- Juice manufacturer Welch’s is collaborating with New Jersey-based soft drink company Global Beverage Corp. to expand the Welch’s carbonated soda line, according to The Shelby Report. Welch’s will provide the ingredients, including grapes, and Global Beverage will contribute beverage industry expertise.
- The relaunch will include classic Welch's flavors like grape, white grape, strawberry, fruit punch, orange, pineapple and peach, as well as new flavors and concepts.
- “We did extensive consumer research, and the feedback is as strong as anything I have ever seen. Clearly the consumer has a strong affinity for the Welch’s trademark that translates to strong carbonated soft drink purchase intent,” Anthony Pessolano, president and CEO of Global Beverage Corp., told The Shelby Report.
Welch's move to double down in the soda space could be a savvy way to expand its brand footprint, especially since its fruit-centered beverages could have a leg up on traditional sodas.
For instance, Welch's can leverage ingredients like Concord grapes, which are associated with improved heart and cognitive function, to market a healthier soda. The company’s solid reputation, strong consumer recognition and brand image also plays in its favor. In fact, Welch’s earned the 2016 Women's Choice Award as America's most recommended grape juice.
First introduced in 1974, Welch’s Grape Soda gained a loyal customer following. National-level distribution was discontinued in 2011, however, much to the disappointment of its many fans. A Facebook page — Bring Back Welch’s Grape Soda — subsequently launched, petitioning for the drink’s return. One fan went so far as to call it “the best grape soda ever made.” Welch's Soda saw national distribution again in 2015 when the company took over the previously licensed business. As reported in its 2015 annual report, its soda business now has "significant volume."
Still, the fact that Welch’s is looking to expand in the competitive soda category, which has been struggling to find growth, is a bit surprising. Shoppers have been rejecting soda and other sugary drinks in favor of healthier alternatives. In 2016, bottled water surpassed carbonated soft drinks to become the largest beverage category by volume in the U.S., according to the Beverage Marketing Corporation.
Other companies in the soda space are actively reformulating their products to try and reinvigorate growth. In an effort to retain consumers who want to cut back on their sugar intake, Coca-Cola is replacing Coke Zero with Coca-Cola Zero Sugar. Meanwhile, PepsiCo is seeking to patent a stevia production process as it looks to revamp many of its products to include less sugar and more of the natural plant-based sweetener.
Food and beverage manufacturers are also exploring a host of substances, including monkfruit, date paste and sweet potatoes, for use as natural sweeteners. If Welch’s naturally sweetens its sodas with real fruit juice, it could be the boost the carbonated soft drink category and Welch's soda needs.
“With flavored soft drinks projected to grow double-digit over the next five years, we are extremely excited for the future," Pessolano told The Shelby Report.