PepsiCo ‘on back foot’ as bid to catch Coke hots up

PepsiPepsiCo is plotting a fresh assault on the UK cola market after admitting that it has been caught on the “back foot” by the launch of Coke Zero last summer.

Speaking exclusively to Marketing Week, Bruno Gruwez, marketing director Pepsi UK, says: “We believe there is growth in the category. But we have been caught on the back foot and we need to become a little better on innovation.”

He says that innovation in the soft drinks category must go beyond new flavours and should focus on developing and launching completely new products.

It is understood that the launch of a new cola could come as early as this autumn. It is unclear if it will be a global or UK specific launch. PepsiCo’s cola portfolio consists of core brands Pepsi, Diet Pepsi and Pepsi Max across the UK.

Gruwez says there is urgent need for innovation across the carbonates sector, and points to lack of product launches in comparison to the non-carbonates segment.

Coca-Cola launched Coke Zero last year in the hope of taking market share from Pepsi’s sugar-free competitor Pepsi Max.

Retail sources suggest Coke Zero has had mixed success, with some saying it has cannibalised sales of Diet Coke.

Gruwez claims Pepsi’s market share across the cola market has grown since the arrival of Coke Zero. He adds: “We believe we have the better proposition.”

Gruwez took over as UK marketing director last summer, replacing Caroline Diamond (MW 11 May, 2006). He is responsible for strategic direction of its brands and works in collaboration with Britvic Soft Drinks, PepsiCo’s UK bottling partner.

He had worked on the Tropicana juice brand since 1994 and held a variety of roles before becoming UK marketing director.

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