A chance to shine once more

After a well-documented rise and fall, Sunny D is returning to the UK backed by a 4.5m ad push. Its repositioning as a natural fruit juice aims for a bright future, if not orange. By Jo Roberts

Sunny D just keeps on bouncing back. The drink, famed for its high sugar content and once turning a girl orange, has changed its formulation and positioning to sell itself as a more natural, outdoor-focused brand.

But does the product’s marketing – showing the drink with a healthy Californian surf culture image – have the power to win over consumers once again? While the 4.5m above-the-line advertising campaign, created by Myagency, will emphasise that the drink has a high fruit juice content and no artificial preservatives or flavours, this has not been people’s experience of Sunny D so far. Richard Baragwanath, commercial manager of Sunny D, who is overseeing the initiative, admits it’s going to be tough to change consumer perceptions of the brand. He says: “That’s the big challenge to go out and say to people: ‘look at the ingredients’.”

Its bad reputation will be difficult to erase. The drink brand has already relaunched several times with limited success, moving from its original moniker Sunny Delight to the snappier Sunny D. According to Mintel research on soft drinks, another recent repositioning did not result in an image overhaul. The report states: “Despite relaunching its Florida Original with less sugar in summer 2007, sales of Sunny D have continued to tumble as it struggles to shed its unhealthy image.”

Sales of the drink have fallen dramatically since its heyday, where it was competing for positioning with the fizzy drinks giants. It was the third most popular drink just behind Coke and Pepsi after it launched in the UK in the late Nineties. The value of Sunny D has fallen fast, from 39m in 2003 to 24m in 2008, with just a 4% market share, according to Mintel. Other soft drinks brands have also been eating away at its market share. In this juice drinks segment, Coca-Cola Enterprises’ Oasis drink has been the fastest growing brand and premium juice products, such as Tropicana, have also seen successful growth rates.

Baragwanath argues that the latest rebrand is more likely to succeed because Sunny D has been working with mothers to ensure the product appeals to its target audience. The brand, which is sold and marketed under license by Gerber Foods in the UK, formed the Parents Advisory Group in 2005 to provide opinions about the drink. A group of seven mums has been the driving force behind the relaunch, giving opinions on everything from the formulation of the drink to the packaging design.

As well as the advertising for the relaunch, there is a 2m below-the-line spend to support it. There will be supermarket promotions with a trial price offer on all of the flavours, including Apple and Blackcurrant, on both the one litre carton and the 330ml bottle.

In May, a print campaign will run in women’s magazines, while June will see a regional television campaign in the Yorkshire area.

This will build up to the national advertising campaign, starting in September. Baragwanath explains that the ads will appeal to mums who want to be reassured that the drink is good for their children. He claims: “It will be a fun campaign focusing on the benefits; and the fact that kids will love the products and mum can enjoy the product too.”

But before Sunny D can convert those mums and kids, the company’s initial goal for the brand is to get the new product stocked in all of the major retailers. It already has shelf space in Tesco and Morrisons, and will be in Asda from April. While convenience stores such as Londis will be stocking the product, it is “still in talks” with Sainsbury’s and Waitrose. Gerber Foods plans to break even with the relaunch in the first year and hopes to grow the brand in future years.

But is this too ambitious for such a tainted brand? Baragwanath believes that by talking to its core customers and making changes to the product, it has got all the right ingredients for a successful relaunch. “The brand has great awareness. It’s a good selling product and hopefully we’ve got the right package to grow,” he says.

It will certainly be a triumph for Sunny D if it can start talking about its potential to grow rather than its comic ability to make consumers glow.

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