From concession stands at aviation shows to contests involving car giveaways, a variety of events will draw attention to private-label, national-brand, specialty and regional beverages this summer, according to retailers polled by SN.
Take Safeway, Pleasanton, Calif., which is promoting its private-label line of Select colas in a promotion called "OPN 1 UP."
Through the summer, consumers who purchase any six-, 12-, 24-pack or case of any Select regular cola, diet, diet lemon cola or any flavored soft drink using their loyalty card will be eligible to win a 2003 Volkswagen Beetle Compact Convertible. The contest is running at Safeway and its participating company stores, including Vons, Pavilions, Randalls, Tom Thumb, Carrs, Pak'n Save and Genuardi's.
Tops Friendly Markets, Williamsville, N.Y., an operating company of Ahold USA, is also using an automobile giveaway to boost sales of beverages, along with select food products. Pepsi, Aquafina, Mountain Dew, Lipton Brisk, Kool-Aid, Capri Sun and other brands are included in a sweepstakes to win a Jeep Liberty. Consumers are entered each time they purchase a participating brand with their Top Bonus Card.
Along with expensive giveaways like motor vehicles, retailers are also promoting beverages with smaller prizes. Take Thrifty Foods, an 18-store operator in Victoria, British Columbia, which teamed with Kraft Foods earlier this month for a breakfast-themed promotion involving its Thrifty-brand Cran Cocktails, among other private-label products. Consumers who purchased any four participating Kraft/Thrifty-brand products could get a free frying pan. Along with Thrifty Cran Cocktails, participating products included Kraft's Post Banana Nut Crunch Cereal, Post Cranberry Almond Crunch Cereal, and Kraft jam and fruit spreads.
Thrifty Foods often incorporates its private-label products into national-brand promotions, provided that the store-brand items do not compete with the national brands, said Malcolm Webster, marketing director.
"We normally try to add store-brand products that fit with the theme of an event from a manufacturer," said Webster. He added that customer response to the frying pan promotion has been good.
Contests aren't the only way that retailers are drawing attention to beverage categories this summer. Stauffers of Kissel Hill, Lititz, Pa., planned to use its annual Kids' Day as a launching pad for its summer beverage promotional calendar. The carnival-style event was planned to be held on June 21, the first day of summer, in the parking lot of its Lititz store, said Warren Crills, grocery buyer.
During the event, a variety of national-brand beverages were to be sampled, including Sprite ReMix, Mountain Dew LiveWire and Mountain Dew Code Red. The event was also to feature select dairy beverages.
"All of the featured beverages are geared to kids," Crills said.
Stauffers timed the event to reach kids at the end of the school year and before the start of family vacations.
"We wanted to promote beverages before the start of the summer season," Crills said. Crills noted that the peak beverage-selling season got off to a rough start because of the unseasonably cool spring weather in the Northeast. Beverage sales during Memorial Day weekend -- typically a key time for beverage sales -- were less than average, he said.
"The weather hasn't been conducive to doing a lot of promotions," Crills noted.
Crills said he was looking forward to warmer days and the official start of summer, when Stauffers plans to put a big push on beverages.
During the heart of the season, Stauffers runs in-store beverage demonstrations practically every other week, according to Crills.
Likewise, a variety of local activities help to spur sales of various juices and carbonated soft drinks. Crills cited examples -- Stauffers ties in beverages with Little League baseball and soccer teams, as well as local organizations, including the Corvette Club of Lancaster County. To meet demand, it will feature more cold beverages in the front of the store.
"Before and after these events, people usually come into the store to pick up drinks," he said.
One of its big external events will be operating a concession stand in August at an aviation show to be held at the nearby Lancaster Airport. Along with food, the retailer will sell beverages at the concession. These will include carbonated soft drinks and fruit drinks, along with 20-ounce sizes of its private-label spring water, marketed under the Stauffers of Kissel Hill brand.
"The air show is good exposure for SKH water," he said, noting that the retailer has sold a significant amount in previous years.
Along with private-label and national brands, regional and specialty brands are also being eyed for summer events. That's the case at Stauffers, which hopes to distinguish itself from the competition by emphasizing beverages from local companies, including Pennsylvania dairies like Turkey Hill and Rutter's. These dairies manufacturer 1-gallon sizes of iced tea and fruit drinks that are popular among consumers during the warmer months, said Crills.
"We've always run promotions with the local dairies, but the activity gets heavier when the warmer weather approaches," Crills said.
Stauffers works with national beverage companies as well, but wants to carve out a niche for itself by embracing local vendors, according to Crills.
"Regional vendors work closely with us in terms of promotional dollars and brand recognition," he said.
Like Stauffers, Green Hills Farms, Syracuse, N.Y., will also focus on regional beverages for the summer, according to John Mahar, director of operations. Specialty beverages, both in the alcohol and non-alcohol categories, will get plenty of attention as well.
To kick off the summer season, Green Hills held an in-store demonstration event two weeks ago called "Savor the Flavor." About 15 different product demonstrations were to be held each day, up from the typical four. Most of the beverage brands were New Age selections, including Steap Green Tea Soda and Fuze, a fortified beverage.
"At Green Hills, our focus is on products that we sell exclusively or those that are in limited distribution," Mahar said.
The chain gives big play to category leaders like Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola, although Mahar said there's growing interest in other types of beverages. "There are plenty of people looking for alternative drinks," he said. "Many times, they pick up a Coke or Pepsi out of habit. If given the opportunity, they may switch to something else." The same goes for the beer category. While the category leaders are important, Green Hills emphasizes microbrew and specialty beer more.
A significant amount of shelf and ad space is devoted to regional brewers like Cooperstown Brewing, Milford, N.Y.; Middle Ages Brewing Co., Syracuse N.Y.; and Matt Brewing Co., Utica, N.Y., maker of Saranac beer.
"We've built up a reputation for carrying these types of beer," Mahar noted.
These and other regional products are typically fast movers at Green Hills, according to Mahar.
"We may not sell 100 cases a week like we do with Coors, but they do very well," he said.
He attributed the success to the fact that they cater to a discerning beer drinker who enjoys the unique tastes of microbrews.
"The microbrew drinkers are almost like wine connoisseurs," Mahar noted.
When it comes to how it advertises beverages during the summer, Green Hills is discriminating about the type of point-of-purchase ad materials used. It doesn't want its store to become too commercialized.
"Beverage companies are probably the worst POP offenders," Mahar said. "They want to put up signs everywhere."
Green Hills carefully scrutinizes all POP to ensure that it's appropriate and that it fits with Green Hills' business philosophy.
"The message to the consumer must be subjective," Mahar noted.
As an example, he cited a summer-themed display for Corona beer. The display, which remained up for a few weeks last month, featured an engaging beach scene, complete with mannequins and a cabana bar.