Trademark Expansion: Soft-drink makers join cocktail party

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Eager to tap into the converging fruit-flavor-liquor boom, America's top soft-drink companies are bellying up to the bar.

At the National Restaurant Association show in Chicago last month, Coca-Cola Co. and Cadbury Schweppes each pitched non-alcoholic cocktail mixes to add some spirit to restaurant sales. Coca-Cola partnered with Bacardi USA to introduce mixers for frozen cocktails; it's also extending on-premise co-branding work with Brown-Forman Corp.'s Jack Daniel Tennessee Whiskey to push Jack & Coke.

Meanwhile, Cadbury's Motts is planning a significant effort behind its Rose's brand lime juice and grenadine with an integrated campaign for restaurants and retailers pushing jewel-toned gimlets. In 2001, Cadbury's Dr Pepper/Seven Up acquired Slush Puppie, which displayed its Lanikai non-alcoholic mixers.

The goal is to boost pallid sales while expanding trademarks and drinking occasions for sodas and spirits. The arrangements could give restaurants an edge with the 34 million 20-somethings who grew up with Slushies, Slurpees and milkshakes and hit their peak drinking years in the next decade.

"We're playing on the rise of classic cocktails and Cosmopolitans," said Tony Jacobs, director-marketing, mixers and food service for Motts. He said the Rose's brand has grown 6% to 8% over the past few years, driven by a resurgence in classic cocktails.

Last month, Coca-Cola agreed to buy Seagram soft-drink mixers, including ginger ale, seltzer and club soda, from Diageo and Pernod Ricard. Coca-Cola bottlers already distribute about 75% of Seagram's domestic mixers, of which ginger ale is the leader, a Coca-Cola spokesman said. The company also struck a long-term licensing agreement with Pernod Ricard to use the Seagram trademark, which wasn't part of the sale.

"It rounds out a family of our brands and gives our bottling system yet another product or line of products that they can utilize as they go in and build relationships with the customers," the spokesman said.

It's a relatively small category-mixers sold about 25 million to 30 million unit cases last year-but Coca-Cola's interest is in broadening its portfolio to existing restaurant clients to drive growth.

The eight-flavor line from Bacardi and Coca-Cola (which have a line of frozen-drink mixers in the supermarket case) was tested in 10 restaurant chains. Details, including advertising, are still being worked out. Bacardi's primary agency is Interpublic Group of Cos.' Avrett, Free & Ginsberg, New York; Coca-Cola works with many agencies, including several in the Interpublic family.

`Gimlet & Win It'

At the center of the Motts effort will be a "Gimlet & Win It" sweepstakes, backed by in-restaurant displays, trade advertising and a Web site ( via Food Group, New York, and Interpublic's Deutsch, New York. Grey Global Group's Grey Worldwide, New York, handles Seagram mixers.

In 1973, PepsiCo was the first such marketer to distribute alcohol, thanks to an agreement with Stolichnaya to gain entry into the Soviet Union. Four years after Pepsi began distributing Stoli, Coca-Cola bought Taylor Wine Co., selling it to Joseph E. Seagram & Sons in 1983.

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