• 6 minute read

The Minute Maid Case

In the increasingly competitive ready‐to‐drink beverage market in China, how does Minute Maid sustain its top position in the eyes of the consumers?

By Louisa Wah Hansen

When Minute Maid was launched in China back in 2004, the TV ads only mentioned the product name “Fruit Pulp Orange” without mentioning “Minute Maid”. Vivian Ki, Marketing Director for Minute Maid China, reveals the success formula.

Was this a rather new marketing approach used by the Coca‐Cola Company or by anyone else?

This is quite a special strategy. Within our company, when we started marketing new product lines under the Coca‐Cola, Aquarius and Georgia Coffee brands, for example, we always focused on the original brand names for introducing the sub‐brands. That’s why marketing the sub‐brand “Fruit Pulp Orange” without using the “Minute Maid” name was a unique approach.

In the China market, many categories and new products have emerged, and as a result, many products would use the approach of communicating the key benefit or feature of a product. But “Fruit Pulp Orange” was a breakthrough product not only within The Coca‐Cola Company but in this entire product category throughout the world—putting pulp into the juice so consumers can feel like they are eating the whole fruit while drinking the juice. This product characteristic is indeed unique and unprecedented.

Does this brand positioning strategy have any kind of competitive advantage over other juice drinks in the China market?

Yes, I believe there is competitive advantage in adopting this strategy. While this fruit pulp juice drink is new to the China market, the English brand name Minute Maid has been well known around the world and in the industry. The acceptance level and confidence within the industry and among some global key trade channel customers was already high prior to the launch of “Fruit Pulp Orange.” So the brand recognition among trade channel customers makes it easy and effective for us to enter a new market. By leveraging on the established global brand, Minute Maid, we were able to successfully launch a product with completely new characteristics to match the local market’s demand. All marketing and advertising efforts were geared toward highlighting the unique product characteristics.

How many people knew about the Minute Maid original name in China at launch?

Not all knew about it but it was generally known in the trade as a brand that exists around the world. Consumers in China face many challenges in terms of product choices, one of which is the existence of counterfeits. But Minute Maid is a well‐established beverage brand, and is the leading brand globally in terms of volume sales. So this made it easier to establish confidence among the consumers.

Can you tell us how Minute Maid as a brand helps your fruit pulp drink product sustain its competition edge over competitors in the long run?

Whether it is in brand building or ingredient supply or the manufacturing process, it took time for competitors to follow suit. Our pulp drink product has been well received by consumers. As we gradually saw many copycats over the years, we have reinforced our marketing effort to highlight the original unique product characteristics (i.e. fruit juice with pulp). Recently we have added the tagline “Sunshine Pulp” to emphasize the high‐quality ingredients that we use in the product.

It’s important for us to also emphasize the Minute Maid brand as Coca‐Cola’s No. 1 brand in juice drinks. Of course one cannot spread too many messages in a short TV commercial, so we need to be single‐minded. But at different stages of our communication, the brand equity of Minute Maid can help to reinforce consumer recognition. Without strong brand equity of the parent brand, the pulp juice drink product might have lost its competitive advantage when copycat products cropped up over the years. The Minute Maid brand thus lends a strong support and gives credibility to the product as it continues to grow in the market.

Do you have any figures to prove that the dual branding strategy works? Please share with us some of the latest business results of Minute Maid.

According to AC Nielsen, since 2007, Minute Maid has been the No. 1 brand in the juice drink category in terms of both volume and sales value in China from 2008 to 2012. We have also been the No. 1 most‐favored juice brand among consumers for a long time, based on our quantitative consumer research. By 2008, more than 1 billion consumers have tried our “Fruit Pulp Orange.”Because of the sales in China, Minute Maid became the Coca‐Cola Company’s Top 14 brand globally that is valued at more than US$1 billion as of 2010. From its launch until today, Minute Maid has been a very successful brand in China.

How do you compare the spending on the launch of the new sub‐brand “Minute Maid Pulpy Super Milky,” (“Guo Li Nai You”, 果粒奶优) with that of “Fruit Pulp Orange”? Was it substantially less? Can you put a figure on it?

It is very difficult to compare the investment amount for the two product lines. The total amount of investment to launch the dairy product in 2009 may not be less than that for Fruit Pulp Orange. And besides, we were entering an entirely new product category with strong competition, so the investment was sizeable. However, we believe the marketing effort was more effective because the brand Minute Maid was already well established, so consumers have confidence in the product quality and safety. When we first launched Fruit Pulp Orange, it took some time for consumers to become familiar with the parent brand Minute Maid. When people have accepted the first product and then we introduced new product lines later on, it became much easier for consumers to accept the new ones.

The word “Guo Li” (which means fruit pulp in English) for the dairy drink builds on the brand equity of “Guo Li Cheng” (Fruit Pulp Orange). The product itself was also a breakthrough as we added fruit pulp in the dairy product, giving consumers a filling sensation.

As far as market share is concerned, because it is a new category and we are still developing it, we don’t have enough figures to share. It is not yet No. 1 in the market. We are still exploring the market and trying to find out how to stand out from the competition. When we first introduced Fruit Pulp Orange, it was a relatively young category so we had the first‐mover advantage. But in the milk drink category, there is already a lot of competition and we are a latecomer, so we need more time to explore the market and to find out how to be stronger.

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