"Snackifying" drinks for convenience and better nutrition

Logo on a can of Pepsi

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

Bob Moon: PepsiCo's got a new product it'll be testing in a month. It's called Tropolis. It's a food snack made of fruit, but it's pureed, so you can also drink it.

We've seen this before -- think Go-Gurt. But it seems like a trend in the making, so we turned to beverage industry consultant Tom Pirko.

Tom, thanks for joining us.

Tom Pirko: Thank you.

MOON: So Pepsi's chairwoman Indra Nooyi was talking earlier this month about the opportunity to "snackify" beverages and "drinkify" snacks. What category does this fall into, do you think?

Pirko: Geez, I hope they changed the terms. It's really interesting because this isn't really about a product. This is about a company that has been lurching toward the food business in a different way. And separating itself from Coca-Cola. The war of these two giant companies to seize world domination for beverages has really changed, because consumers are no longer drinking carbonated soft drinks the way they once did. Now the great fear with obesity and all of that with children is forcing them to try to find ways to move not only toward nutritional products but really toward food.

MOON: So what do you think makes a snackable drink?

Pirko: Companies have been doing this in Europe and in Russia and other places for a long time. The main thing is really convenience. If you are in this business, you want to get something into a consumer's hand and get them put it down as fast as possible. And these products, it's a whole lot easier if you have something that is, say, a combination of drink and a beverage where you don't have to peel the banana or literally chew the apple. So you get the same kind of satisfaction from getting fruit or a dairy sort of product in a form that's sort of between a food and a beverage. It's convenience. The American consumer's too lazy to chew, so you have find something where they can have their apple or their pear in a semi-liquid form.

MOON: Now you're serious about this -- you think that cutting down on chewing is going to save us some time here?

Pirko: No, and wouldn't chewing be the best exercise as well? No, the psychological is key here and it's really important because again, we're moving from a paradigm of soft drinks not being good for you. We're moving toward things that have other values, other nutritional values. So we're trying to move beverages more in the direction of food. Simply because there being a more positive value attached. If that's the case, how do you deliver food but with all the convenience of beverage? You're seeing it now with this kind of product.

MOON: Yeah, talking to moms around here, it does seem squeezable yogurt and applesauce in tubes is pretty popular in households with kids. But why do you think consumers are, if you'll excuse the expression, eating this up?

Pirko: It's new, it's faddish. Yeah we're in an era now in which you go to a park and you see mothers gathering around another mother who's given her child a soft drink and saying, 'Evil, bad, you're harming your child.' These kinds of drinks sort of run around that and say this is nutritional. So you're still delivering sugar, but you're also delivering some of the benefits. Hybridizing food and beverage, which is really sort of what this is, is in a way clever but it's also a way of dealing with consumer's heads.

MOON: We are what we eat. Tom Pirko is president of BevMark, a beverage industry consultancy. Thanks for joining us.

Pirko: Yeah thank you, I enjoyed it.

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