With a growing number of retailers bemoaning the lack of new product development in the soft drinks market, it is little wonder that all eyes are on Suso, a new carbonated drink made with 100% fruit juice being launched by former Red Bull managing director Harry Drnec.
Suso is being rolled out across the off-trade market and is looking for an advertising agency (MW last week) to bolster its chances of success in the rapidly declining carbonated category dominated by soft drink giants Coca-Cola and PepsiCo.
While some observers say Suso is a “genuine innovation”, its management team, and in particular its private equity backers Smedvig Capital, are remaining cautious.
Perhaps, suggest some, they are wary of other much-championed drinks, including Britvic’s Freekee Soda and Coca-Cola’s energy drink Sprite 3G, which have failed in the domestic market before them.
One of the aims for Suso – which has already secured a listing in Tesco – is to have a presence in “two of the major supermarkets” by the end of the year, according to Johnny Hewett, managing director of Smedvig Capital, which also backs juice bar chain Lovejuice.
While many believe this is achievable, some argue that the key to its success will be its positioning across supermarket channels.
Harry Foster, senior market analyst at Mintel, says/ “Its chances of success are high. It has position in the off-trade, but is it front of shelf? It is easy for products to get lost in the clutter with so many on offer.”
In the case of Tesco, Suso, which is likely to be priced between 90p and £1.50 and come in 250ml cans, will be offered as an instant consumption drink in its Express stores and as a mixer in Tesco superstores.
While Suso will not be drawn on where and how the drink will be sold, some believe the growing on-trade category could prove the most fruitful outlet, particularly following last summer’s smoking ban in English and Welsh pubs.
Gary Roethenbaugh, research and development director at Zenith International, says: “The connection between soft drinks and food presents opportunities following the smoking ban, and Suso could work well in this channel.” Suso is already available in some London bars and is being trialled by brewers Greene King and Mitchells & Butlers as it looks to gain traction across the sector.
Observers, though, generally believe that the team backing Suso is a strong one, with Drnec working with chief executive Sean Uprichard, the former Relentless marketing director, and chief operating officer Andrew King, the former chief executive of PJ Smoothies.
The brand, which has a £4m marketing budget, has also earmarked music and sport sponsorship as an important marketing tool.
While it is unclear the amount of time Drnec is committing to the venture (he is also marketing director of another new venture, The Broadband Computer Company), it is clear there is a new kid on the block who could shake things up in the carbonated drinks sector.