ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Wegmans Food Markets here is the latest combatant in the vanilla-cola wars with the rollout of a private-label, vanilla-flavored carbonated soft drink.
The beverage is marketed under the "W Pop" brand, and is merchandised in the main CSD aisle, according to Katie Crane, a Wegmans spokeswoman.
"It's doing very well," Crane said, declining further comment.
W Pop Vanilla is currently available in 20-ounce, single-serve bottles that retail for $1.09, according to several stores SN polled. Other sizes -- including 2-liter bottles and 12-packs of cans -- are being explored, store-level associates said.
Wegmans is promoting the new beverage in various forms of advertising, including on its company Web site, www.wegmans.com.
"Your first taste will tell you our vanilla cola has all the smooth vanilla flavor and cola kick of the national brands -- but at a price that's much easier to swallow," the Web site reads.
The launch of W Pop Vanilla comes at a time of heightened competition in the vanilla-cola segment. Just weeks ago, Pepsi-Cola North America, Purchase, N.Y., began distributing Pepsi Vanilla. Described as Pepsi with a splash of vanilla, it is available in regular and diet versions. Pepsi Vanilla hit the market more than a year after Coca-Cola Co., Atlanta, introduced Vanilla Coke.
Along with Wegmans, other retailers are exploring vanilla cola. Price Chopper Supermarkets, Schenectady, N.Y., is one of them, according to Regina Tator, the chain's private-label category manager.
"We're going to wait and see how Pepsi Vanilla does. If it doesn't fizzle, we'll probably do it," Tator told SN.
It's logical that supermarket retailers want to capitalize on the popularity of vanilla cola, said Gary Hemphill, senior vice president, Beverage Marketing Corp., New York, a market research company. After all, new products are the lifeblood of the category, whose sales have been lackluster over the past several years due to heavy competition from New Age beverages.
"Retailers are following what the large [beverage] companies have been doing in terms of product innovation," Hemphill noted.
Regular CSDs generated $9.1 billion in sales in supermarkets for the 52 weeks ended June 15, 2003, a 1.2% increase, according to Information Resources Inc., Chicago. Low-calorie soft drinks fared slightly better, garnering $4.1 billion, a 4.7% increase, IRI statistics show.
And while Vanilla Coke gave Coca-Cola a boost in the form of 90 million cases of regular and 10 million cases of diet sold last year, Hemphill said it remains unclear how successful the vanilla-cola segment will be. He does, however, expect initially strong sales of Pepsi Vanilla.