Sobe goes after kids with Lizardade launch

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Sobe Beverage Co. is jumping on the kids' beverage craze with a two-market test of new Lizardade juice drink pouches that will likely roll out across the U.S. next year.

The PepsiCo unit's entree into the fast-growing, nearly $800 billion aseptic juice drink category is an attempt to encroach on Kraft Foods' skyrocketing $400 million Capri Sun brand, the holy grail for beverage marketers. Early test results in Tucson and parts of Connecticut show the four-flavor Lizardade line- which features 25% less sugar than Capri Sun and is fortified with vitamins, calcium and zinc to help assuage moms' increasing concern with their children's health-has been "well-received," said Sobe CEO John Bello. Limited advertising will be handled in-house.

PepsiCo has for years been trying unsuccessfully to break into kids' beverages via its Tropicana unit, which has faltered with tests of a single-serve line called Drenchers and kid positioning for Twisters. "Everybody wants to crack the kid code," said a Tropicana spokeswoman, who would not comment on the unit's future kid-targeted lines except to say, "it's pretty crowded, so if you go in you better have a strong proposition."

Coca-Cola Co.'s Minute Maid Co. has sales of $250 million in the kid drink segment, but recent efforts to grow the franchise with Disney-licensed products haven't worked well. The unit is expected to focus more on its larger Hi-C and Minute Maid Coolers brands, and a company spokesman alluded to "major initiatives" for kids' brands in 2003.

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