Pepsi RAW: Where did it all go wrong?

By Elaine Watson and Ben Bouckley

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Caffeine

Pepsi Raw
Pepsi Raw
Branding experts have blamed a combination of poor timing, poor marketing and a confused proposition for the failure of ‘natural born cola’ Pepsi RAW.

The brand, which has been ditched just two years after a multi-million-pound launch, was marketed on an ‘all natural’ platform and made with sparkling water, cane sugar, apple extract, ‘natural caffeine’ and kola nut extract.

However, it did not resonate with grocery shoppers, despite performing well in pubs and clubs, admitted distributor Britvic.

“Pepsi RAW has had great success in bars and pubs, where we knew it would perform well. However the roll-out to grocery has been less successful, which is why we’ve taken the decision to withdraw the brand from the UK market."

Consumers 'didn't get it​'

Ian Moore, founder of communications consultancy Blue Chip Marketing, told FoodManufacture.co.uk the proposition - 'natural cola' - may have been regarded by some consumers as a contradiction in terms.

He added: "When I first saw all the advertising in Paddington Station I remember thinking that it was not immediately obvious what the proposition was.

"Is it organic, low calorie, or even an energy drink? The name makes it sound something like Red Bull, but that's not really what it was all about."

While the natural trend was important in the drinks sector, it was not clear that cola drinkers - who were also very loyal to particular brands and accustomed to certain tastes and sweeteners - were demanding something more natural, he said.

However, Nick Cloke from marketing consultancy Catalyst said that PepsiCo's biggest problem had been timing, adding: "My feeling is that launching a premium niche brand just as the recession was starting to bite was always going to be a risk.

"Pepsi RAW was the kind of brand that would probably have found a market and established itself had the economic climate been more favourable."

Poor visibility?

Meanwhile, Jonathan Gabay from Brand Forensics suggested that PepsiCo had placed too much faith in social media to market Pepsi RAW, with one novelty including the printing of a Twitter address on every bottle and can.

He said: "Brand evangelists have gone on about Web 2.0 as being the future of marketing for several years now, and it is vital, but you can't put all your eggs in one basket, and traditional channels are still important.

"One other issue was limited availability for Pepsi RAW. If there's little visibility on the shelves then it's hard to get consumers to change to a product, however 'natural' it is.

"I rather liked the product myself, but I don't think the public really understood it because the point of differentiation was unclear, especially at a premium price."

Pepsi RAW was available in 300ml bottles, 250ml cans and 150ml 'mixer' cans.

Related topics: NPD, Beverages

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