Harboe takes the high ground in soft drink innovation

Harboe has out-innovated its competitors: They offer the first legally available Cola in 2 liter bottles. Their competitors must be frightened!

Seriously, though, it does seem like the capacity of innovation in the Danish soft drink and beer market (which, unlike in the US, consists of the same companies) is limited to the packaging. The contents are never-changing and dull as ever.

The main product innovation coming out of beer giant Carlsberg in the past 10 years or so has been a constant stream of new packaging – plastic, cans, new glass bottles, new cases – and each time, they’ve given the price a notch up. Their latest innovation: Reverting to the old bottles!

What are they thinking, over there in the Carlsberg silo? Back in the late 19th century they were at the forefront of brewing technology. Today you can get the same beer in 33 cl old design glass bottles, 33 cl new design bottles, 33 cl cans, 38 cl plastic bottles, 50 cl cans, and 50 cl bottles, in six-packs, 24-bottle cases and 30-bottle cases. Seriously, do they think that’s going to make the product more interesting?

It probably does sell more for a short while, after which they have to come out with new packaging, while still keeping the old ones on the market. Doesn’t sound like a winning strategy to me. It just gradually increases the costs of managing it all, but I doubt that it has any permanent effect on profits. (Particularly frightening for Carlsberg must be Heineken with only one container on the Danish market, a bottle that’s way cooler than any of Carlsberg’s.)

As an aside, I was in the supermarket the other day, and wanted to buy beers. But I just couldn’t get myself to get Carlsberg – the thought of it made me feel like an alcoholic. The only reason to buy Carlsberg is its low price/alcohol ratio. Not that that isn’t a good enough reason.

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