Site hosted by Build your free website today!

Team Josta Unleashed
By: Holleran, Joan, Beverage Industry, 01486187, Jul97, Vol. 88, Issue 7

The potential to create a new soft drink category sent Pepsi to the jungles of the Amazon for an ingredient with a decidedly edgy difference.

Like the Big New CSD (carbonated soft drink) initiative it emerged from, Pepsi's new Josta soft drink is unprecedented in the industry. It seems unlikely that a $10.5 billion beverage behemoth the likes of Pepsi would tell a cross-functional team to simply, "Go. Create." But that was essentially the kick-off for Pepsi's Big New CSD program in late 1993. Guidelines were scant: take proven attributes, like a broadly appealing taste; make sure it fits with the existing operational system, i.e., the ability to physically bottle and distribute the beverage; and make it unique.

To the team of marketing, research, packaging and other Pepsi personnel, it was a dream assignment: open season. Permission to go wild -- not necessarily to break the rules, but certainly to bend them.

Josta with guarana, the beverage that has emerged as the Big New CSD, fits the criteria. The taste appeals to an even wider audience than the team originally envisioned. With the exception of guarana, it is made with typical soft drink ingredients, so it isn't hard to make, and the bottles and cans Josta is packaged in are part of Pepsi's standard mix.

But Josta is different. Its bold red, black and yellow label makes it stand out on store shelves like a raver at a sock hop. It has a taste all its own and an image that, spurred by a stalking black panther, suggests intrigue and something just shy of dangerous.

"The idea was how are we going to develop the next kind of carbonated soft drink that has the potential to be a large interesting segment to a lot of people," says Pepsi's Ken Danieli, senior marketing manager of flavors, responsible for Josta, Mug, Slice and related events.

"We look at the successful brands and determine what makes them tick; what are the fundamental attributes, and how can you innovate on top of that without creating something that's temporal or a fad."

"We set out to create a product that feels like something you could drink everyday and could become part of your life," he says.

To bring something so decidedly different to the marketplace, Pepsi took, for it, a radical departure from the age-old formulaic method of introducing a new product.

The Big New CSD initiative really heightened Pepsi's use of what has come to be called cross-functional teams. In addition to the creation of a fabulously popular new soft drink, the company sought to dramatically cut the time from conception to market.

"This was unprecendented in the way marketing and R&D worked together through all the stages," says Donna Parker, a research scientist and Team Josta member. "We blended the product evolution with the concept evolution."

"It was unusual because we didn't start with a concept. We had no boundaries," she says. Typically ,there are a lot of boundaries and a pre-existing concept. Sometimes that defines it and makes it easier. This was actually very challenging because you had no target, other than Big New CSD."

Such a challenge was taken not only seriously, but earnestly. Shortly after the task was presented in late 1993, ideas abounded, exploded and multiplied as if they were reproducing on their own. More than 1,500 concepts, flavors and profiles were created. In a few short months, the field was narrowed down to about 30 potential Big New CSDs. Josta entered its first full market, Phoenix, in December 1995. Today it is available in nearly two-thirds of the country.

The team, which included R&D, marketing, packaging and others, worked together. They conducted the research, worked on the packaging, the labels, the concept and the flavor. They created the look, feel and personality of Josta -- together.

And they created the name, which is the result of team brainstorming, says Pepsi-Cola's manager of research and technical services Victoria de la Huerga. To the team, Josta doesn't mean anything as a word, but it does have meaning. "We wanted a powerful name, but one that people wouldn't feel funny asking for," says Parker.

Guaraná Unleashed

The key ingredient in Josta is guaraná , a berry indigenous to South America. Like ginseng, guaraná, which contains caffeine, has stimulating properties.

While Pepsi is willing to broadcast that guaraná is a potent ingredient with an ancient and mysterious past, they are not willing to hype it as an aphrodisiac. Others have been willing to do that for them. To date --and keep in mind that Josta isn't even distributed nationally yet --hundreds of newscasts reported, slightly tongue in cheek, that Josta can enhance one's sex life.

