MINUTE MAID FORTIFIES COMPETITIVE SQUEEZE

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Feeling the squeeze from competitors, Coca-Cola Co. is juicing up Minute Maid and other brands with new packaging and advertising.

As part of a $2 million repackaging effort andmore than $100 million marketing program starting this month, Coca-Cola Foods is scrapping the 30-year-old, basic black cartons and cans in favor of a tropical montage of fresh fruit. Coca-Cola Foods also recently changed the label on Hi-C fruit drink and plans to retool all trademarks this year, including Five Alive and Bright & Early juice beverages.

The first promotional spot for Minute Maid, handled by Lowe & Partners/SMS, New York, starts on ABC during the March 27 Academy Awards broadcast.

As the $12 billion juice and juice drink market heats up, Coca-Cola may be trying to beat back the competition nipping at its heels.

PepsiCo already has a strong brand in partner Ocean Spray Cranberries, which plans a $5 million sampling and sweepstakes promotion for new Ocean Spray juice drink flavors this month. And Quaker Oats Co., buoyed by newly acquired Snapple Beverage Corp.'s line, gained share in the non-carbonated beverage category last year as overall unit volume rose.

Though Nielsen North America 1994 data for total juice and juice drinks showed growth slowed to 1.9% in dollars, after rising 5.4% in '93, the marketing frenzy shows no signs of abating.

For Minute Maid, the change is the brand's most intensive effort since it bowed in 1946, and with spending "significantly higher" than last year, the company said. A tropical lemonade flavor will be introduced.

"The category is very hot and we didn't want to lose momentum," said Marketing Director Craig Binkley. "Minute Maid was growing, but we thought it could do a lot more."

Although the orange juice segment fell last year due to pricing issues, Minute Maid's share of unit volume for all products rose from 12% in 1990 to 12.9% last year.

Coca-Cola Foods leads the category with 17% unit volume share. Along with the Minute Maid makeover, leading kid's fruit drink Hi-C got revised package graphics, backed by a $67 million marketing push.

"This just underscores a major two-pronged thrust for Coke," said Jesse Meyers, editor, Jesse Meyers' Beverage Digest, Old Greenwich, Conn. "Everyone is going after the non-traditional drinker."

Ocean Spray, whose unit volume for single-serve juice and juice drinks shot up 60% last year, launched Juice Jam '95. Its 200-sit sampling tour will hype four new flavors. Innova Marketing, Minneapolis, is handling the promotion.

Quaker's Sunbolt is doing well. TV and radio spots plugging the beverage, via Jordan, McGrath, Case & Taylor, New York, begin today.

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