The Mets Cola launch that year raised eyebrows due to Kirin’s use of dextrin, an indigestible dietary fiber, and the firm claimed its ‘fat-blocking soda’ suppressed fat absorption when one is eating a meal.
The cola is targeted at men in their 30s who are worried about putting on weight, and Mintel's global drinks analyst Forsyth revealed that the drink has been an enormous success, with 200m bottles sold to date despite a high bottle price of $2.70.
“It has already created a new market segment – Suntory has copied the product with Pepsi Special which is also made with dextrin, an indigestible dietary fiber,” Forsyth said, during a presentation at Mintel’s ‘Big Conversation’ event on soft drinks trends held in London last Thursday.
Whether dextrin blocks fat or not (it will certainly increase satiety) Kirin and Suntory are having the last launch here, which must be sweet given that Pepsi Special’s November 2012 launch was greeted with some scorn.
‘Soda industry is in trouble, or has lost its grip on reality’ – Forbes
Forbes journalist Nadia Arumugam wrote at the time: “If there’s a sign that the soda industry is in trouble or lost its grip on reality – this is surely it.”
And that’s the point, as with everything in life, innovation and risks carries with it the possibility of failure, and with this in mind Forsyth pointed to tombstones littering the beverage graveyard – Diet Coke Plus (with vitamins and minerals), Tropicana Tropolis Squeezer and Lipton Sparkling Green Tea.
“All of these products were either delisted or saw disappointing sales in key markets because they took a concept a step further than consumers were willing to go,” he said.
That said, Forsyth quoted Josh Hayes, senior brand director for Malibu at Pernod Ricard USA, who said: “The idea that a product resides solely in one category is no longer true in consumers’ minds.”
The analyst drove home Hayes’ point: categories are useful for the beverage industry, but increasingly irrelevant to young consumers, who will give airtime to hybrid products or those with new functional benefits.
45% of 18-34 year olds like the idea of spirit-beer hybrids compared with only 26% of UK beer drinkers; 82% of millennials are also keen to order a ‘duffin’ or doughnut/muffin fusion (82%) versus 72% of all adults.
Energy opportunity – One in five Brits feel ‘tired all the time’
Of course, no-one in the industry would risk sales and profit simply for the sake of it, but Forsyth hinted that innovation was necessary to counter volume declines in traditional categories, as per Indra Nooyi’s comment that “disruptive innovation” not lower pricing could head off the soda slump.
Despite facing financial challenges, Forsyth said millennials define value less by price and more by benefits – functional, taste, naturalness – and are less brand loyal than their parents.
Selling a positive rather than pointing out what ‘nasty’ your brand doesn’t contain is increasingly important for 18-34s, Forsyth said, noting Mintel data whereby 38% of 2,000 questioned in this group were asked what type of food and beverage they considered healthy.
38% said ‘part of my five-a-day fruit and vegetable content’, while 36% said ‘low sugar/sugar free’ and 36% said low fat/fat free; 35% said ‘low calorie’, 24% ‘unprocessed’ and 22% high fibre content.
“As well as vitamins – what people want which isn’t asked in this data is energy,” Forsyth said. “One in five Britons feel tired ‘all the time’ according to the National Health Service, and drinks are increasingly seen as an answer to this.”