By Princewill Ekwujuru

THE Soda or carbonated soft drinks, CSD, market in Nigeria has continued to grow in leaps and bounds amidst fierce competition among players for supremacy in the market place.

As at today, there are over 18 soda drink brands in the market competing for consumers’ attention.

For about 30 years, and prior to the entrance of other brands, Coca Cola, Fanta, Sprite manufactured by Coca Cola Nigeria Limited, CCNL; Pepsi,    SevenUp and Mirinda produced by SevenUp Bottling Company, SBC Plc, and LaCasera, manufactured by La Casera Company Limited, dominated the market.

Since the last five years, new entrants into the soda drinks market has raised a critical challenge to the existing market leaders, depleting their market share in a bid to upturn the leadership ladder.

Recently, new soda brands such as Big Cola, produced by Ajeast Nigeria Limited, a subsidiary of AJE Group, a Peruvian soft drink producer; and Bigi Cola, manufactured by Rite Foods Limited, entered the market to challenge the position of the leaders.

Price strategy

Findings by Vanguard Companies & Markets, C&M, revealed that any brand that controls the price of the soda drink market, without content reduction, would always have a stronger hold on consumers and the ability to induce them to switch brand loyalty.

Bigi Cola which is packed in 500ml bottle, has four variants; Bigi Cola, Orange, Lemon-Lime and Apple.

Bigi Cola is riding on pricing, the same strategy deployed by Big Cola to penetrate the soft drink market when it newly came.

A carton price of PET bottle (50cl) of Bigi-Cola is N950, Pepsi-Cola sells for N1,050 and Coca Cola for N1,150. While the retail price of a 50cl bottle of Bigi-Cola, Big Cola and Pepsi is N100, Coca-Cola sells for N120.

While some popular brands such as Coca Cola and Pepsi are leaders in the high-growth market; others are dominant in the low-growth market.

Despite increasing competition, Coca Cola and Pepsi still hold tenaciously to the leadership position in the soda market, having successfully shrugged off challenge from competitors with a combination of product quality, relentless consumer engagement and aggressive advertising.

These marketing campaigns were a response to increasing tough competition from players such as Ajeast, which saw its Big Cola brand gain sales share since its launch in 2015, due to competitive pricing.

C&M also observed that there were limited product launches in 2017 as companies struggled with the negative impact of economic stagnation. The few new launches focused on refreshing packaging or maintaining stable prices through lower pack sizes.

As a result of these attributes, Coca Cola has become the generic name for soft drinks in the market, occupying a prime position in the hearts and minds of many loyal consumers.

Coca Cola enjoys high level of awareness among all market demography and has been able to transcend all age groups.

Likewise, Pepsi is trending the same market route appealing to all demography, pushing relentless consumer engagement as well as aggressive competition by way of discounts and promotions.

C&M findings at different retail shops across Lagos metropolis, in Apapa, Ikeja, Oshodi, Gbagada and Agbara revealed that some consumers have re-affirmed their loyalty to Coke and Pepsi, though still have likeness for other brands.

Consumers’ reaction

Segun Adeola, a computer engineer, said: “I have always loved coke because it’s always refreshing especially in hot sun. But sometimes, I alternate with Pepsi. Coca Cola has come to stay though.”

Marcel Chikodi, a Lagos-based businessman, said: “For me, I enjoy both Coke and Pepsi because they are almost the same.

“Right now, I go for Bigi, I am trying it out,” said Lola Adebayo, a consumer who is also based in Lagos.

A unit seller named Ms Bisi, who sells at Oshodi said: “I sell sausage roll with soft drinks and people request for Pepsi and SevenUp more, because they believe particularly that SevenUp acts like a drip in their body. For me, I think this is as a result of choice, but that does not mean that other brands are neglected.”

Distributor reacts

A distributor, who simply identified herself as Esse with shop located along the Lagos–Badagry Expressway who would not want the company’s name mentioned said she prefers to stock Coca cola because most consumers prefer coke, may be “because of its affinity with consumers, even though some of the new entrants are giving a big challenge to the Coke and Pepsi brands.”

In my records, Bigi Cola is doing well, consumers tend to like the taste of the product, likewise Pepsi and Big Cola. “In fact, these products have drawn a battle line in the market.”

Marketing Expert

A marketing professional, Joseph Igbantu of Orlicks Communications said that poor economic conditions limited the growth prospects for most soft drinks in 2017, while the poor economy led to low purchasing power for consumers.

Total    sales volume    are expected to grow well this year, even though Nigeria’s economy is not expected to grow faster as it continues recovering from the recession.

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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.