P&G TAPS SUNNY DELIGHT FOR FORAY INTO SOFT DRINKS

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In what could become its biggest foray into soft drinks since the 1980s, Procter & Gamble Co. moved a new formulation of its Sunny Delight fruit drinks into Ohio and Michigan last week.

Sunny Delight in 2-liter and 20-ounce plastic bottles, as well as 12-packs of 12-ounce cans, hit supermarkets in Detroit, Cleveland and Cincinnati, among other cities, in what P&G called "an extended test market." Testing began in Memphis, Tenn., and Little Rock, Ark., last August.

"Basically, we're pleased with our results [in Memphis and Little Rock] and hope to gain some new learning," said a P&G spokeswoman.

SHELF-STABLE FORMULATION

The original Sunny Delight is a 5% fruit juice drink that can't last more than 10 days unrefrigerated and is displayed in refrigerated dairy cases. The new formulation still contains 5% juice, but is shelf-stable for soft-drink distribution and tastes slightly different.

Sunny Delight accounted for more than half of the $630 million refrigerated fruit-drink category last year, with a 22.4% increase in sales to $343 million, according to Information Resources Inc.

The new markets are getting extensive point-of-purchase, and Sunny Delight vending machines are being used at some stores.

P&G would not comment on ad plans for the test; GBF/Ayer, Los Angeles, is agency for the brand.

The marketer's last major entry in soft drinks ended when it sold the Orange Crush, Grape Crush and Hires root beer brands to Cadbury-Schweppes in 1989, the same year it acquired Sunny Delight. P&G's Hawaiian Punch also is distributed through soft-drink bottlers in 12-ounce cans and 2-liter bottles.

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