Business

Coke vs Pepsi in grapefruit soda battle

BY JULIAN RICHARDSON Assistant Business Co-ordinator richardsonj@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, August 29, 2012    

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WISYNCO Group wants to make Schweppes the brand of choice for Jamaicans in a lucrative market for grapefruit-flavoured carbonated beverages.

The White Marl, St Catherine-based distributor of Schweppes has been aggressively pushing the label's grapefruit-flavoured soda at parties and on supermarket shelves since officially launching the product locally in the third quarter of 2011.

"Right now we do not have a ceiling on what we want to achieve with this product, and it's too early to say," said Tamara Ward, Wisynco Group's country manager for Coca-Cola and CranWATA.

"Our goal is simply to be the preferred grapefruit flavoured beverage," Ward said.

Wisynco's goal pits bitter rivals Coca-Cola and PepsiCo in a head-to-head battle for shares in the domestic grapefruit soda market, long dominated by PepsiCo Jamaica's brand Ting. Schweppes is under Coke's portfolio of products in Jamaica, distributed by Wisynco.

Ting has for years been a favourite in homes and parties as a stand-alone beverage and as a chaser for alcoholic drinks. But there has been a noticeable penetration of Schweppes Grapefruit, especially at local entertainment events, in the past year.

Ward noted that Wisynco, known for its aggressive marketing and distribution strategy, deliberately targeted the entertainment scene to push Schweppes Grapefruit against the background that the brand, by itself, is internationally renowned as a premium chaser line of products. Schweppes' product line includes ginger ale, bitter lemon, tonic, soda water, and grapefruit.

"As we continued to sample the grapefruit product, the demand became clear that as great as it is as a stand-alone, it's undoubtedly a fantastic chaser with various vodkas, rums, etc," said Ward.

"To really maximise the potential of the beverage it was important to show its versatility," she added.

But market leader Pepsi remains unfazed and, in fact, said it is encouraged by the introduction of a strong competitor to Ting, which it produces under licence from Desnoes and Geddes (D&G).

"We are happy with the introduction of Schweppes because what it has done is expand the grapefruit market," said PepsiCo Jamaica Marketing Manager Carlo Redwood.

"We continue to see growth of the Ting brand — aggressive growth since the introduction of Schweppes," said Redwood, who refused to disclose annual sales figures for Ting.

Wisynco's move is part of a broad plan by the firm to procure a sizeable share of the local soda market for the Schweppes brand. Schweppes currently represents approximately five per cent of the domestic carbonated beverage industry and Wisynco hopes to increase this to 10 per cent over the next couple of years, said Ward.

"Wisynco continues to be a leader in the non-alcoholic beverage industry and we are constantly looking for opportunities to provide Jamaica with more offerings," said Ward.

"Schweppes is an example of this. Based on consumer feedback and early testing, we realised the power of this product with its distinction in taste, the right balance of carbonation, and ability to refresh consumers."

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