For a Limited Time Only

If you feel like you’ve been hearing about a lot of limited-edition products lately, you’re not mistaken. More and more beverage companies are marking the passage of time with new “in-and-out” seasonal products. Some of the most recent include Mountain Dew Pitch Black, which will hit stores in time for Halloween; Pepsi Holiday Spice, which will ring in the winter holidays beginning in November; and Sprite Berryclear Remix, which had a life span limited to this year’s warm summer months.
The phenomenon is significant enough that Suzanne Niekrasz at Robertet, who participated in this month’s Ingredient Supplier Roundtable (page 73), said, “No discussion of this year’s beverage trends is complete without mentioning limited-edition, “in-and-out” seasonal launches.”
Brewers have featured seasonal products for a long time, but it’s a fairly new concept for soft drink companies. Pepsi can take credit for the idea, which began with last year’s summer rollout of Mountain Dew Live Wire. According to Kim Feil, chief executive officer at Mosaic InfoForce, who spoke recently at Beverage Industry’s New Products Conference, Live Wire avoided the “ugly reality of line extensions”, which is their tendency to cannibalize core product sales. If they can’t prevent cannibalization, limiting line extension’s time on the market at least allows companies to plan for it, she said.
It also has another effect, which is to pique the interest of consumers who are increasingly fickle and experimental in their brand choices. “People like new products — they are much more interested in variety nowadays than they were just a few years ago,” said David Burwick, senior vice president and chief marketing officer at Pepsi-Cola North America, about the new Pitch Black and Holiday Spice introductions. “By introducing new flavors for a short period of time, then taking them away, we’re meeting the wants and needs of soft drink consumers while playing directly to their purchasing patterns.”
Keeping up with the logistics of these short-term products — on the shelves for only eight to 10 weeks, in some cases — will be a challenge. But from a consumer standpoint, they seem to have struck a chord. Mountain Dew Live Wire and Sprite Remix were recently reported to be two of only a handful of new soft drink brands that experienced any kind of sales increase this summer.
Due to the nature of my job, I probably try more new products than the average consumer. But I can see why these products have become popular — there’s something intriguing and celebratory about a product you can only have for a limited time. I’m looking forward to trying the next season’s offerings, and curious to see if their staying power — or intentional lack thereof — continues. BI