Innovation is the name of the game in the beverage industry today as beverage manufacturers seek to keep a winning portfolio with shifting consumer preferences. Inventive ways to deliver healthy flavors are disrupting the beverage market dominated by sodas. Customization through do-it-yourself (DIY) flavors and drink delivery mechanisms, like at-home soda machines, is giving consumers the keys to creating their own flavors on their own time. When it comes to alcohols, craft beers are emerging in spades, and wines and spirits are looking to serve up exclusive takes on trusted brands.
While some manufacturers are investing in-house in producing the next big thing in beverage, many are looking outside their companies to collaborate with or acquire brands to help them on their journey to new products or new markets. Regardless of the path, having processes and tools in place to support an iterative go to market strategy with shopper insights will put new products on the road to success.
Establishing Alternatives to Meet Consumer Trends
With consumer tastes changing rapidly, beverage manufacturers are renovating their portfolio mix to align with consumer preferences. Beverage companies are releasing lower calorie alternatives to classic sugary drinks by using various alternative sweeteners. The Do-it-Yourself (DIY) trend put the power of flavor in the consumers’ hands or dispensing machine. Looking for ways to tap into local sentiment, some beverage companies are getting creative with small batch, artisanal, and locally focused drinks.
Substitute the Sweeteners
With stagnant sales volume of carbonated beverages and mounting social, political, and regulatory pressures, 1 beverage makers are seeking to produce alternatives that feel good to drink. Better-for-you sugar substitutes, real fruits and vegetables, and drinks that are made locally are finding popularity.
Companies are seeking exclusive rights and patents to the next big thing in sweeteners, like PepsiCo’s exclusive rights to Sweetmyx this year. Many health-aware consumers are skipping the added sweeteners altogether and harnessing the taste and benefits of real fruits and vegetables. This trend is moving out of the yoga studio and into the home, endorsed by millenials, celebrities, and the health conscious across the nation. Consumers are seeking drinks with health benefits and peace of mind knowing how to pronounce every ingredient in a ready to drink (RTD) beverage. As beverage manufactures respond to this trend, and walk the line of boasting health benefits, they may be at risk of opening the door to increasing regulation of functional foods.
There is a huge burst of creative DIY drink making that ranges from mixing flavors to getting your favorite coffee shop flavors at home. Whether they’re liquid or powder flavor additives, or single serving drinks, beverage manufacturers are finding success in getting drinks to consumers exactly how they want them. DIY opportunities are at every turn; Coke has seen a double digit increase in servings from its Freestyle machines across the U.S. Leveraging new technology, these machines mix known Coke brands with flavor additives like vanilla or orange using smaller cartridges instead of bulky syrups combined with soda water.
Establishing Alternatives to Meet Consumer Trends
Craft beer and craft soda are steadily growing segments that address consumers’ desire for rich, local flavor that feels nostalgic and homegrown. Spirit manufacturers and cocktail artists are getting creative with small-batch and artisanal drinks. The well-known vodka brand, Absolut, owned by Pernod Ricard, is kicking off the Our/Vodka initiative to bring micro-distilleries to several cities across the U.S. and other countries. These municipal partnerships will focus on creating a single Absolut product using local ingredients and tapping into the local communities through tastings, communal forums, and other events. Drink manufacturers have an opportunity to hit the crossroads of transparency and customization for consumers by letting them know exactly what is in their beverages or where and how they are made.
- Product Development : Drink manufacturers cannot rest on their sugary laurels; consumers desire simpler, healthier beverages that they can customize and access any time. In what ways do your products interact with communities to incorporate local flavors? How can you offer a custom experience with your products?
- Value Chain: A change in ingredients can often mean a change in storage and transportation processes. It can even change the area of the retail store where your product is sold. Where in the store does your new product belong – with the fresh, fast-paced store perimeter or with the bulk of drink selections in the non-perishable center of the store? Do you have the right sales channels for desired product placement?
- Analytics: Do you have tools and metrics in place to measure the impact of new products? Access to real-time analysis of end user data can also guide decisions about marketing and brand integrity. It helps combat any nonconformity events and address recall situations thoroughly and immediately. Analytics also create a more agile innovation pipeline to quickly respond to the market.
- Promotions and New Product Introductions: While innovation is great, there are many challenges incorporating the ever growing SKUs into promotional processes and systems. Do you have a mature sales organization equipped to get your products on the shelves without cannibalizing your current sales? Are your systems and processes ready to incorporate the many new SKUs and product types to help you achieve the impact of your new investment products?
Merging into New Markets
Many consumer products companies today are purchasing new brands and investing in new technologies and markets to help them establish the right portfolio mix. Searching for diverse product offerings through mergers or acquisition is often times more beneficial and efficient than trying to break into a new market alone.
The Risks with Brand Acquisition
The mixing of culture and identity of two companies is often not a primary consideration during M&A. Some have found that gobbling up smaller brands with core values that are greatly different than the parent can be more harm than help to the identities of each brand. Recently, companies on both sides of an acquisition have faced loss of consumer trust with petitions and boycotts accusing the smaller brand of “selling out.” According to a Forrester study, brand resonance, brand referral, and brand preference all correlate with consumer trust at over 80%. While M&A can be a great opportunity for smaller companies to gain a greater audience and make their message heard, they must be selective such to maintain their loyal consumer base and stay true to their core values.
Spirits Are Up in
Emerging Markets In addition to emerging products and segments, brand identity should be top of mind while expanding products to new audiences or regions. The global share of emerging markets reached 40% in 2010, and this number is expected to surpass developed markets by 2020.2 The beverage industry in emerging markets grew from $3 billion in 2001 to over $38 billion in 2012 and has created a rush to dominate in the largest emerging markets.3 Rising standards of living across the world and growing middle classes set the stage for global alcohol manufacturers to establish brand loyalty and grow in tandem. However, the premium image, price points and flavors that bring success to spirit manufacturers in developed markets may not garner the same success in today’s emerging markets. Several factors affect strategies around brand image and distribution: cultural traditions, regulatory environments, local market protectionism, logistics networks and the pace of economic growth.
- M&A for Innovation: If you want to take advantage of new segments or emerging markets, consider the implications of in-house development versus M&A activity. How do consumers relate to your brand, and does that message align with potential acquisition targets? Are there attractive targets with distribution capabilities or brand recognition that are missing in your current enterprise?
- Value Chain: When looking to move into the M&A game, what is your strategy to ensure the new brand can be fully leveraged? Do you have a plan of merging the financials, processes, and systems? Having a good M&A model will allow you to expedite your integration time without losing consumers.
- Culture is Key: Not only do employees care about preserving cultures, but now, your consumers do too. Do you have a way to preserve the culture of brands you are acquiring to ensure your consumer base and employee base will not disengage? Full organizational change management assessments can help you mange through these turbulent transitions.
For more on the beverage industry findings, download our report.