Even Brian Swette, executive vice president and chief marketing officer for Pepsi-Cola Co., vaguely described Josta in a speech as "a mysterious potent berry indigenous to the Amazon. Guaraná's legendary benefits are said to include energy, alertness and, as purported in some circles, a certain Dr. Ruth quality."

De la Huerga says that guaraná is key to Josta's unique flavor profile.

After tweaking the sweetness, the tartness an the carbonation, "we had to find the ingredient to make (Josta) unique, which is where guaraná comes in.

"Being aware of trends and ingredients...we noticed there were a number of beverages in Brazil that were made with guaraná. In some cases they actually outsell major brands down there," says de la Huerga. "Additionally, that particular ingredient is popular in Europe, particularly the United Kingdom. So we thought we could take a taste that people in a lot of other countries like and are interested in, and we could adopt that in our product and that would help give us an edge," she says.

"This is a product with international flavor," says Tom Pirko, president of consulting firm Bevmark, New York. "(Pepsi) should be able to sell it in North America, South America and other markets beyond that"

Guaraná has a featured position on Josta's label for a reason, he says. It's the hook, and it makes Josta the bell tower for a new category of ingredient-driven soft drinks.

"Josta is more complex than (guaraná), it's more elusive," says Ken Danieli. "It's a more complete mysterious positioning that talks about the mysterious ingredient, the look and feel of it, the way it's brought to consumers. The elements are done in a way that's more relevant to where they go to have fun. So it was a lot more than guaraná as a delivery vehicle."

Guaraná's mysterious history alone puts Josta in relatively unexplored soft drink territory. When coupled with the beverage profile, the panther, and dynamic packaging, it takes on an urban jungle feel.

"It definitely has an urban street feel to it, but somehow that hasn't been exclusive to how people perceive it," Danieli says. "We have all kinds of anecdotes about 50-year-old guys sitting around the gas station drinking Josta."

"It's a different territory for soft drinks," says Danieli. "It's a little darker. It's a little more mysterious. And that's something that not many (soft drink marketers) have gone to, especially big companies that are going to get big distribution on the product."

Josta is further differentiated from the pack by its caffeine level, which is a notch higher than that of Mountain Dew, and more than colas.

Josta's image is easier to describe than its taste. The ingredients, with the exception of guaraná, are typical of soft drinks: carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup and/or sugar.

Asked how she would describe the product to her mother, de la Huerga says, "It's familiar, but you can't describe it."

And, according to Danieli, that's intentional. Like cola, it has no clear-cut, identifiable flavor, he says. "People will tell you all different kinds of things they taste in cola: different spices, vanilla, citrus, caramel, all these things. And it's the mix of all those things that makes it cola. It's the same with Mountain Dew. You may get a general agreement that there's a citrusy element to it, but the complexity of what's in there and the uniqueness of it as a combination, that's the magic.

"(The challenge is to) come up with something that has all different kinds of things to it, so it tastes different to you on different occasions. You don't get tired of it," he says.

"Some people will swear (Josta) is a cola. Technically, there's nothing cola about it. Other people will swear it's cream. Others will swear it's berry or fruit-plus-this, or spicy. The diversity of answers is astounding...That's fundamental to what it makes it so interesting and why so many people seem to be finding their own thing in it."

"And part of the whole thing is we don't say what it's about," says Danieli.

That's for the best, says Pirko. "For the market they're going after (with Josta), if they're obvious, they lose it. They can't speak down, can't be patronizing, and can't be the big cola company telling them what to do.

"The sexiest things are those that don't reveal too much. There are cinematic images that can be made with Josta," he says, indicating that like ginseng, people aren't necessarily familiar with the ingredient's properties, but they conjure up images that have tremendous selling power. "The movies of the 40's and 50's are more sexy because of what you don't see, compared to the movies of today where you see everything. Being obvious just doesn't work," he says.

