Tropicana tries plastic

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Tropicana Products will spend a large chunk of its 2002 ad budget against the launch early next year of new single-serve plastic packaging for its Tropicana Pure Premium and a new chilled Dole orange juice that will replace the company's lackluster Tropicana Season's Best in grocery stores.

The initiatives, spending for which will likely top $30 million, come as the PepsiCo unit is set to depart from its longtime ad agency, Interpublic Group of Cos.' Foote, Cone & Belding Worldwide, New York, for what is expected to be a new unit of Omnicom Group's DDB Worldwide, Chicago. In addition, Tropicana is in the process of combining its sales organization with newly acquired Quaker Oats Co.'s Quaker food products and Gatorade to become Quaker Food and Beverage.

Tropicana's new 14 oz. bottles of not-from-concentrate Pure Premium brand, which come in four-packs for grocery retailers, is part of a plan to extend distribution for the leading $1 billion-plus brand beyond its supermarket stronghold. Shipments to the Northeast begin early next month, and a national rollout will follow early next year.

"Because we haven't been in convenient packaging, we haven't had great distribution in convenience stores, and we expect that will change dramatically with this launch," said a company spokeswoman. Internally termed "GoJ," the new packaging is intended for people to carry in their briefcases or in car cup holders, she said.

Coca-Cola Co.'s Minute Maid has seen great success in the convenience channel for its new single serve plastic packaging, dubbed Minute Maid Juices to Go and, to further its strategy offering nutritious beverages, Coke is rumored to be in talks to purchase juice marketer Odwalla. Odwalla markets super-premium single-serve juices, smoothies and other products under the Odwalla and Fresh Samantha names. PepsiCo, outside of its Tropicana division, launched a Dole line of juices in plastic packaging last January that primarily goes into convenience stores.

"Plastic packaging has been one of the major growth factors in the overall beverage business in the last 10 years and it will remain a significant driver of growth in the years to come," said John Sicher, editor and publisher of Beverage Digest.

When Dean Foods introduced its Milk Chug single-serve plastic packages of chocolate milk in 1999, it saw sales rise as much as 300% in some markets. The packaging has taken off for dairy marketers across the country, driving flavored milk sales overall up 9.4% for the 52-weeks ended April 22, according to Information Resources, Inc.

Meanwhile, Tropicana will continue to build its business in the grocery channel by replacing its faltering lower-priced from-concentrate Season's Best orange juice varieties with a new Dole orange juice from concentrate. According to a Tropicana sales executive, Dole is a significant brand in grocery stores as it is the No. 1 brand in a variety of categories from packaged salad to canned fruits. Many grocery retailers had on their own discontinued Season's Best, sales for which fell 30% to $74 million in supermarkets for the 52 weeks ended Sept. 9.

Tropicana will continue to offer Season's Best juices in plastic packaging in convenience stores, foodservice and club stores. The brand will reach its primarily male target through continued efforts surrounding Nascar driver Jeff Gordon.

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