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    McDonald's Brings Bottles to the Table

    Chain tests packaged beverages in 150 locations.

    CHICAGO -- Fast food giant McDonald's is going through with its plans to compete with convenience stores in the cooler, as the company is testing the sale of packaged beverages in approximately 150 locations, Advertising Age reported.

    Offerings vary by location, and so far, a variety of colas, teas, energy drinks and waters, including Red Bull and Coca-Cola's vitaminwater are being tested, along with some beverages from PepsiCo, including Mountain Dew, Diet Mountain Dew, Lipton Green Tea and Diet Lipton Green Tea, according to David DeCecco, Pepsi spokesman.

    "We're pleased to be working with McDonald's, and we're delighted consumers have responded so favorably to the test," he told the magazine.

    The goal is to capture more dollars from McDonald's customers who may be buying beverages elsewhere. Larry Light, founder of Arcature and former global chief marketer of McDonald's, told AdAge the company realized years ago it wasn't meeting consumers' needs.

    "We were seeing [customers] buy food at McDonald's and then go buy their beverages at 7-Eleven, or they'd go through a drive-through with the beverage already in their car," he said.

    Besides incremental sales, the offering could provide a margin boost, according to the report. Veteran franchisee Irwin Kruger, who is part of a test of vitaminwater in 20 New York-area stores, told the magazine he has promoted the beverages as an upgrade to extra-value meals. Kruger said he is happy with the results. "Any extra margin in this economy goes a long way," he told AdAge.

    McDonald's told the magazine a final lineup has not been determined. "We're working out the execution details of how to best bring this to market for our customers with the complexity of bringing all of these beverages to the restaurant," said Neil Golden, chief marketing officer of McDonald's.

    Company spokeswoman Danya Proud declined to discuss a time frame for the test or a larger-scale rollout, but told AdAge "This year into next year and even into 2010, you'll start to see the full realization of the beverage plans."

    And to date, the program is doing well. "We're encouraged by what we're hearing from our customers," she said. "They're telling us they appreciate the added value, convenience and selection."

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