With the middle class growing rapidly in emerging markets throughout South East Asia, Latin America and Africa, there is increased demand for new food and beverage products. While this represents a significant opportunity for bottlers to introduce new beverages, it also presents various logistical challenges that inherently come with bringing a new product to market.
From concept to consumption, there are many steps required to effectively bring a beverage to the store shelves; from research and development (R&D) and facility design, to quality assurance and control, and marketing to the consumer. If overlooked or not handled effectively, any one of these complex factors can slow or even halt product entry into a particular marketplace. The good news is that bottlers can work with technical services providers that help to ensure a seamless process from start to finish and every step of the way.
Meeting Demand for New Products
Consumers constantly seek out new food and beverage products. Meeting this fluctuating demand is no simple endeavor. New product R&D is a complex and involved process that involves highly skilled specialists in a laboratory who research different ingredients to create exciting, fresh formulas for new products. Flavor profiles must be analyzed and artfully crafted to the preferences of regional consumers. A good example can be found in the increasing popularity of “super-fruits”, including Acai-, Baobab-, and Guaraná-based drinks. Pomegranate, Lychee and Acerola flavors are also increasingly popular all over the world. These natural ingredients often provide energy and vitamins, meeting growing demand for functional beverages that are natural and nutritious.
In some cases, R&D might involve the reformulation of an existing product, tailored to the specific consumer tastes of a new market. For example, driven by consumer demand for all-natural ingredients, a beverage might be reformulated using cane sugar versus an artificial sweetener. This must be accomplished without affecting the consistency that consumers have come to expect from an existing brand.
Technical services suppliers can help streamline an otherwise daunting R&D process. With an experienced team of scientists and technicians armed with market research that pinpoints local taste preferences, the right supplier can significantly identify and actualize the right flavor profile for a given market.
Facilities Designed for Success
Whether building a new beverage bottling facility from scratch, or modernizing an existing plant, there are several key areas of focus, including site selection, equipment procurement, and the retention and training of plant personnel.
When choosing an initial site for a bottling operation, the first thing to determine is whether or not the current onsite facility is up to code. Does it meet international, national, and local building codes for food and beverage manufacturing operations? Working in conjunction with a knowledgeable technical services supplier, alongside local architects and contractors, can help ensure that a facility is up to code and ready to begin the business of bottling beverages. In addition, it is important to consider aesthetics. The external appearance of a plant represents the brand and can inadvertently convey a negative message about the cleanliness and professionalism of a bottling operation.
Once a proper site has been selected, the right equipment and personnel must be acquired and put into action. Complex equipment – including filling, capping and labeling machinery – is necessary to meet demand efficiently and cost-effectively. Plant personnel must then be trained to properly operate the bottling equipment. In addition to the trained staff necessary to run day-to-day manufacturing line operations, a modern bottling plant needs specialized staff, including engineers, chemists and flavor technicians.
A strong technical services supplier will be able to assist in the retaining and training of the employees a bottling operation needs to run properly. Additionally, these service suppliers can help bottlers determine the best possible equipment to suit their needs, speeds and annual volumes – as well as designing a facility that can accommodate future growth as part of a long-term business strategy.
Identifying & Maintaining a Quality Water Supply
Quality assurance can mean many things from food safety concerns to beverage flavor and color consistency. The cleanliness of a bottling plant is a big part of food safety. When providing beverages for consumption, it is absolutely vital that the plant not only meet, but exceed international, national and local standards for food and beverage operations. Here is where a strong technical services supplier comes into play. Bottlers can leverage supplier expertise in regulatory affairs, helping to ensure compliance with existing and future provisions of new legislation, such as the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).
Arguably, the most important aspect of beverage manufacturing is the procurement of safe and reliable water sources. While not as much of a challenge in North America and Western Europe, this is a hurdle faced in many emerging markets. Continuous water supply monitoring is needed to ensure that the water chemistry remains consistent. Weekly microbiological testing is also required to prevent contamination, which can result in lost revenue due to product recalls as well as irreparable damage to the brand. Water samples should be analyzed on a quarterly basis, and complete water analysis should be cross-checked with national standards for target markets on an annual basis.
Water sampling practices will depend on the type of treatment system in use. For example, a reverse-osmosis (RO) system can accommodate testing every six hours. Conventional water treatment systems should be checked every hour.
A good supply partner will be able to advise on the most appropriate water treatment system and provide guidance to the bottler on best practices in continuous analysis to ensure product safety.
