It is hard to interpret this new move of soda giants. It could be a step in the right direction, or another corporate lie aiming at health-oriented people who would think they are making the right choice by consuming chemical-infused sodas that might not be so healthy for them in the long term perspective.
According to a recent publication in The New York Times, a new advertising battle is brewing between soft beverage giants Coca Cola and PepsiCo (Martin, 1). After the cola wars, the diet cola wars and the mid-calorie cola wars, a vitamin cola war is ahead. Diet sodas will be dueling to entice consumers with the promise of a little healthy extra in their glass.
Coca Cola plans to introduce a new brand of diet Coke with vitamins and minerals. The company is preparing for a spring or mid-summer launch of the Diet Coke Plus. PepsiCo is also ready to shoot. Their new Diet Pepsi Max will be infused with ginseng and more caffeine than the well-known, regular Diet Pepsi. The company is also preparing a vitamin counter-attack - Tava, which is expected to hit the shelves in June.
Both diet sodas respond to a growing market niche. The health and wellness industry boom created a new category of "functional beverages". They promise a wide range of benefits for the consumers - they claim to invigorate, energize, stimulate, refresh and beautify, among everything else.
Right now this immensely growing market segment is dominated by small players such as Red Bull, Mountain Dew, Vitamin Water and green tea drinks, while Coke and Pepsi are staying behind the healthy scene. The author of the article claims that the $ 68 billion soda business has dropped for the first time in 2005 (Martin, 1). A steady downfall was estimated even in diet Coke consumption. As sales of full-sugar soda decline, PepsiCo and Coca Cola are racing to add low-calories and non-carbonated drinks to their product mix. In contrast, sales of mineral water, energy drinks and green tea drinks are growing in double-digits. Confused by the fact that Coca-Cola Classic may not continue to make life taste good for a long time, Coca Cola marketing teams are exploring different opportunities in response to the poor performance of soda drinks.
An increased interest in soft drinks with vitamins added has emerged. The beginning of this brand new trend was put by the "Gatorade concept" which aimed to increase the popularity of health drinks with both energizing and rejuvenating qualities among sport-oriented consumers. As drinks like "Gatorade" became widely spread, so did the soda giants' marketing plans towards a growing niche of specific target groups with specific wants and needs.
In fact, healthy soda seems not to be an entirely new idea. According to the New York Times article, "7UP Plus", which appeared in 2004, was a low-calorie soda fortified with minerals and vitamins. It was claimed to be "100% natural". The product contained high-fructose corn syrup though and after public pressure the company was forced to change the label to: "100 percent natural flavor" (Martin, 1).
When large and popular companies, such as Coca Cola and PepsiCo explore new market opportunities and invade new market niches, they face the need to build up new public images of their "healthy" brands. These companies must decide whether to use their already affirmed brands for assistance, or to invest in search for new corporate identities. If the