Beverage Category Afizz In Holiday Cheer

Beverage marketers are out with products created or packaged just for the holiday season, adding a splash of novelty and pizzazz to energize the soda and beer sectors by making them available "for a limited time only."

PepsiCo.'s Sierra Mist has its first limited-time offering (LTO) with Cranberry Splash. It's available for just eight weeks, and supported with national TV and radio. A Pepsi spokesperson said the lemon-lime category peaks during the holiday season, as do cranberry juice-based drinks.

"We know consumers are looking for variety during the holiday season," the spokesperson said, "so this combination makes sense. Limited-time offerings bring excitement to the soft drink aisle."

Pepsi has done LTOs in the past. In 2004, it introduced Pepsi Holiday Spice, and created the line extension Mountain Dew Pitch Black for Halloween.

Seattle's Jones Soda has come out with an altruistic holiday pack complete with "Turkey & Gravy," "Green Pea," "Sweet Potato," "Dinner Roll" and "Antacid" sodas. Each bottle label features a Christmas scene.



President/CEO Peter van Stolk said the sodas have no calories or carbs, but "all the full rich flavor you have come to expect from the nation's number one-selling poultry-flavored soda." For the fourth year, Jones Soda will donate a portion of the sales to Toys for Tots.

Anheuser-Busch introduced Michelob Celebrate Chocolate in 24-ounce bottles. A gift set, which sells for about $20, includes one bottle of each flavor and two crystal snifters. That's right--snifters. Chocolate is A-B's third flavor in a holiday line that was launched last year, and joins Michelob Celebrate Vanilla Oak and Budweiser Brew Masters' Private Reserve.

The company is relying on word of mouth to advertise the products. "We know consumers like to discover new things and be the first to share this news with their friends," said Pat McGauley, A-B's vice president of innovations.

Coca-Cola, one of the first brands to use holiday packaging, is celebrating the 75th anniversary of the creation of its iconic Santa. Billboards will carry the image, and interactive, animated displays will bring the image to life in Simon Malls nationally.

Multi-packs and multi-liters will carry the image of the Coca-Cola Polar Bears presenting Santa with a bottle of Coke. Six-packs of limited-edition collector's bottles in the signature contour will carry the Santa artwork done from the 1930s to 1960s.

Launching seasonal sodas and beers has become a trend just in the last few years, said Gerry Khermouch, editor of Beverage Business Insights, with the impetus coming from the alcohol side.

"Among the craft brews, we've seen a lot of winter ale and seasonal beers, where they add spices like cardamom and cinnamon to make it a dessert beer. Among the heartier stouts, the idea of adding chocolate has burgeoned over the last 10 years."

Most seasonal beverages don't make the year-round tour, Khermouch said. But occasionally one gets an extension, such as Brooklyn Brewery's Black Chocolate Stout. "They used to have a two- to three-month window. Now it's more like five or six months."

LTO products "are a great way to energize the brand," he said. "In Sierra Mist's case, it has a narrow set of offerings. If they can market a special cranberry flavor, why not give it a whirl? It's appealing to consumers because they think if it's hard to get, it must be really good, and they scramble to get it."

Khermouch sees no big downside for seasonal beverage marketers. "If it doesn't do well, they just pretend it never happened."

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