A generic name to bottled water in India, the company launched Bisleri Fizzy Drink in 2009, but quietly withdrew the soda-like product, as it bombed at the marketplace.
But this time, the Ramesh Chauhan-promoted company — creator of brands such as Thums Up, Limca and Gold Spot, which were sold to Coca-Cola in a Rs 190-crore deal in 1993 - appears to be making a serious rebid with Bisleri Soda. The product, available in PET bottles, is priced at Rs 15 for a 600-ml bottle.
Chauhan said his company was working on distribution to retail the product across the country. “We have dedicated plants set up to manufacture Bisleri Soda in Mumbai, Delhi and Mysore,” he said. Marketing for the product is expected to start a little later, as the company is working on getting its distribution in place.
While Chauhan declined to comment on investments, the move comes at a time when almost all key beverage makers have extended their packaged water brands to categories such as soda. Ramesh Chauhan’s brother, Prakash, who runs the rival Parle Agro, maker of mango drink Frooti, extended the Bailey name, used for his packaged water business, to soda last year.
Coca-Cola and PepsiCo also have portfolios of soda brands, including Kinley Soda and Schweppes (both from Coca-Cola) and Lehar Soda and Duke’s (both from PepsiCo). Kinley is the brand name of Coke’s packaged water, while Duke’s, once popular in Mumbai, was relaunched only last year by PepsiCo in an attempt to capture markets with regional brands. Schweppes, in contrast, is an international Coke brand, known for its soda portfolio, while Lehar, though used by PepsiCo for its food brands (such as Lehar Iron Chusti, which is a snack), is also at times used for beverage products.
Executives at Coca-Cola and PepsiCo said they were watching Bisleri’s moves in the soda market. But Bisleri also has competition from beer makers such as Kingfisher and SAB Miller, who have soda brands as part of their surrogate advertising initiatives for their mainline products. Chauhan admits the competition is fierce, given the plethora of brands, both from established and regional players.
While the market for soda in PET bottles is a little over Rs 100 crore in size, smaller than the returnable glass bottle segment, pegged at close to Rs 800 crore, it is growing at a faster clip, owing to the sheer convenience of storage and usage.
Chauhan said special emphasis had been given to the packaging of Bisleri Soda to drive sales at retail points. But experts say the success of the brand will also depend on its acceptance in the hotel, restaurant and cafe segment, where PepsiCo and Coca-Cola are strong.