The Warring Apple Drinks –Obinna Ojekwe
Nigeria is the most populous nation in Africa, having an estimated population exceeding 170 million citizens. By virtue of her population and economic strength (largest African economy by GDP), Nigeria has a market that is attractive to investors. Presently, Nigeria has a thriving beverage market with the presence of numerous indigenous and international companies including Diageo, the Coca-Cola Company, 7-Up Bottling Company (bottlers of Pepsi), Nigerian Breweries Plc. and the La Casera Company. The Nigerian beverage market, like similar markets in other parts of the world, is divided into the alcoholic and non-alcoholic categories, with some of the companies engaging solely in the production of carbonated soft drinks (CSDs), for example, the Nigerian Bottling Company (bottlers of Coca-Cola) and the La Casera Company (makers of La Casera Apple Drink). Each of these companies are in constant battle against the other(s) for market share, and they employ different tactics or, more aptly put, different market and brand strategies to outwit the other(s) in a bid to gain market share, which ultimately affects the bottom line of each company positively or negatively.
The La Casera Company formerly known as Classic Beverages Nigeria Limited commenced operations in Nigeria in the year 2000 with her flagship La Casera apple drink in a PET bottle which was novel at that time. La Casera Company’s entrance into the CSD market must be commended, as their unique product La Casera apple drink did not ‘directly’ compete with the big whips Coca-Cola Company and Pepsi Co. However, La Casera Apple slowly built its customer base of CSD consumers who wanted something different from what the Coca-Cola’s and Pepsi Co’s had to offer. Although La Casera Company introduced other products into the CSD market (including La Casera Cream Soda, Latina Cocktail, Smoov Chapman, etc.), but La Casera Apple remains their most successful brand till date.
The Nigerian Bottling Company after fourteen years of ‘tolerating’ the La Casera Company and (probably) motivated by diminishing consumption of CSDs in Nigeria, decided to battle La Casera Company by launching Fanta Apple. This move should be a MAJOR worry for the La Casera Company and their flagship drink – La Casera Apple since Fanta Apple aims directly at biting into the market share of La Casera’s Apple. Fanta Apple which the Nigerian Bottling Company says is targeted towards the young (particularly the teens) comes in an attractive youthful bottle, with fantastic fruity taste which, at worst, matches the quality of La Casera apple drink both in taste and packaging.
Both brands have certain advantages and numerous possible strategies that can be employed to ensure survival and (or) market dominance. For La Casera Apple, they have the advantage of hitting the market first. This implies that they (for now) have the advantage of ‘owning’ the market share before the entrance of Fanta Apple. If I were a member of the La Casera team, I will opt for a subtle ‘aggressive’ advertising just to remain at the top of the mind of consumers. This will encourage loyalty from their existing customers while attempting to win more customers. I will consider running a ‘catchy’ sales promotion to keep customers focused on the La Casera brand and to distract them (steal the shine) from the Fanta Apple launch/entrance into the market. At the end of the sales promotion, the buzz surrounding the entrance of Fanta Apple into the market may have been neutralized. Also, I will question the relevance of the Miss La Casera beauty pageant (if it is still running) and its impact on sales and image of the brand, as I believe that there are other sponsorships/promotions/CSR projects that the La Casera Company can engage in that will have a significant (positive) impact on their brand image and sales over time. Finally, and very importantly, I will move to secure the already existing distribution network, to ensure that distributors continue to stock the La Casera products as opposed to that of the competitors. This can be achieved through incentives or promotions targeted at the distributors. The La Casera Company should be very weary of brand parity (i.e. the perception that all alternatives in a product category are similar), as this will cause more harm to the La Casera brand than it will to its competitor – Fanta Apple.
Fanta Apple, on the other hand, comes from the stable of one of the World’s most valuable brands/organizations. Coca-Cola (operating in Nigeria under franchise as NBC Plc), being the market leader in the CSD market, has numerous advantages that Fanta Apple can capitalize on including the benefit of brands extensions (using the Fanta brand name) which has already been capitalized on. NBC Plc’s massive distribution network is also a big plus. I chose not to dwell much on Fanta Apple as I am of the opinion that it is positioned to be a MAJOR threat to the La Casera Company. Although La Casera Apple Drink hit the market long before the entrance of Fanta Apple, Fanta Apple can cause very major issues for the La Casera Company.
It is quite exciting to watch the strategies employed by various organizations and brand managers to survive in a highly competitive market, as their strategies can be studied, mirrored and possibly adapted for use in other industries.
As mentioned earlier, this article aims at highlighting some brand and market strategies that will be relevant to the discussed brands, which are likely to boost their performance in the market. Although I did my best to verify information used in this article concerning both brands and their respective organizations, I may have made oversights due to limited data available on the open internet.