In 2008, when Coca-Cola's flagship soda brand fell 2.5 percent in volume and Pepsi's eponymous cola dropped 6.5 percent, Fanta's modest 1 percent drop can be spun as a win, if one subscribes to the current bromide that "flat is the new up." While those numbers, courtesy of Beverage Digest, show a stagnation, they omit the fact that Fanta wasn't really available in the U.S. prior to 2001. Since then, the brand has made inroads with U.S. Hispanics, though Santiago Blanco, vp of Sprite and flavors for Coca-Cola North America, says Fanta has a lot of mainstream appeal as well. Blanco discussed how Fanta addresses both audiences with Brandweek editor Todd Wasserman. Below are some excerpts.
Brandweek: The Fanta brand was around years and years ago and then it disappeared, but in recent years it came back. What's the back story there?
Santiago Blanco: We reintroduced Fanta into the U.S. market in 2001. We had a national relaunch of Fanta in the U.S. and up til now it's been very successful. It's been growing for seven years in a row and in this industry that's quite an accomplishment. Up to today, Fanta is not only the leader in fruit-flavor soft drinks, but it's the only fruit-flavor soft drink to make it into the top 10 brands according to Beverage Digest.
BW: It was around in the 70s though, right?
SB: It was around in the 70s and 80s, but after that it remained in regions of the country until 2001, when we brought it back to a large scale.
BW: Has the brand been targeted mostly at the Hispanic market in the U.S.?
SB: We've been focusing the market toward teenagers. Teenagers 13-16 is the core target for Fanta. You'll see that all the communication coming out of the brand is targeted to the youth, including our Fantanas (http://www.fanta.com/the-fantanas/) including our new packaging and graphics. Everything we do is meant to appeal to the youth and by the way Fanta has a good appeal also to moms, so things like the 100 percent natural flavors and the orange taste appeals to moms so they like to take it home for the whole family. But it does have an overindex with Hispanics because Fanta is one of our global brands and because of that it is big in places like Latin America and Europe, so people who come from abroad get a preconceived preference for Fanta so when they come here they continue to buy it. That is cultural.
BW: Where does Fanta fit in with Coke's portfolio?
SB: Fanta is a very playful brand, it's a brand that believes that there's always a moment in time to play, especially in these tough economic times, so they bring that personality to the portfolio. Fanta is also of course a brand that gives us entrance into the fruit flavor beverages which, the dominant one is orange and Fanta being orange-centric gives us an entrance into orange, which is a very popular flavor. Also Fanta provides some variety-we have Fanta grape and Fanta strawberry-so it complements the portfolio really well.
BW: Is market share up as a result of having more advertising. Is that something you're looking to increase?
SB: Absolutely. I think that raising the brand awareness has allowed us to keep the growth going. I think also the consistency-we have kept the same campaign for almost seven years and I think that has contributed to people recognizing the brand immediately.
BW: The market for carbonated soft drinks is pretty stagnant and even seems to be shrinking and the thinking is that there are so many choices out there that they can't hold the position in the market that they used to. What do you think?
SB: Oh no. I believe absolutely that we can grow the category and the category's going to grow. What we're doing is things like providing different packaging options so you can buy the package that best fits your consumption occasions and doing things like pushing our marketing so we make it more exciting for consumers and we are bringing a lot of innovation to our products as well and that we know captures the attention of all our customers.