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    The Age of the Mini

    Beverage manufacturers are repackaging their products into smaller containers.

    Soft drink manufacturers are providing consumers with yet another packaging choice to increase the likelihood of being able to meet whatever beverage need they might have at any given time, according to a report by Business Week .

    Stephanie Baxter, senior manager of corporate communications at Coca-Cola Ltd. in Toronto, says its launch last year of Coca-Cola Classic, Diet Coke, Sprite and Barq's Root Beer in the mini can was prompted by customer demand.

    "A lot of people are looking for a smaller amount of refreshment than the larger (355-ml or 12 oz) can. [The mini can] is exactly eight ounces. It adds another element where consumers are working on portion control," she said. "A lot of people use it for snacking; they don't want the full can. It's easier for people on the go. I would purchase it and put a can in my lunch. If I was going out, I would take the can with me."
    Baxter said Coca-Cola is targeting households with people between the ages of 25 and 49 who are seeking "to improve their snacking and drinking opportunities" when shopping at grocery stores and mass merchandisers, such as Wal-Mart. The mini cans are neither chilled nor available in vending machines, she noted.

    Baxter admits the mini can flies in the face of previous packaging innovations, including the 591-ml and two-liter plastic bottles and the 750-ml and 355-ml glass bottles, which have preached, for the most part, that bigger is better. Coke and Diet Coke are also fountain drink favorites at convenience stores in one- to two-liter sizes, the report said.

    The mini cans have been moving "really well. Everyone is pleased with how they're selling and how they were accepted into the marketplace," she said.

    PepsiCo is also looking for big things from the mini and now offers Pepsi, Diet Pepsi and Mountain Dew in the little can, the report said. Another soft drink company, Shasta Beverages, is using mini cans for its Shasta Shortz line of caffeine-free soft drinks, which are targeted toward young children with flavors such as Bubble Gum, Rah-Rah Root Beer, Camo Orange Creme and Chillin' Cherry Punch.

    At the other end of the age spectrum is Joint Juice, which was recently repackaged into a mini can from an 11-ounce bottle. The move to the mini can has improved shipping logistics and reduced costs for the beverage intended to relieve joint pain in older adults.
    Robert Warren, director of the Asper Centre for Entrepreneurship at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, told Business Week .that downsizing is a North America-wide phenomenon hitting industries as diverse as automobiles and restaurants.

    He said the trend in beverages is definitely moving away from the bigger-is-better mentality. He's confident there's a very strong correlation between the success of "Super Size Me" — the 2004 documentary in which the filmmaker ate nothing but McDonald's food and put on more than 20 pounds in a matter of weeks — and the move to smaller portion sizes. "I think (soft drink manufacturers) were looking at the concept before the movie came out, but once they saw the consumer reaction, it spurred them on to go much further, much faster," he said.

    Warren says many of today's consumers are looking to minimize the number of calories or the amount of caffeine they intake through the mini. "A moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips," he reminds us.

    So just how small can cans go? Well, Coca-Cola currently offers a 125-ml can in the UK — it's just a few sips, depending on the size of your mouth — which could make its way across the Atlantic if demand warrants, the company says.

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