For decades, Pepsi and Coke have battled to impress the customers, from the recent data; none of them is winning the battle of the taste buds. Does Stevia offer another chance for the giant beverages to get a green make-over?
It may not be as dangerous as the cold war or the war on terror but this corporate war has been waging for decades now. It is hard to tell which one is the better soft drink, if anything it has stayed hard to differentiate between the two, almost always. The battle of the brands is an impressive case study for business students, and is totally a great case of two corporate giants going at each other’s throat in an almost no nonsense way. The advertising campaigns have often targeted the other directly in no uncertain ways and the competition has always been stiff. The people have also kept their love affair with both of them but as of now, things have started to change.
The whole fast food culture is in question now, no matter if it is about Burger King, McDonalds, KFC or Pizza Hut. There are studies linking the ever increasing waistline of the average American citizen with the use or overuse of these foods. Pepsi and Coke are too facing the heat from the healthy lifestyle, the amount of sugar in each bottle, the size of serving, the unlimited re-fill at various restaurants have all been concerns that have got increasingly loud over time. Things have been difficult in other ways as well, competition has got better and the brands have had to diversify themselves to stay competitive. The inner brand cannibalization though may not be a big issue as compared to the shelf space in retail outlets which is shared by many different competitors. The competition has made it impossible to get premium pricing, a loss in a competitive benefit that once was almost a given. It also means more advertising costs, after all even as the wallet share declines, you want to stay high on the brand recall in the customer’s mind.
Healthy life is now a fashionable trend, something that is now being accepted by the mainstream media. A carrot smoothie, a tomato shake or a green vegetable juice consumed early morning or some other time of the day is not considered as weird anymore. The person is not a health nut; he or she is just someone who cares about their body and health. Obesity and health related risks due to obesity have not helped either; medical science has been able to solve some key puzzles leading to more people staying away from the colas. The social media does not help as well, viral videos of the Pepsi and Coke related shenanigans are watched by millions; they range from Coke being used in Mentos to create a scenic eruption, Coke being used as a rust cleaner for old materials, Pepsi being used as a drain cleaner or some person boiling these cold drinks and showing what strange monsters they tend out to be.
The serving size increase has not helped; the bulk consumption means that there health hazards have magnified automatically. The bottle was supposed to be small not a half liter or a liter pet bottle for a single serving. It may have helped in the sales but it also has created an image which is negative in the long run. To sum it up, the once omnipresent giants are in trouble and they have been calling and praying for a solution that would save their ailing empires.
Stevia, it sounds and seems may have a chance. The drawback of the strange after taste is real and it makes fitting it into a category a bit difficult. People who like the fizzy drinks in their pure form will find the taste hard to accept staying at their old patterns, while the health conscious can move to diet colas or absolutely stay away from the cold drink. If a not very savory drink (taste is relative) is a thing that you are attracted to, the options in the category are unlimited.
The good facets of the product include a decrease in calories through a careful combination of sugar and Stevia. It may help that the serving size is reduced, part of the problem lies in the gigantic servings. The products are marketed as eco products, the cans are green, (Currently unsure if the product is fully organic at the time – but chances for it to be fully organic are slim, almost zero), making them different from all other product ranges that the companies have to offer. There has been limited success as well, in South America for Coke and a demo launch is expected in the Southern States. For Pepsi they have taken a totally different route, marketing them self through Amazon but initial success dictates that there is some demand for the product. Exact figures for the two products will take time to emerge and only after the products are launched commercially in the US markets.
Chances for success though are limited. In a highly competitive market, each product to succeed has to stand out and deliver customer value over and above the value delivered by its competitors. By jumping into the eco sector, both Coke and Pepsi have opened Pandora’s Box and results will be truly variable. For customers, the products need to be less about a healthier image of the companies and more about a soft drink that they can enjoy without adding inches to their waist line.
Hopefully, Pepsi and Coke would keep working on Stevia until they reach the perfect formula!!!