BOTTLED WATER AISLE GETS REFRESHED WITH COKE 'OASIS' KIT

ATLANTA -- What thirsty consumers wouldn't be happy to see an oasis in their supermarket water aisle, especially one that could help them better survey the options? That question led executives at Coca-Cola here to design the first non-branded water aisle kit, which is already being installed in certain supermarkets across the country.Called "Oasis," the fixture kit aims to divide the bottled water

ATLANTA -- What thirsty consumers wouldn't be happy to see an oasis in their supermarket water aisle, especially one that could help them better survey the options? That question led executives at Coca-Cola here to design the first non-branded water aisle kit, which is already being installed in certain supermarkets across the country.

Called "Oasis," the fixture kit aims to divide the bottled water category into six segments, including spring, purified, imported, enhanced, sparkling and gallons through the use of header systems, blade signs, segment graphics, color-coded shelf strips and customizable floor graphics. Installing the kit takes about half a day, and Coca-Cola will work with retailers on a local level to reset the section. Although the cola giant created the system, its name doesn't appear on any of the components.

"Consumers tell us that they are confused by the organization of brands and packages on the shelf in many stores, and retailers are asking us how to best manage the category," Scott Wiley, senior category manager at Coca-Cola, told SN. "By helping organize the different types of water, the consumer can find the type and brand they want easily, which increases shopper satisfaction. High per-package revenue segments, like imported and sparkling, are placed first in the shopping flow to encourage consumers to notice and shop these sections, which leads to higher category revenue and profitability."

Retailers told SN the sign package sounds like a good way to add an element of organization to the oftentimes unwieldy and hard-to-shop bottled water sets.

"[Signage] would help because it will segment brands into their appropriate category," said Warren Crills, grocery buyer, Stauffers of Kissel Hill, Lititz, Pa. "Signage will make the aisle easier to shop. Consumers will be able to see brands better and will be encouraged to try new brands."

Still, Stauffers may not need the "Oasis" kit, said Crills. The retailer currently devotes 18 feet to water, but plans to expand the section by another eight feet this summer. As part of the reset, Stauffers may begin using its own display program to divide the section into different segments. It uses a similar merchandising plan for other areas of the store, including the natural and organic section. There, signs are used to segment various categories, such as gluten-free foods.

John Mahar, director of operations, Green Hills Farms, a single-unit operator in Syracuse, N.Y., said a shelving unit like "Oasis" could spur sales because it will give exposure to brands that consumers may not have noticed. Yet Mahar doesn't see much need for signs, saying that for the most part, water is water.

"Most people don't care if it's spring or imported. They just want water. There may be a few people who swear they taste the difference between waters. But most people think it all tastes the same."

Wiley told SN that so far, customer reaction to the "Oasis" kit has been extremely positive, and that "many customers are telling us that they would like to see the same category approach in other areas of their store. Some have already begun storewide initiatives to make this happen."