So where are you on the un-cola wave?

Jan 05

So where are you on the un-cola wave?

Birthday parties in our childhood i.e. eighties and early nineties meant a staple combo of a sandwich, some chips and the mad rush for cola refills! Kids used to scramble around the uncle doling out cold drink glasses. Now, when it’s our children having their birthday parties, much has changed! Though the sandwich is still in favour, there is a wide gamut of food to choose from with the favourite being a slice of pizza. While aerated drinks still figure among the beverage choices, mothers have become far more conscious about the health quotient of the beverages. From all kinds of stories about health hazards of colas to cold and cough issues, mothers seem to be moving away from colas. Fruit juices seem to have found favour with mothers as well as kids. And there is ample to choose from, from branded tetra-packs with multiple flavours to freshly squeezed juices, including the humble nimbupaani (lemon juice)!

So is this a trend or a mere freak fact only restricted to kids’ parties? Can we call this a un-cola wave? Well, the biggest support to this argument is that cola sales have been seeing dips or flat growth levels for the past few years. It is reported that cola sales have decelerated by 25% over last 3 years. Sprite, the lemon based clear drink (non-cola) is now the biggest brand by sales ahead of Coca-cola, Thumsup and Pepsi. Cola brands have to mention this disclaimer that the products are not suitable for kids’ consumption. Prices of colas haven’t increased much, compared to the overall inflation on everything, and yet their sales are not zooming but instead, fizzling out (pun intended).

Obviously, this is not a kids’ phenomenon then. Is this because of the notorious social media campaigns against the colas or is there a deeper underlying reason?
Everyone in the urban jungle is in some way pursuing some form of health/fitness activity from a myriad set of choices. It could be just a light walk here and there to doing Ramdev Baba’s yoga in front of the TV screen or serious gyming, running, etc. Marathon participation is increasing year on year. Having a fitness trainer is no longer a big lifestyle statement. A few years ago, one had predicted that with the fitness consciousness on the rise, people will move to wearing fitness oriented clothing, what is called ‘active wear’ and ‘performance wear’. That has now already become a huge industry with every big apparel retailer having launched their own label apart from the Reebok, Adidas and Nikes of the world.

And now this consciousness is spreading into what a person consumes. So while dieticians and health foods have been around for some time, even as we speak, this is becoming a big thing. Healthy food (different from health food) is coming into mainstream and not just a niche. Increasingly, the food television channels and celebrity chefs are pushing healthier options of whatever we are eating. There is also a cost rationalisation with majority of health food ingredients coming closer to affordable rates or perceived affordable rates.
In our own experience of having multiple juice and snack outlets in large corporates, we are seeing a huge conscious repeat purchase of even our premium varieties. While our product (juices/shakes/ beverages) is a discretionary spend compared to the main meal in the cafeteria, we are a preferred destination for a huge set of employees. And a quick dipstick revealed the fact that most of these customers are frequent consumers by choice and not due to any health issues. Fruit and fruit juice is culturally a natural choice with heavy connotations of being healthy.

Coming back to the colas. By no means is one suggesting that colas are a dying category. But one can’t deny the fact that there is a conscious choice people are making.
And that brings us to the original question. So which side are you on? Have you junked the junk?

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