Battle for Leadership in Apple Segment of Soft Drink Market

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In recent years, the apple segment of the carbonated soft drink market has emerged with marked and superior quality as well as brand innovation and technology assuming the hallmark of clear leadership in the market, reports Kunle Aderinokun

The consumption of Carbonated Soft Drinks (CSD) particularly among young adult has become very popular in recent times. The consumption of soft drink dates back to the early 1670s with the introduction of fruit-flavored drinks. Water imperial was one of the first forms of soft drinks in Tudor England, and it was a sweetened drink with lemon flavour containing cream of tartar.

By 1767, scientists had made significant progress in the production of carbonated mineral water, which is a major ingredient in the production of CSD. Since then, several companies and individuals have gone into the production of CSD which comes in different flavours such as Orange, Apple, Ginger, Cola, grape, Lemon etc.

The CSD market in Nigeria commands a unique hold in the food and beverage sector of the economy despite the huge popularity of fruit juice, functional beverage, energy drinks, alcohol and water- bottled or sachet.

Over the years, manufacturers of CSD products have adopted different tactics to expand and convert new consumers, thus increasing the ever-growing demand for CSD products and intensifying the battle amongst manufactures for a bigger chunk of the soft drink market.

Multiple flavours, alluring advertisement, incentives, promotions, pricing, product availability, etc have been some of the efforts embarked upon by manufacturers to increase their consumer base in the market. But Irrespective of the manufacturers’ effort, without the insistent purchase of the product by consumers, the growth that the CSD market boasts of will not have been achieved.

International brands especially in the CSD segment have in the recent time found Nigeria as an investment delight. This is attributed to the country’s huge market size with an estimated population of over 170 million people (comprising of 90 million youth population) and a fast growing middle-class population.
This statistics makes it difficult for any investor in the Nigerian economy and the CSD market to ignore the profitability of investing in Nigeria.

Despite the infrastructural challenges, Nigeria remains an attractive market for international investors because of its potential to yield high profit, available cheap labour and the purchasing power of the consumers.
Market-intelligence firm, Euromonitor International was reported in market realist website as saying that consumer-expenditure growth in emerging markets has surpassed that of developed markets every year since 2000, and it is expected to continue to increase in the coming years.

CSD was first introduced into Nigeria in 1951 as a product of The Nigerian Bottling Company Ltd, a subsidiary of the A.G Leventis Group with the franchise to bottle and sell products of The Coca-Cola Company in Nigeria; and not until 1960 when the Seven-up Bottling Company started business in Nigeria, the leadership status occupied by Coca Cola remained unchallenged. Since then the carbonated soft drink market has been dominated by these two big international players and their brands have been a toast for consumers of all ages.

In the 80’s, other brands like Goldspot, Krest, Crush, Dr Pepper, AfriCola, Parle Soda, Limca, Tandi Guarana tried piercing into the CSD market with their aggressive media, promotional campaigns and strategy. While some are still in the market under the custody of the big brands, others have simply fizzled out with time.

The Coca Cola brands and the ever strong-willed Pepsi brands have dominated the Nigerian carbonated soft drink market with products packaged in glass bottles, thereby leaving consumers with the fright of bottle breakage, or even the use of these bottles as deadly weapons in the wake of a street brawl; not to mention the hassle which comes with carriage of glass bottles, and the incessant stress of making monetary deposits when these products are purchased from convenience stores.

Coke and Pepsi, which have remained major players in the Nigerian CSD have over the years marched from strength to strength without a possible overthrow in sight until the year 2001 when the tables turned around with the entry of the game changer.
In the year 2001, the Nigeria CSD market experienced a rebirth as La Casera Apple Drink from the Stables of Classic Beverages perforated the entire nation with a refreshing Apple soft drink in PET bottles, spiking the brand’s popularity and adoption by several consumers across the country.

Interestingly, the La Casera brand was the first to introduce PET in Nigeria, thus making it accessible and accepted by all. Consumers therefore experienced a new found love in the Brand La Casera, because of its ease of purchase and convenience of consumption as an on-the-go CSD thereby changing the landscape of Carbonated Soft Drink consumption in Nigeria. These unique qualities of the La Casera brand challenged the two previous giants to followed suit in launching theirs in the year 2004; three years after the birth of La Casera.
The heat of the competition was turned on, and consumers soon began to flock in the direction of La Casera which contained real apple juice as against the other flavour filled brands which dominated prior to its entry.

Fifteen years down the line, various market reports have shown that the La Casera brand gave the Coca-Cola and Pepsi brands a good run with the introduction of PET bottles; quaking the age-long dominance of the two giants in the Nigerian Carbonated Soft Drink market.

In 2014, the Nigerian Bottling Company (NBC), makers of Coca-Cola engaged in a direct battle with La Casera- the only apple drink with real Apple Juice concentrate in Nigeria, by introducing Fanta Apple Drink to directly compete with La Casera Apple Drink, which has already gained the love of consumers and has been dubbed as the “King of the Road.”

This competition was short-lived as the flavoured taste of the Fanta Apple Drink led to a reduction in consumption by consumer who initially adopted the brand. The drawn battle line between Coca-Cola’s Fanta Apple and LaCasera Apple Drink was therefore won as La Casera remains the Leading Apple Drink in the Apple Drink as Fanta Apple was just a flash in the pan.

While hundreds of products are launched yearly, a few products often survive competition due to consumer taste appeal, brand loyalty, propaganda etc. But market and health analysts have questioned the health implications of all these products for the Nigerian Consumers. Are they really safe for consumption?

Hence, referring to The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), and Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) as the lead safety authorities in Nigeria, and whose certification could be taken as a final arbiter for any product safety concern.

According to a report made public after a routine laboratory analysis of La Casera Apple drink samples obtained from retention samples, samples bought from various markets and finished product stores, NAFDAC declared that “La Casera apple drink product ingredients conformed to laid down specifications NIS, Codex, NAFDAC regulations, with the absence of pesticides and chemical hazards.”

It should also be noted that just recently, officials from NAFDAC, SON, the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) and a team of media professionals were on a factory visit to the La Casera Company where tonnes of La Casera drink are manufactured, and once again the agencies commended the company on its adherence to safety and health guidelines for beverage production.

The Special Assistant to the Director General, NAFDAC, Mr. William Effiok, who represented the NAFDAC DG, Mrs. Yetunde Oni, praised the company on its state-of-the-art Ultra-modern production line which operated under minimal human interference, thereby making human contact during production of the beverage almost non-existent.

Also present at the factory visit was the Director, Product Certification, Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), Mr. Bayo Adigun, and on his part, told Nigerians that his visit to the production facility was more of an exercise to foster greater relationship, as the beverage has already been certified by SON since inception, and its consumption as a healthy drink is guaranteed.

La Casera Apple drink, which has an undeniably attractive golden colour and refreshing taste, has no doubt earned its seal of quality in the Nigerian apple CSD landscape since its inception, and beyond all contradiction, it is safe and healthy for consumption.
La Casera has become many consumers “great Apple taste” That’s because La Casera Apple drink is carefully made with 4 per cent real fruit juice which one cannot find in any other carbonated apple drink in the country. La Casera remains the market leader with over 75 per cent share of the Apple CSD market in Nigeria according to studies by Nielsen market research agency.