Pirko describes Josta as an enhanced cola aphrodisiac. "It's exotic because it comes from somewhere else. It reminds people of rain forests and South American Indians.

Josta has created a near-cult following among core users in their teens and early twenties. Danieli says there are several Web sites, shrines actually, to Josta that have been created by adoring fans. Pepsi has received more than 5,000 calls regarding Josta, mostly in praise, but also wanting to know where it can be found.

Among teens and young adults, "there has been a strongly expressed desire for new flavors, perhaps related to cola, but more interesting, more complex and fun," says Pirko. "It's not a matter of throwing some fruit in there, but it's something else."

Teens, Pirko says, have turned to old, formerly-stodgy root beer, and Mountain Dew for added flavor. "Josta fills a nice spot (in the soft drink category)," he says.

Teens also recognize that Josta is a complete package, not just an alternative flavor. It has an edgy personality and a mysterious ingredient to pump them up.

It has been consumers, through research, who have helped Pepsi put a total package together. Because Pepsi frequently conducts focus groups, Team Josta was able to continually run concepts, prototypes and marketing ideas by consumers.

Although it may seem like a small part of the Josta picture, consumers told Pepsi that the original message they were sending about guaraná had little relevancy in their lives. Originally, the mystique of guaraná and its origins were played up on the package label. It was cool to the 35-year-old marketing people that put it together, but it didn't work on kids, Danieli says.

"Guaraná is not the whole idea," says Danieli. "Consumers are attracted to the graphics, the panther, the attitude and the image... but guaraná isn't driving that, for consumers specifically."

Instead of guaraná's origins, the message now is what guaraná can do. "The powerful rush of potent taste is the main idea," says Danieli, borrowing from the package statement, which reads: Josta's powerful rush of potent taste comes from guaraná, grown deep within the jungle and sought worldwide for its unusual primal powers. Unleash it.

"It seems mysterious and intriguing and fun to them. Those are a couple of things that consumers really set us on a new course with," says Danieli.

It was perhaps in the marketing research phase that the uniqueness of the team approach had its most relevant impact on Team Josta. All the hands-on research was done by the people that created it. Even the R&D folks shucked their lab coats and headed to the marketplace to ask people about the product.

"We did focus groups as well as going where kids in the age group hang out. We were part of that," says de la Huerga. "It helped us come up with the concept of brand personality. We asked, `what do you like? Is this (product) relevant to your life? What would you change? Is it too sweet? Can you describe it?' We were looking for something that would be somewhat familiar, but hard to describe. Therefore it would be unique."

Some testing was done in what Pepsi has termed cyclones and hurricanes. A cyclone is an instance where a Josta team would descend on a particular area, talking with students at school, young people on the street, etc.

A cyclone is "a quick go-in and get some quick consumer feedback," Danieli says. "You may go to a college or high school and make a donation to the school and show (students) a bunch of different concepts.

"Some of it is literally being out there where they are," he says. "You often don't think of it as a research occasion, you're just out on a Saturday afternoon in New York City."

A hurricane is a more indepth test, focusing on how fast the product rolled through the system and how frequently people were purchasing Josta.

Beginning in May 1995, Josta entered a "hurricane" test in Hackensack, N.J. The product was measured both quantitatively, by measuring how quickly it moved through a small number of stores, and qualitatively, measuring the amount of enthusiasm for the product.

Since making the move into Phoenix, the product has expanded to 29 states.

A Friend Sent Me

Each of Josta's markets gets a dedicated team of young people to represent the product. The goal with the sampling teams is to hit every high school, college, major night club, shopping district and skateboard shop in the market --"anything that's culturally a place kids get excited about," says Danieli.

Pepsi has an elaborate process of recruiting the hip squads that sample the product. For Josta, the profile of the sampler is a "a cool young teen," says Danieli.

