ATLANTA -- Fruitopia is no utopia for Coca-Cola.
The beverage giant announced it is phasing out the line of stand-alone, noncarbonated juice drinks in the United States, and consolidating four flavors into its Minute Maid brand.
The announcement comes after nearly a decade of unsuccessful attempts to build the New Age Fruitopia brand, which will still exist as a fountain option, and in single-serve bottles in Canada and other countries where it is more popular, a Coke spokes-man said.
"There was nothing wrong with the product, but it wasn't that exciting," said Tom Pirko, president of Bevmark, a category consulting firm based in Santa Barbara, Calif.
The general feeling is that even though Coke put a lot of money behind Fruitopia, it was an unnecessary product, Pirko said. The company spent a fortune on it, including $30 million in marketing at launch in 1994.
Pirko told SN that by the time Coca-Cola released Fruitopia, Coke executives knew it wouldn't be able to beat Snapple, the fruit-flavored noncarbonated beverage it was designed to compete with.
"Why does a company like Coke stoop to conquer Snapple?" Pirko asked. "If you want to compete for fruit-drink customers, why not use the good name of Minute Maid, which you already have?"
Ray Crockett, a spokesman for Coke who specializes in its juice and juice-drink business, told SN, "It's hard to say" why Fruitopia didn't make it here. "We believe the Minute Maid brand has more staying power," he said, as a rationale for the fold-in of the brand to Minute Maid, which is trying to transition beyond its orange juice history into a broader juice and juice-drink company.
"We're bringing out a line of fruit drinks under the Minute Maid brand, to replace Fruitopia," Crockett added. There will be four flavors, which retain a vestige of their New Age character: Strawberry Passion, Tropical Citrus, Berry Kiwi and Raspberry Lemonade. "They are out and are replacing Fruitopia in schools," Crockett said. "They have 100% of the daily value for vitamin C, and 20% of vitamins B6 and B12," he said.
The drinks will be available in supermarkets, but it is a bottler product, so the ship date will depend on each bottler's schedule. Crockett said the new Minute Maid flavors are already on supermarket shelves in Houston, Minute Maid's home base.
Also coming from Minute Maid is a limeade drink called Limonada. "Limeade is a very popular beverage with Hispanics, and so it was originally launched as a product to that market, but we found it had a broad appeal to all consumers," Crockett said. Minute Maid Limonada has been active in the market for more than a year, and has been very popular, he said.
In a story in SN at the end of 1994, the introduction of "the studiously wacky Fruitopia" was counted as one of the year's milestones. Two years later, it had two new flavors, Banana Vanilla Inclination and Mind Over Mango.