Ice[d], Ice[d] Baby
Published in Mar-Apr 2023
It was a hot, muggy afternoon in 2007 when the electricity went off and, predictably, refused to come back. Sweating profusely, I took a sip of ice-cold Coke and – (this is no joke) – time stood still as I felt a cool breeze wash over me, giving me the cold, sweet relief exactly like it is shown in Coke ads. Since then, I have associated Coke with coolness and a companion to biryani and burgers – as do most others.
Over the years, Coca-Cola has imprinted its red and white logo and a positive eco-friendly brand image on consumers’ minds while experimenting and launching various products in the beverage category: Coke Zero, Diet Coke, Dasani and more. Now, the red and white beverage giant is committed to becoming a “total beverage company” (according to the company’s website) by further broadening their portfolio.
As a result, in November 2022, Coca-Cola launched their global billion-dollar ready-to-drink iced tea brand Fuzetea, a fusion of tea leaf extracts and fruit flavours in Pakistan. Fuzetea comes in a 250 ml pet bottle in two flavours: peach and lemon, for Rs 95 (compared to imported options that are upwards of Rs 300). Fuzetea is currently available in 16 cities, including Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, Multan, Peshawar and Rawalpindi and globally available in 89 countries, with the biggest markets being Turkey and Kazakhstan.
According to Hiba Dar, Senior Communications Manager, The Coca-Cola Company Pakistan, Fuzetea is focusing on supermarkets, hypermarkets, select bakeries and petro-marts. The product is also available on e-commerce platforms (DealCart, Krave Mart and Pandamart). In fact, says Dar, Pandamart is “a close partner” as it shares Fuzetea’s “enthusiasm in launching something as innovative as iced tea… they were up to the challenge of launching a new category and seeing how their customers responded.”
Given that Fuzetea has been around globally since 2012, it already has a brand story/tagline – “Me Time” which centres on the importance of taking a breather and doing what one wants to in the midst of the day-to-day chaos.
The promotional content has been localised for Pakistani audiences (for example by engaging local personalities like rapper Eva B.) and the awareness campaign started off with a 45-second TVC and a video on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. It shows a montage of young women multitasking and taking on different identities/responsibilities with ease (a working mom, a sportswoman, a rapper, etc.). According to Dar, “We did not want to dissociate men, rather we wanted to celebrate and acknowledge all that women do and how they easily ‘fuse’ the many roles they have.”
The product launch in Pakistan was under consideration for quite a while, but economic conditions and therefore consumer spending made an earlier launch “unsuitable for introducing a new category.” However, recent shifts in consumer behaviour, “such as the growing demand for chilled, ready-to-drink beverages like iced lattes and iced coffee,” convinced the brand that the time had come to introduce Fuzetea and “carve a niche in the market.” Dar adds that “current audiences have developed a more refined and adventurous taste palate, and thus, are more welcoming of new flavours and beverage categories. This trend is evident even in bakeries, where their selections have evolved drastically over the last five to 10 years.”
The brand conducted comprehensive research on “the fundamental consumption patterns” of their targeted demographic – people aged between 18 to 45 – and included an in-depth study on “beverage consumption habits of hot tea aficionados in order to ascertain their preferences for complementary beverages.” They organised flavour tastings with target groups to acquire insights regarding their understanding of the category, product perception, suitable social occasions for consumption and potential pairings with other foods and beverages. Dar says that while the majority “did not draw comparisons to juices or soft drinks, a few did compare the product to energy drinks. Overall, the prospect of trying something novel and incorporating it into their consumption habits generated significant excitement.”
Given that iced beverages (let alone iced tea) are an innovation for most Pakistani consumers, one of the main challenges was the lack of awareness “amongst retailers and customers who are used to ‘garam chai’ and this is why the focus is on familiarising retailers with the brand in order to encourage them to promote it to the end consumers. Dar adds that since most consumers have a restricted budget for premium-priced beverages, they may be reluctant to replace ready-to-drink juices or carbonated soft drinks to accommodate iced tea in their grocery budget. This notwithstanding, Coca-Cola sees itself as a pioneer as it has no local competitor in the ice tea category in Pakistan. An added advantage is the fact that Fuzetea benefits from Coca-Cola’s established production facilities, distribution model and distributor network. Furthermore, to counter the effect of global competitors entering the market, Fuzetea contains lower caffeine levels and is “100% sustainably sourced from tea leaves.”
Dar says the response “has been great” and the intention at this point in time is to make the brand “known and loved”, after which they will gradually scale up.