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Ribena holds a special place in the hearts of many, a British institution sitting right up there with Monster Munch, Hob Nobs, and Tango – depending on your generation, of course. Ribena has been a staple in British households for many decades, offering the benefits of ‘freshly-picked blackcurrants’ while being palatable enough for both children and adults. However, the brand has ridden a rollercoaster over the years – and at times stumbled. Repeated efforts to diversify beyond their core product have failed to stick, culminating in a poorly received reformulation in 2018 intended to skirt the UK’s incoming ‘sugar tax’.
Alongside other ready-to-drink products and an ever-expanding range of flavors now sits ‘Ribena Sparking’ – a fizzy twist on the brand’s classic fruit squash, available in both signature blackcurrant and a new ‘sweet and tangy’ Raspberry variant. This renewed focus on ‘fun and great tasting’ – rather than the previously all-important health benefits – suggests a shift in priorities as the brand attempts to claim a slice of the flavored carbonates category.
Does Ribena’s attempt to maintain relevance and tap into a wider set of consumption occasions have potential? We used our three C’s framework to find out.
People consistently drew on their own experiences with the iconic blackcurrant drink to help conceptualize what Ribena Sparkling would taste like. While the fizzy twist on a household favorite built on the existing warmth and positive sentiment toward Ribena, it failed to generate a great deal of ‘excitement’ – with some viewing the product as ‘same old’ and dismissing it entirely.
While the shift to carbonated beverages was a departure for Ribena, the extension was still perceived to fit with the broader masterbrand thanks to it borrowing the brand’s most recognizable design cues – the purple color, berry imagery, and of course synonymous blackcurrant flavor. There was only slightly reduced fluency as a result of the rounded bottle – designed to better-align with the broader category.
Although many found the proposition appealing (largely because of Ribena’s signature taste combined with the product’s ‘refreshing’ qualities), it ultimately lacked a meaningful point of difference to distinguish itself in an already crowded category. While being a source of ‘vitamin C’ could’ve helped separate the product from other fizzy drinks, this wasn’t a big drawcard – with few perceiving the product to be a ‘better-for-you’ alternative. This could be related to skepticism given the brand’s previous claims, or a function of baggage from the wider category. Some also weren’t convinced that a carbonated variant would taste anything like the flavor they know and love.
A little bit of new combined with a lot of familiar is the key to successful product innovation, and a quick glance at Ribena Sparkling leaves little doubt as to who’s behind it. The lighter and more refreshing variant appealed to those who’ve grown up with the iconic taste of Ribena, but whose preferences have changed as health and social trends have evolved. These people are now also much more conscious about what they’re giving their children.
However, for others Ribena is Ribena, and nothing could convince them that a carbonated variant would be able to replicate the brand’s classic flavor. Losing its iconic taste meant Sparkling Ribena wasn’t perceived to offer meaningful difference in a saturated carbonates category – ultimately leading to average potential. To overcome this hesitance and distinguish the product from alternatives, we’d suggest reinforcing that Ribena Sparkling is “still the taste you know and love”, while dialing-up the benefits of vitamin C to position the product as a “healthier” alternative.
We were supported by market research technology platform Cint to collect data from respondents in the UK.