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    Why Coca-Cola Is 2016’s Cold & Frozen Beverages Category Captain

    Freestyle dispensers help make c-stores a destination.

    By Susan Durtschi, Past Times Marketing

    ATLANTA — The Coca-Cola Freestyle family of ice-cooled beverage dispensers has been a success with consumers ever since entering the marketplace. The availability of Coca-Cola Freestyle in convenience stores makes it a special destination for shoppers, with 89 percent of consumers saying they are much more likely to visit a c-store with a Freestyle because “they have brands and flavors I can’t get anywhere else.”

    Company research has also revealed about the Freestyle that:  

    • Guests are 1.5 times more likely to visit a c-store that offers Coca-Cola Freestyle;
    • 82 percent of c-store guests say Freestyle offers a beverage for every type of occasion;
    • 90 percent find it more appealing than other fountain dispensers; and
    • 84 percent say it’s easy to find the beverage they’re searching for with Freestyle.

    For its efforts, The Coca-Cola Co. was selected winner of the 2016 Convenience Store News Category Captains award in the cold and frozen beverages category.

    Now in its third year, the awards program applauds outstanding category management initiatives implemented in the convenience channel over the past 12 months. All entries were judged by product development experts at consumer research firm Past Times Marketing based on the information supplied by participating companies.

    The average consumer today seeks and expects a wide variety of options from retailers, and Coca-Cola Freestyle offers c-store shoppers unprecedented variety and choice of beverages and flavors. Coca-Cola’s proprietary research shows that more choices lead to more sales, with 42 percent of Freestyle consumption coming from brands that are otherwise not readily available.

    With the Coca-Cola Freestyle 9000, customers have the option to choose from more than 100 beverages, including 70 low- or no-calorie options and more than 90 caffeine-free choices. Examples include Coke Cherry Vanilla, Caffeine-Free Diet Coke with Raspberry, Sprite Zero with Vanilla, and Fanta Peach. The smaller Coca-Cola Freestyle 7000 provides the same benefits as the original, offering more than 60 beverages to retailers with space limitations.

    Coca-Cola Freestyle uses proprietary Purepour Technology, which employs “micro-dosing” to deliver a wide range of beverages on demand. The space-maximizing technology does not require syrup, but instead uses concentrated ingredients stored in cartridges inside the Coca-Cola Freestyle cabinet to dispense and meter fluids with a high degree of accuracy.

    The system leverages daily consumption data information from each dispenser to forecast and create product order recommendations for every customer outlet. The dispensers “phone home” daily, reporting all 8-ounce pours by brand and time of day. This information can help retailers efficiently optimize and manage their beverage inventory, ensuring they minimize their amount of on-hand inventory while always keeping the right brands in stock, according to the company.  

    Coca-Cola continuously introduces new supportive technology to make retailers’ jobs easier as they operate their Coca-Cola Freestyle dispenser. One example is iLearn crew training videos. These interactive, update-able and effective training videos are made specifically to walk retailers’ crews through each step in operating and maintaining the Freestyle system.

    In addition, all Coca-Cola Freestyle cartridges began transitioning from existing hard-shell plastic to new paperboard packaging, called SmartPAK, in April 2015. These space-saving cartridges are easy to change out and recycle in-outlet, promoting an eco-friendly supply chain by further reducing packaging waste and ingredient cost, the company noted.

    To help retailers promote Freestyle, Coca-Cola offers specialized merchandising solutions to place in key areas around the store: door clings in the entrance zone; register toppers and counter mats in the counter zone; and ceiling danglers and table tents in the beverage zone. These pieces include specific messaging based on shopper marketing research for each zone.

    Another unique opportunity for shopper engagement is the Coca-Cola Freestyle mobile app, through which shoppers can create their own beverage mix and transmit it directly to a Freestyle dispenser, which will pour the mix on the spot. This function is available on all self-serve Freestyle 9000 dispensers.

    The Coca-Cola Freestyle not only drives shopper preference, but also drives increases in total store profitability. C-stores with a Freestyle saw increased sales in all package formats, with bottled-beverage servings and frozen servings increasing by 2 percent and fountain servings growing by 12 percent, the company reported.

    For more on the winners and their category management initiatives, look in the Convenience Store News Guide to Category Management, coming out later this month.

    By Susan Durtschi, Past Times Marketing
    • About Susan Durtschi Susan Durtschi is president and CEO of Past Times Marketing, a consumer research firm. Convenience Store News partners annually with Past Times Marketing to conduct its Category Captains and Best New Products Awards competitions. For more information, go to www.pasttimesmarketing.com.

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