Muriel Koch, Nestlé Waters’ marketing manager told this website that Perrier – which celebrated its 150th anniversary last year as it topped the 1bn+ package production mark – is keen to build volumes abroad.
Explaining that Perrier sees Russia and Japan as promising markets, Koch turned to China.
“We are preparing a very special launch for the brand. Perrier’s been there for 20 years already, so is well known, but it’s hyper-premium and only distributed in very high-end outlets in the big Tier 1 cities [Beijing, Shanghai, Guanzhou],” she said.
“It’s really a product to be seen with,” Koch added. “The Chinese people don’t really drink at home. They save during the week in order to be seen at the weekend with a friend in Starbucks.
“It’s the same for Perrier, which marks people out as a connoisseur or a sophisticate, drinking a special water from France with a special taste,” Koch said, adding that despite tiny volumes given China’s size and population, Nestlé Waters saw great promise for the brand.
Chinese intrigued by ‘violent’ taste
Koch explained that the taste of Perrier was very novel for Chinese consumers. “It’s really very violent for them in terms of taste, because they’re not really used to bubbles.”
Asked if Perrier appealed to the Chinese as a premium mixer for status drinks including spirits, Koch noted that mixology is popular in China, with well-developed cocktail and non-alcoholic (mocktail) categories.
Since the Chinese drink a lot of spirits, they do mix it with Perrier, she added, but it was mostly drunk without alcohol since the water’s principle appeal is to female drinkers.
“At the moment it’s tiny volumes. Compared to the size and the number of the people it’s tiny."
Turning to other emerging markets, Koch said Latin America were aware of high sugar levels in sodas and were exploring alternatives, with Mexico in particular an important market for Perrier.
2014 launches in France, US
Quizzed on who the typical Perrier consumer is, Koch said: “Perrier drinkers are 45+ in some countries, but I’d say that our average consumer is 30-50 years old. That’s where most of the consumption is, in the US also.
“The difference, if we compare Coca-Cola for example, is that we target people 30+. This is because we find that, in terms of consumption and palate education, younger people are not ready to switch to Perrier.
“Of course some people like it, but we know that we have much more chance of attracting people in their 30s. These people are more aware of sugar intake, naturalness, and you are keener to discover new tastes – they tend to migrate from sugary drinks to flavored then to plain waters,” Koch said.
In terms of NPD, Koch revealed that Perrier will launch a new Red Fruit flavor in France this March – with the brand keen to preserve flavour subtlety, to not mask the water’s taste, although flavour strength varies between markets – and will also rollout an undisclosed flavor for the US season.
The successful US launch of a 250ml ‘slim can’ will also cross the Atlantic to France, albeit in a 330ml incarnation that will replace the current standard can. Perrier is the only international water sold in cans.
Slim can speaks to US youth
The slim can was launched less than two years ago in the US, but already represents 15% of national volumes, with Koch attributing its appeal to a small-size format that allowed penetration into C-stores like 7-11 and encouraged consumers to trial the drink.
“In terms of younger consumers, the slim can is also very modern. In regard to image and attractiveness, the can has a premium appeal that is cool, and they are happy to show it to their friends, especially in situations where bottles aren’t cool,” she said.
Finally, reflecting on the changes Perrier has seen since Nestlé Waters bought the brand in 1992, Koch said: “Looking back to ’92 and volumes at that time, we’ve more than doubled them since, selling 1bn units in 2013. We’ve seen massive growth in terms of markets and demand.
The introduction of Perrier in PET in the 2001 extended consumption from ‘festive’ and en terrase occasions (outside occasions in restaurants, bars and at home) to more everyday use, Koch added, and was a “big game changer”, while flavored Perrier also drove a volume increase.
On this site you can listen to our podcast with Perrier site manager, Bernard Rouger, taken during our December 2013 site visit, or take a virtual tour of the Perrier source in Vergeze with this exclusive gallery.