RC PUMPS UP NEW EDGE WITH CAFFEINE, GINSENG: DESPITE TRENDY INGREDIENTS, TEENS ARE STILL TARGET

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"Royal Crown Co. hopes to give its flagging RC Cola business a jolt with RC Edge, its first new product in four years.

The soft drink, slated to hit stores in March, is a cola with a heavy dose of caffeine, plus ginseng and taurene-trendy ingredients that have cropped up in such niche energy-boosting brands as Red Bull Energy Drink, Battery, and Bawls Gua-rana.

RC, which built its brand in America's heartland, is hardly turning trendy, however. The marketer is aiming Edge squarely at teen-age boys, the beloved demographic of beverage marketers.

Teen-age boys say they want everything, said Jeffrey Spencer, RC's senior VP-marketing, including maximum taste, maximum energy and fizz. Thus Edge's package graphics touts "Maximum power," which is printed in red on the dark-blue label, along with RC's logo.

"This is not just RC with caffeine," Mr. Spencer said.

MORE THAN JUST A KICK

Although the cola has 50% more caffeine than regular RC, research showed teens aren't looking for that kick alone.

"They don't want us to scream caffeine. At the end of the day, if it didn't taste great, it wouldn't work," he said.

Mr. Spencer said Edge is competing with the traditional cola segment of the $54 billion soft-drink market, rather than the so-called heavy citrus drinks with caffeine, such as Pepsi-Cola Co.'s Mountain Dew and Coca-Cola Co.'s Surge.

RC initially will market Edge only in 20-oz. bottles, primarily in convenience stores, the favorite place for kids to buy their drinks. This one-flavor, one-size strategy is meant to help gain easier entree to convenience stores, where Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola dominate cooler space.

$1 MIL FOR ADS

Ad spending for Edge will be about $1 million this year, a minuscule figure compared with the other new cola product now being introduced to consumers: Pepsi- Cola's Pepsi One. That brand is being backed by $100 million in its first year.

RC Edge will be supported with a radio campaign in May from Blum/Herbstreith, New York, and heavy sampling in key markets, primarily in the Midwest, RC's stronghold.

Rather than give out sample cups, RC plans to give away 20-ounce bottles where kids hang out, whether a mall or a basketball court.

Radio will include links with the stations RC has identified as having the word "edge" in their call letters or promotional names, such as KDGE in Dallas, known as KEdge.

TOUGH TIMES FOR RC

The new product comes after a tough year for RC. Sales slipped 11% after a 12% dip in 1997, according to Mr. Spencer.

The launch is one element of a turnaround plan started last year that includes updated graphics for RC Cola and new sponsorship deals. They include a three-year link with Little League Baseball and a tie-in with the Fox animated TV

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