By: Yafen Liu
In the face of lagging soda consumption in the United States, the world’s biggest beverage maker, Coca-Cola Company (Coke), has taken drastic measures to polish its public image and rebrand itself as a healthy snack option, even with little substantial changes made to its products.
All throughout February in 2015, in order to promote the brand as a “refreshing beverage option”, Coke paid numerous diet and fitness experts to write online posts for nutrition blogs and major newspapers that recommended Coke’s miniature cans (7.5 oz., 90 calories) as an ideal healthy snack. The only change of the smaller Coke is its size, rather than ingredients in it. Officials from Coca-Cola said the company works with health experts “to help bring context to the latest facts and science around our products and ingredients.”
The campaign of mini-can of Coke is not the first time that Coke focused on fighting for health. Coca-Cola Life, Coca-Cola Zero, and Diet Coca-Cola are all brands Coke’s pushes as being part of a healthy and balance lifestyle. Actually, the mini-cans of Coke, which Coke decided to push as a guilt-free way to enjoy fizzy drinks, fetch higher prices on a per-ounce basis than regular ones: in the United States, a regular 12-ounce can of Coke sells for 31 cents, while a 7.5-ounce can goes for about 40 cents. On the per-ounce basis, consumers are effectively paying double for the smaller packages: 5.3 cents per ounce for Coke mini cans, versus 2.6 cents per ounce for the same beverage in 12-ounce cans. Obviously, consumers are convinced to pay more for less soda.
Although the concept that the mini-cans of Coke could be beneficial to our healthy lifestyle is somehow ridiculous, it turned out to be successful. Coke’s results show that its sales have taken off, even though the smaller packages offer less soda to customers. According to Coke, sales of its smaller size drinks, which including a 1.25-liter bottle as an alternative to the 2-liter bottle, were up 9% from January to October in 2014. By comparison, sales of its 12-ounce cans and 2-liter bottles edged up 0.1%. That is, less soda means more revenue for Coke.
There are three reasons that could explain mini-cans of Coke’s success:
First of all, soda is popular, especially among teens.
As Coke’s loyal consumers, teens (age 17-21) pay less attention to whether soda is healthy or not and are willing to spend their money on what they like. This is the most important reason that they are Coke’s core target market. What is more, soda is not only easy to find at vending machines, fast-food chains and supermarket checkouts, but also tasty and cheap. On the one hand, the taste of soda could be one reason that gets consumers addicted to it. Additionally, the caffeine it contains is addictive, which is part of the reason that soda is such a hard habit to break. On the other hand, soda is cheaper compared to fruit juice and milk. Although soda may contribute to obesity, dental problems and other problems, consumers like to drink it without paying attention to the problems that it costs.
Secondly, consumers are pursuing a healthier lifestyle.
Currently, since consumers are aiming for a healthier lifestyle, new low-calorie and even no-calorie sodas sold in smaller sizes will appeal to people who have been avoiding soda. Consumers, who want to drink soda but are afraid of the problems that soda causes, will be more likely to buy the mini-can of Coke since it contains fewer calories, which means less harm. What’s more, paying more 9 cents for saving 50 calories is a really good deal for who want to enjoy the delicious taste without feeling guilty.
Besides, by using the trustable third parties — health experts – in its public relationship strategy, Coke could easily persuade consumers that the mini-can of Coke is healthy. As a result, consumers believe fewer calories means being healthier, which, in turn, will help Coke attracting more attentions and gaining more profits. In other words, smaller cans of Coke mean fewer calories for consumers, but more profits for Coca-Cola. After all, the “healthy lifestyle” that Coke promotes meets consumers’ expectation, even though its price is higher than regular ones.
Finally, thanks to Coke’s brilliant mini packaging strategy.
Some consumers do not normally drink soda, but they like that the mini-cans turn Coke into a relatively guiltless treat. However, this is not the only reason why consumers buy them. Mini-cans of Coke are bought because they are “freaking adorable”. When consumers are tired of the traditional packages, the mini-can of Coke attracts their attention because it is pretty cute and recognizable. What is more, 40 cents are negligible to these consumers, because they are willing to pay 40 cents for happiness and health.
It is difficult to say whether the mini-cans of Coke are healthy or not, because the answers vary from person-to-person. For example, older consumers may be more concerned about health problems, while teens might be concerned about the taste, size and price of Coke. In my opinion, although the smaller size of Coke contains fewer calories, it is not healthy because there are no substantial changes with its ingredients, just its size. At least, it is clear that this soda is unhealthy for our wallets: we pay more money for less soda.