Fruit drinks turn up heat on cola giants

Drinks manufacturers are praying for a hot summer in the hope that still brands such as Sunny Delight and Oasis will continue to grow in popularity.

Procter & Gamble’s (P&G) Sunny Delight range of citrus drinks has achieved undeniable success since launching in April.

Despite coming under fire from nutritionists, the brand managed the unthinkable in June by outselling both Coca-Cola and Pepsi in the UK. A year on, it is still looking strong.

Tony Hughes, consumer goods consultant at market research group Mintel, says: “Sunny Delight has managed to stay in the front of consumers’ minds. It seems to have kept up.

“This is the crunch season, when the weather plays an important role. I think P&G will be very keen to keep on pushing Sunny Delight. Our surveys show it had the highest amount of purchaser recognition we have ever seen.”

A recent report compiled by Hughes for Mintel says the success of Sunny Delight shows there is room for further products in the juice drinks market. The Fruit Juice and Fruit Drinks report says the “unique point of difference” between juice drinks and 100 per cent fruit juices should ensure continued new product development.

Sales of juice drinks with a low fruit content – less than five per cent – reached 109 million litres in 1997, compared with 96 million in 1995 – an increase of 13.3 per cent. Overall juice drink sales – ranging from those with the lowest juice content to almost 100 per cent concentration – rose by 18.2 per cent in the same period.

The Mintel report states: “Sunny Delight has established itself as the market leader and retailers and other brands will see the opportunity to ride on its coat-tails.

“There is also considerable scope to target drinking at different times of the day, with more sophisticated blends and exotic tastes suitable for use as an alternative to alcohol in the evening or as an accompaniment to meals other than breakfast.”

Sunny Delight, a vitamin-enriched drink, has been criticised by the Food Commission for containing only five per cent fruit juice. But it still proved popular, especially in London and Scotland.

Although the brand was initially targeted at children, notably through a 9.2m European ad campaign by Saatchi & Saatchi, it is clear adults are also heavy purchasers. The drink comes in six flavours and contains vitamins B1, B6, and C. It is stocked by most supermarkets, as well as grocers and newsagents.

P&G bought Sunny Delight from Sundor in Florida in 1989. It has since become the market leader in the US, accounting for 50 per cent of the 406m refrigerated fruit drink category in 1996. In the US, it is popular among eight to 17-year-olds.

Cadbury Schweppes’ fruit drink brand Oasis, launched in the UK in April 1997, targets the adult market.

Consumer research carried out by the company into the still drinks market revealed that the overwhelming reason for choosing a still drink over a fizzy one is refreshment – people find it difficult to drink fizzy drinks quickly.

Steve Cooper, UK marketing controller for Oasis, says: “Consumers don’t have a lot of time – they are looking for instant refreshment, which Oasis provides.

“Twenty years ago people were only drinking tea for refreshment. But now younger people are drinking still beverages, so Oasis is tea for the millennium.”

A new series of ads through TBWA GGT Simons Palmer, which won the 3m Oasis creative account in December, will aim to give the brand a more defined and cooler image.

Schweppes is dropping drag-queen Lily Savage from the campaign (MW March 25). “Open, pour, be yourself once more” will be replaced by the catchline “chill with a still”. The new brand spokesmen will be the Karma Brothers. Ads will be screened from the end of the month.

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