"They're not out there on the fringes. But they're contemporary and good looking. It's not a typical cheerleader sampler... It's a kind of kid who knows the latest record, can get into the latest club, is a good skateboarder. Somebody that has a cultural edge over the other kids, is a leader, is friendly and approachable.... We're looking for kids that other kids are going to aspire to and are going to think are cool."

Samplers go where their audience is; they help promote events and give away the soft drink and Josta paraphernalia.

It's nice to have a Pepsi-sized budget, and Team Josta knows what to do with it. Part of the sampling program is a fleet of nearly 50 Dodge Ram pickup trucks, decorated with the Josta motif.

Josta sponsors any number of local events, including concerts, bar parties, races, and school events. Josta is also supported by more traditional marketing, including billboards, merchandising materials, and TV commercials, which air next month.

"We're not precluded from doing anything," says Danieli.

Regardless of the great budget, there are some drawbacks to being a Pepsi child. Although Danieli says that Josta is being rolled out market by market, there are some rather large markets, such as New York and Chicago, where Josta isn't available. Some markets, Danieli says, may be getting other new Pepsi products.

Danieli says there is no timeline for achieving national distribution.

But even as the market coverage grows, the brand continues to evolve. Most recently, Josta has been moving into other packages. Originally, it was sold only for the single-serve market. To become a fixture in the lives of consumers, however, the company understands that take-home packaging is crucial.

Joining the single-serve 20-ounce PET and 12-ounce cans in every market are 12-packs and 2-liter PET. Three-liter PET is available is some areas. In addition, 10-ounce glass is available in select markets for on-premise sales.

Josta also makes a great mixer, along the lines of club soda, tonic water and ginger ale. The "Jodka," for instance is Josta mixed with vodka.

While Josta seems to have all the bases covered, Danieli admits that not everything related with Big New CSD or even Josta has been 100 percent successful. There have been marketing mis-steps, and any number of subtle changes made to the packaging. But overall, it has weathered cyclones, hurricanes and other market storms where other potential Big New CSDs have not.

Sierra, for example, was a bright blue soft drink that left a fresh mouthfeel, i.e., minty fresh breath. It made it as far as a test in Delaware. Philadelphia was home to a test of Pepsi-Kona, a carbonated cola/coffee drink that could be described as a starter kit for tomorrow's coffee drinkers. It too, has been shelved.

But Pirko says -- and of course Team Josta concurs -- that Josta is not a flash in the pan. "It's not Crystal Pepsi," he says. "It's interesting. It has extra flavor value. And that's enormously important."

By The Tail

A taste of Josta's irreverent personality is illustrated in Pepsi's flavor merchandising program for the summer. A promotional tie-in with Fox Television's The Simpsons program is underway with other Pepsi flavors. "People are fanatical about the Simpsons," says Danieli. "It goes deep. And this is an over-the-top fun game."

The promotion is a watch-and-win tied in with The Simpsons season opener. Game pieces inside 12-packs are coded, and the winner will be announced during the season opener. The grand prize is a full-sized house modeled after the Simpson's home.

"We know that specially-designed packaging moves a lot of product," says Danieli. "It makes people feel like they're getting something. And games give you more things to sell with."

The Simpsons package or Josta is particularly off-beat. The four side panels create a vignette, wherein Bart displays his non-commercial side by spray-painting the panther with El Barto. Another panel, with more spray paint, shows Bart and his credo, "I will not sell out." Another panel shows Bart pulling the panther's tail. The last side shows the panther, with an image of Bart bulging from its stomach.

"All the Simpsons [Pepsi flavors] packages are fun. But the Josta Simpsons package is a little more naughty," says Danieli.

The Josta difference: "There's been a sameness to soft drinks, and this [Josta] difference is refreshing to people and they've gravitated to it," says Ken Danieli, senior marketing manager responsible for Josta.

New inspiration: Team Josta members Victoria de la Huerga (left) and Donna Parker (pictured right, with Beverage Industry editor Joan Holleran) ventured away from their Pepsi-Cola Co. lab facility to develop Josta.