Pepsi is changing the taste of its main brand cola for the first time and revamping its much-publicised blue packaging only a year after its 320m launch.
The moves are happening as part of a test marketing excercise in France, one of the soft drink company’s major European markets. The move is startling evidence of Pepsi’s determination to claw back lost sales.
Pepsi’s total beverage sales by volume slipped three per cent in the first quarter of 1997 compared with the same period last year. Coke reported its soft drink volume sales surging by nine per cent over the same period.
If the change rolls out globally it will effectively be an admission that Project Blue – Pepsi’s attempt to differentiate itself from Coke by claiming the colour blue against Coke’s red – has been a collossally costly failure.
Pepsi says it is changing the recipe of its main brand cola in France to boost flagging sales. New packaging will feature “icy” wording on a royal blue background on all products – different from the usual shade of blue.
“We are doing this is because people are used to drinking Coke and we have given them no real reason to switch,” says marketing director for Pepsi France Michael Aidan.
Project Blue rolled out into France last year, which was one of at least 20 markets affected by the change in livery.
Pepsi has the blue livery on test in the US, its biggest single market. But a year after the UK launch there is no sign of Pepsi rolling Project Blue out in the US.
Neither Pepsi headquarters in the US nor in the UK were aware of the initiative in the French market.