. It occurs naturally in berries.  It helps prevent mould in soft drinks. It is also added to pickles and sauces.

Sodium benzoate has already been the subject of concern about cancer.  When mixed with the additive vitamin C in soft drinks, it causes benzene, a carcinogenic substance.

The UK's Food Standards Agency survey of benzene in drinks last year found high levels in four brands that were removed from sale.

A review of sodium benzoate by the World Health Organisation in 2000 concluded that it was safe, but it noted that the available science supporting its safety was "limited".

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