After introducing the Freestyle machine to offer food service consumers more drink variety, Coca-Cola will introduce two Sprite flavours inspired by its fountain data. The soft drink giant will release Sprite Cherry and Sprite Cherry Zero, its calorie-free variant for release in 2017. According to Coca-Cola, Sprite and cherry flavour combinations were among the top soft drinks mixed by Freestyle consumers in U.S. food establishments. While most product launches are supported by survey data, simulations, and pilot tests, Sprite Cherry already has concrete sales data over a long time period. If the launch proves successful, what are some possible implications on future beverage launches?
Retailers will demand concrete sales data and manufacturers that cannot provide this will be at risk of having their proposals deprioritized. Shelf space is as valuable as ever today with a maniacal focus on sku performance – especially for trip driving categories like soft drinks – so the pressure to list the best performing items are significant. And the best performers are generally beverages that have proven success and relevance with the retailer’s shoppers. Which is why most Canadian launches trail American introductions by a year or two. A manufacturer that can share existing in-market data along with demographic and geographic data is more likely to earn retail support over others that can only share simulated results.
Manufacturers will be able to better target potential consumers and food partners. Armed with greater customer knowledge, they can triangulate a potential consumer’s age, location, drink by time of day, and food purchased with the beverage. Developing food or retail partnerships will be more compelling with credible co-purchase information. Organizational efficiency is improved with better time allocation for the innovation pipeline for items that generate the largest consumer base or the best dollar potential. An incremental benefit is greater speed to market by commercializing the innovation closer to the local market. This alleviates potential operational and supply chain issues while serving up fresher products to the end consumer.
Consumers will have a more prominent voice in deciding what new items appears down their grocery aisles. Whether they are consciously creating new drink combinations, they are more involved in the product development process. A drink combination they crafted and enjoyed at a restaurant is also available in more product formats so they can enjoy it at home.
Even as Sprite Cherry has yet to hit grocery shelves, the stakes in its success and the commercialization process is telling. It’s the first product launch created from their Freestyle data, and it’s the first core soft drink product launch in three years (after Coke Life). Should the product launch prove successful, there will be more retailer and manufacturer confidence to subsequent launches from Coca-Cola’s Freestyle machine. And consumers will enjoy a seamless product experience no matter the venue. Will mining data in Canadian Freestyle machines reveal a drink combination to be launched in Canada?