Snapple touts Mistic revamp in $6 mil push

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Snapple Beverage Co. is counting on new packaging, a rejiggered recipe and a major marketing effort to reverse a two-year sales slide for its Mistic brand.

Ad spending will hit $3 million, one-third greater than last year, with promotional pushes adding another $3 million to the marketing total, said Ken Gilbert, chief marketing officer. "The premium beverage business requires that you reinvent yourself somewhere between every three to five years," he said.

The campaign, from Vigilante, New York, a unit of Bcom3 Group's Leo Burnett USA, should break in April. The ad theme will center on bold products for bold people. Vigilante replaces dRush, New York, a unit of Interpublic Group of Cos.' Deutsch, which continues as the Snapple brand's agency of record.

"The key thing with advertising is to make sure that, since we don't have a huge budget, we stretched the limits on what we can say while still staying true to what our product repositioning is about," said Mr. Gilbert, who wouldn't discuss campaign details.

Mistic's foil-covered, wine-cooler shaped bottle has been around since the brand was launched in 1987, although tea and lemonade packaging was spruced up in 1999. Mr. Gilbert said sales rose 30% after that overhaul but eventually retreated. The revamped Mistic should be on shelves by the middle of this week.

As part of the revamp, Snapple Beverage has culled the Mistic line, eliminating seven poor sellers, such as Pineapple Passion and Orange Surprise. Snapple Beverage execs hope the overhaul will move the product back in stores that dropped it and ultimately into the hands of young drinkers.

Mistic has about a 4% share of the noncarbonated category, compared with category leader Snapple's 17%, according to Beverage Digest. Mr. Gilbert said that while the overall Mistic brand saw sales shrink 6% in 2000-falling for the second consecutive year-its core juice drinks, teas and lemonades gained 17%. He said 2001 efforts would target those growing areas. Mr. Gilbert hopes overall sales will stablize and that juice-flavored drinks will grow in the single-digit range. He acknowledged Mistic had suffered after its purchase by Snapple in 1997.

John Sicher, editor of Beverage Digest, said Snapple Beverage appears to be upping the pressure on innovation. "My sense is that things are beginning to look bright for Mistic," he said.

Its current parentage also may help. With a 32% share, Snapple Beverage's owner Cadbury Schweppes is the largest player in the take-home noncarbonated juice-drink market. Since selling to Cadbury in September, Snapple Beverage has launched Diet Elements (AA, Jan. 29) and started testing bottled water (AA, Nov. 27, 2000). Cadbury's beverage line, however, which includes Mistic, Hawaiian Punch and Crystal Light, had been doing poorly and has been carried mainly by the strength of the Snapple brand.

Snapple Beverage is competing with huge marketers such as PepsiCo, which recently bought South Beach Beverage Co., as well as smaller players such as Nantucket Nectars. The noncarbonated juice drink category last year grew 10%, compared with an anemic 0.2% for carbonated soft drinks.

Pepsi jumped to second place with its October acquisition of SoBe and a December announcement that it would add Gatorade parent Quaker Oats Co. to the fold. Coca-Cola Co. last week announced it was forming a joint venture with Procter & Gamble Co. to support its noncarbonated offerings (See story, P. 3).

Mr. Gilbert said in addition to radio and print executions with striking images, Mistic's marketing plan could include wild postings as well as more unorthodox ads on the back of subway cards and bar postcards.

"We're happy about Mistic. We think we've got it right," Mr. Gilbert said. "We're hoping for an early spring and a warm, dry summer."

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