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    7-Eleven Extends Private Label to Big Gulp

    The company launches 2-liter soft drinks and two types of chocolate bars.

    DALLAS -- Convenience store giant 7-Eleven recently launched its own Big Gulp-branded soft drink in two-liter bottles -- on store shelves now next to some of the biggest soft drink company products around, according to Business Week.

    Available in five flavors -- cola, root beer, lemon lime, orange and cranberry-raspberry -- the two-liter plastic option enables fans of the traditional one-liter Big Gulp fountain drink or Super Big Gulp (1.3 liters) and Double Gulp (two liters), to take the beverage home and enjoy it anytime they wish, said Laurie Smith, communications manager for 7-Eleven Canada, Inc. in the Business Week report.

    "Most people who come in and buy a Big Gulp drink it right away," she said. "Now that it's available in a bottle with a cap, they can drink it the next day or take it camping or on a picnic."

    7-Eleven has positioned Big Gulp pop as a value brand, which explains its knee-level shelf position. Smith explained. "Value is becoming more and more important to a certain segment of the market. Our challenge is to find out what the customer wants and provide it," she said.

    It's not the first time 7-Eleven has offered its own white-label products. The chain previously sold Classic Selection branded soft drinks, and still maintains the brand for bottled water. However, the customer response fell short of goals, so the switch to the Big Gulp brand was made earlier this year, the report stated.

    "We feel the Big Gulp branding is stronger and more recognized than Classic Selection," Smith said. "The customers have a connection. Everybody knows what a Big Gulp is -- it's synonymous with 7-Eleven."

    Smith reported the company hasn't received any negative feedback from the major bottlers about the chain's dual role as distributor and manufacturer.

    Additionally, 7-Eleven simultaneously launched a pair of Big Gulp chocolate bars -- milk chocolate and dark chocolate. The plain milk chocolate bar is available in the 100-gram size, while the dark chocolate with rice crisps version weighs 85 grams, the report stated.

    The marketing decision wasn't difficult, Smith said in the report, because the Big Gulp name stands for quality and value, and it transcends individual products. Customer recognition of the brand is the key.

    "The chocolate bars represent the same thing to the customer," she said. "It's a solid serving for a value price."

    Rob Warren, director of the Asper Centre for Entrepreneurship at the University of Manitoba, says the decision to rebrand the soft drinks as Big Gulp products was the right move.

    "It's a great name, especially in Canada; it's very well known. 7-Eleven has done a very good job marketing itself." Even using the name on chocolate bars makes sense, he said. "People think of Big Gulp as a brand name more so than a fountain drink. 7-Eleven is guessing that a lot of people who buy Big Gulps also buy candy bars."

    Smith agreed, saying private-label products are a growing trend in the marketplace for two reasons: they allow the retailer to own the brand and create a better connection with the customer.

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