Abid Hussain Barlaskar

PepsiCo's Vineet Sharma on Tropicana's new PET bottle push

As health takes centre stage, PepsiCo advertises Tropicana’s new PET bottle format. The juice brand has added a new dash of ‘cool’ to attract youngsters.

The latest ad campaign for PepsiCo’s juice brand Tropicana in India has turned the codes of juice advertising topsy-turvy. The just released ad film for Tropicana’s new PET bottle format doesn’t once mention the ‘health’ and ‘nutrient’ aspect of juices. Instead, it pushes the fizzy drink out of its own fun and frolic space.

The campaign ‘Hawabaazi Gone, Asli On!’ mocks the ‘fizz’. The smart alec ‘Hawabaaz’ versus the cool Tropicana-sipping ‘Doers’ premise is set on the backdrop of a college football match. The all gas ‘Hawabaaz’ is sipping a carbonated beverage from a green glass bottle (like that of Sprite or 7Up).

There are a bunch of new things here. Packaged juices (barring the few fancy ones), especially those that are heavily advertised and have the ‘healthy’ proposition, have traditionally been sold in tetra packs (1L and 200ml).

Also, rarely have brands in the Rs 6,000 crore to Rs 7,000 crore juice category (apart from mango drinks) been advertised sans the ‘healthy’, ‘goodness of fruit’ and ‘added vitamins’ propositions.

Again, while juices have primarily been associated with health, fizz is associated with fun and refreshment. With the ad, the juice brand elbows ‘fizz’ and takes over the latter’s premise.

Around three years back, PepsiCo set out on a quest for Tropicana’s new extension for a new ‘young’ target group. This resulted in the launch of the new bottle format. The bottles are available in 200ml (Rs 20) and 500ml (Rs 40), which now sit between the existing 200ml and 1L tetra packs.

It does two things. While the now clearly visible juice in the transparent bottle becomes more appetising, the 500ml bottle makes it more feasible for on-the-go consumption.

PepsiCo’s conversations with Wunderman Thompson (Tropicana’s ad agency) started with ‘the desire to connect with the young consumer’, the ones who ‘are running marathons, buying health tech devices and signing up on health apps’. While the campaign was ready for launch in February-March, it was postponed considering the COVID situation and sentiment.

Vineet Sharma, director, Juices, PepsiCo India, tells afaqs! that the 1L packs are more of an in-home consumption format that goes along with occasions like breakfasts. Similarly, the 200ml tetra pack format is primarily aimed at kids, like say, a tiffin snack. The 1L packs, which are meant for family consumption, are targeted at housewives and adults.

Vineet Sharma
Vineet Sharma

Sharma explains that this leaves the brand with a big gap (read opportunity) in the 15-30 year age bracket – ‘unmarried’, on-the-go and digital-first youngsters. Thus, the advertising.

"Unless we connect with their (consumers') beliefs, functionality alone doesn’t deliver"

“Health and wellness is an important part of the identity for young consumers, but the way they connected was different from someone looking at the nutrient aspect alone. We felt that only by delivering goodness, we can’t connect with them. Consumers told us that, for them, health and wellness is about being fit, doing more in life and being authentic. Unless we connect with their beliefs, functionality alone doesn’t deliver.”

Sharma explains that for the younger generation, it was a combination of three things, the goodness, the taste, and the connection with self-identity. He stresses that while the product remains the same, what changes is the experience of consumption.

“The younger consumers on the go want options that are contemporary. They love to flaunt it, to show their friends on social media.”

“The younger consumers on the go want options that are contemporary. They love to flaunt it, to show their friends on social media. While it is fundamentally about health, the new format is something cool that they can hold as their own against various other options. Maybe the existing formats were not talking to them.”

But PepsiCo has a healthy fizzy drink portfolio, which includes major brands like Pepsi, 7Up and Mirinda. While it is understandable that fizzy drinks have missed the bus on this year’s summer blitz due to the pandemic, isn’t PepsiCo hurting itself by attacking the ‘fizz’?

On the other hand, packaged fruit juices, as a beverage segment, has been doing extremely well due to the increased focus on health and wellness and Vitamin C. “Both our in-home packs and the on-the-go PET packs are getting a strong response. Even on e-commerce, we are growing really well in higher double digits. The entire portfolio has grown more than 100 per cent in the last couple of months,” says Sharma.

"The entire portfolio has grown more than 100 per cent in the last couple of months"

Speaking about the possible impact of the campaign on the fizzy beverage business, Sharma says that it is not about influencing choices, but about connecting with certain attributes of a wide consumer segment.

“In the current space, there are a lot of consumers with a lot of choices. We did not want to target a specific category, but a certain archetype of consumers, which is all about ‘authentic, goodness and about doing more’,” Sharma adds.

Despite the COVID-related spike in consumption, flavour preferences continue to be the same, with ‘mixed fruit’ being the top flavour. Although packaged juice consumption is mostly urban India-oriented, formats like the PET bottles target consumers beyond cities. While the in-home formats are concentrated in the cities, the on-the go segments are seeing a strong traction in smaller owns. Another key strategy is to enhance distribution beyond the top strata.

On TV, ‘Hawabaazi Gone, Asli On!’ is a GEC forward campaign. This will be accompanied by parallel digital initiatives to build the conversations around ‘Asli versus Hawabaazi’. On digital, apart from video formats, there will be memes and strong influencer-led fun initiatives.