This summer, a host of brands are jostling for thirst space. Not just colas but beverages and fruit juices of all hues are adorning shop shelves.
From bottled iced-tea to branded chhaas, fruit-based drinks and flavoured milk, beverage makers have gone berserk with product innovation as new variants continue to flood the market.
Says Nadia Chauhan, marketing head at Parle Agro, "This summer we have seen a trend towards fruit-based products."
Early this year, Parle Agro spent Rs 5 crore (Rs 50 million) to relaunch its flagship mango drink, Frooti, with modified packaging and a new ad campaign. Just three weeks ago, it launched a guava drink, Frooti Guava, in Mumbai and other western regions in 65ml packs priced at Rs 2.50.
The company is now out with Appy Fizz, an aerated apple drink in champagne-shaped PET bottles.
Launched in Bangalore, it is being rolled out in Kolkata and Chennai in 500 ml and 300 ml packs retailing at Rs 25 and Rs 18, respectively.
The 60 million case fruit beverage market never had it so good. Of the Rs 7,000-8,000 crore (Rs 70-80 billion) drinks market, fruit beverages account for Rs 500 crore (Rs 5 billion), growing at 25- 30 per cent annually. Like most drinks, summer accounts for 65 per cent of total sales.
Why are fruit drinks high on the swig list this summer? For one, it is part of the health fad sweeping the nation. Health conscious consumers are increasingly giving aerated drinks the go by and making a beeline for fruit-based concoctions.
Moreover, sporadic controversies about pesticide-infested cola drinks are said to be driving consumers towards fruit-based drinks as a safer alternative.
That is why even existing players are going all out to pour out new flavours.
Take Godrej Industries' foods division. Its XS fruit juice, launched in 1998 in litchi, guava and mango flavours, now comes in more exotic blends.
These include fruit juice combinations like Kiwi Kraze (kiwi-apple-lemon), Berry Blast (strawberry-cherry-black currant) and Triple Tickle (apricot-peach-apple). The new range is priced at Rs 15 for 200 ml and Rs.65 for 1000 ml.
Says Mohan Pusalkar, executive director and president of Godrej Foods, "The idea is to come out with exotic flavours that will combine great taste with attractive packaging for the youth." With the new offerings, he expects to see a 30-40 per cent rise in sales.
Pitching in to pose further competition to the colas is the recent launch of Amul Masti chhaas by the Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation. Amul has also added two new variants -- strawberry and mango flavours -- to its milk drink brand Amul Cool.
Says R S Sodhi, general manager, marketing, for Amul: "We are currently selling 400,000 units of Amul Cool per day with six flavours. That is 23 per cent higher than last summer, when we had just four flavours."
Coming next from the Amul stable is Cool Cafe, a coffee drink to be launched in Mumbai, Delhi and Gujarat.
In keeping with market sentiments, cola biggies Coca Cola and Pepsi, too, are focusing on innovation in their non-cola portfolio. Coca Cola has launched Maaza in pineapple and orange variants in 125 ml tetrapacks and large family packs.
It recently started a new facility in Bareilly to cater to the growing demand for Maaza in north and central India. It is learnt that the company is also set to launch some "niche" products.
Pepsi, in association with foods and toiletries major Hindustan Lever, recently launched Lipton Iced Tea in returnable glass bottles and PET bottles. It has also introduced Mirinda in apple and strawberry flavours.
Pepsi had earlier said they planned to reduce their dependence on cola and bring it down to 40 per cent of total sales in the next few years.
Though Pepsi and Coca Cola were unavailable for comment, the trade claims that cola volumes are down by around 40 per cent since last year.
Pepsi came on aggressively with its "Oye Bubbly" campaign this summer. Coca Cola promised consumers a date with Aishwarya Rai with its "Thanda Aish Cash" promotion. It also promoted ThumsUp through March and April with its "Hai Dum?" campaign featuring Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar.Retailers, however, say that while such efforts lead to a temporary revival in offtake, sales tend to slacken once the promotions end.