1 (1) Coca-Cola
Sales: £1,153.9m +0.8%
“It’s not quite been the year we were planning for,” admits Nick Canney, vice president of sales at Coca-Cola Enterprises.
The company was expecting big things for the Coca- Cola brand in the year of the London Olympics. And there was no shortage of exposure - but this has not been reflected in the sales figures, which crawled up just 0.8% by value while falling 0.5% by volume.
Central to Coke’s Olympic activity was the Torch Relay - a 10-week opportunity to promote the brand, strengthen ties with retailers and sell plenty of product. “The torch took about 70 days to travel from Cardiff to Hyde Park. I think we had rain for 64 of them,” says a wry Canney.
As a result, the activity secured plenty of goodwill and good PR but was something of a washout in terms of sales - an issue compounded by intense promotional activity by rival soft drinks brands.
The decline has been spread fairly evenly between standard Coca-Cola and Diet Coke, with Coke Zero - which represents about 6% of total brand sales - performing well across the year, according to CCE.
And Canney is confident the brand is fighting fit for 2013. “Form is temporary, class is permanent,” he says.
CCE has been pleased with responses to the 375ml ‘pocket pack’ bottles introduced last year and targeted particularly at the lunchtime crowd. Sales of the format have hit £22m in less than a year on shelf, and 54% has been incremental to the brand, says Canney.
The company is confident that insisting c-stores carry a 1.75-litre bottle rather than the 2-litre one available to supermarkets will also drive value - although it concedes the move made a few retailers nervous.
Canney is also excited about the return of Vanilla Coke as a permanent part of the range. “Vanilla was a £54m brand in 2003 - which makes this the biggest soft drinks launch of the year,” he says.
The company also has big marketing plans for the summer. All Canney will say is that the through-the-line push incorporates “activity not seen before in any category - not just in soft drinks”.
In terms of current marketing, CCE has made waves this year with the return of the Diet Coke ‘hunk’ in a new ad as part of the 30th-anniversary celebrations of the drink.
Diet Coke and Coke Zero between them account for 46.6% of brand sales - a fact Canney feels has been ignored by those calling for a tax on soft drinks. “The industry is being vilified, which feels unfair given the efforts we are making in the area,” he says. And these efforts have been ramped up this month, with CCE replacing Sprite with a lower-calorie version using herbal sweetener stevia and launching a campaign of dedicated anti-obesity advertising.
Promotions will also be a big part of the marketing mix this year. Caught on the hop by rivals’ pricing activity last year, CCE has kicked off 2013 with a big promotional push that it claims has already grown its market share.
The brand has also acknowledged the competition it faces from energy drinks - particularly with the teen audience. “Brand awareness is as high as it has ever been - what we need to do is make Coke relevant to teens,” says Canney.
“Coke was the original energy drink - it was designed as a tonic and still fits right into that space.”