Finally, water conservation practices should be put into place. These practices reduce operating costs by allowing bottlers to do more with less, and effectively demonstrate environmentally conscious behavior. The right supply partner can help manage these crucial supply chain issues, addressing water treatment concerns and training staff to ensure a safe and consistent water supply.
Consistent Quality Assurance & Control
The quality of the ingredients used is equally important in beverage processing. High quality raw ingredients must meet rigid quality control standards and certifications. These ingredients, as well as the final product, must be routinely tested.
Production lines are assessed on the type of product produced, packaging and volumes. Based on that information, a good technical services supplier designs a customized line for the customer’s needs. Once a line is operational, the supplier evaluates how it can be improved, how to reduce costs, and optimize the production line. All raw materials including packaging and ingredients are to be tested and approved before use in final product. In-process testing should also occur throughout the production run to ensure key attributes are within specifications. Finally, finished products should be tested for key attributes before releasing it to the market.
Quality control is vital to success and these practices must be put into place, starting with a qualified and quality-minded workforce.
Employees must be trained to effectively identify defects throughout the entire manufacturing process. Training must stress the need to eliminate anything that might negatively impact the safety or consistency of a brand. Guidance provided by an experienced industry partner on employee QA/QC training can help to prevent the pitfalls that lead to costly product recalls that can do irreparable damage to a brand.
World-Class Marketing Strategies
After overcoming the many logistical hurdles – from the R&D efforts to develop a unique flavor profile, to the construction of a world-class processing facility with state-of-the-art equipment and a fully-trained staff – a branded and bottled product emerges. However, there is still one more key step needed to effectively get a brand to the consumer: marketing. No less complex or important, proper marketing can include various areas of support including advertising, sales promotions, and sales staff training.
Advertising encompasses a broad range of media-based tools that make use of traditional media, including print, television and radio, as well as social media that targets consumers directly. In addition, P.O.S. advertising and well-designed packaging can help increase visibility in a crowded marketplace, maximizing the probability of a purchasing decision.
While advertising is aimed at drawing consumers to products, sales promotions actively push products, giving consumers a compelling reason to try a new item and, in the case of retailers, a reason to stock one on their shelves.
A well-trained and motivated sales staff is another key ingredient to success. An effective sales force must be equipped and properly trained to establish and convey a consistent brand image. This includes consistently branded uniforms and transportation fleet (trucks, vans and automobiles), as well as sales techniques and all outgoing sales communications.
All of these elements must come together as part of a single, effective marketing strategy to ensure the success of a new product.
Working with a seasoned supplier with comprehensive marketing capabilities can allow a bottler to make use of a broad array of marketing strategies and tactics.
A marketing-savvy supply partner can take key learnings from similar markets and help bottlers apply it to their target region(s) with the right amount of tailoring to local culture and values for maximum impact. More specifically, such as supplier can provide assistance in identifying target audiences, setting attainable sales goals, establishing competitive pricing, and providing promotional materials and P.O.S. tools and even helping bottlers create a more targeted advertising campaign using grass-roots or mainstream tactics. Sales team training can also be provided to ensure that the bottler’s workforce is representing the brand in the best possible light.
Bringing a new beverage to market is a complex and multi-faceted process. From R&D, to creating a new beverage, up through the production and promotion of a new product, the sheer amount of time and resources needed to successfully get a new product in front of consumers is massive. From concept to consumption, the value of partnering with the right technical services provider cannot be understated. In order to succeed in a competitive marketplace, various steps must be expertly navigated, including R&D, production, and product marketing. Finding a supply partner with the right combination of expertise across several areas can mean the difference between being just another entry in an oversaturated market, and standing out on the shelves as an exciting new product.
About Royal Crown Cola International (RCCI)
Royal Crown Cola International’s (RCCI) portfolio offers a wide array of beverages. Its flagship brand RC® Cola, one of America’s original colas and leading brand for 108 years, is joined by the fresh and fruity flavors of RCQ®, crisp lemon-lime taste of Upper 10®, naturally delicious juices of Chadwick Bay™, refreshing energy blend of Red Rain®, and the thirst-quenching mixers of Ben Shaws®. Enjoyed by consumers around the world, RCCI’s products are available in more than 60 countries through a global network of bottlers and distributors. Royal Crown Cola International is a division of Cott Beverages Inc., a subsidiary of Cott Corporation (NYSE: COT, TSX: BCB). Trademark registration status varies by geographic territory. For more information about our products, please visit www.rccolainternational.com.