Back in May, Britvic claimed to have solved many a parent's nightmare with the 'spill proof magicap'. The revamped packaging, for the company's Robinsons Fruit Shoot and spin-off Fruit Shoot Hydro drinks, was designed to stop juice from spilling.
Just over two months on from the launch of the cap, however, the soft-drinks manufacturer voluntarily recalled millions of the new-look bottles. It had reportedly received complaints about the design from parents, who claimed that the cap would become detached when pulled and chewed by children, and thus presented a choking hazard.
The recall is set to cost Britvic up to £25m - five times more than its original estimate of between £1m and £5m. Shares in the drink manufacturer slumped by 13.4% following this announcement - Britvic had already stated in May that trading had been hit by poor weather.
It will be the end of this month before the Robinsons Fruit Shoot lines can be returned to market with an alternative 'sports cap' that is already in use. Despite its best efforts, Britvic said it was unable to speedily resolve the issue regarding the faulty 'magicaps', despite its ongoing investigations into the matter, and it does not expect to be able to return to full production levels for six months.
So what can the company do in the meantime to restore consumer confidence in its products and, particularly, the Fruit Shoot brand?
We asked Nick James, a consultant with branding and communications consultancy Westra, and a former manager of external affairs and brand marketing at Britvic, and Mike Cavers, executive creative director at Lateral Group, and a former executive creative director, Europe, at agency The Marketing Store, where he worked on the Britvic account.
Britvic claims the Robinsons Fruit Shoot brand is worth
The Fruit Shoot Hydro recall is set to cost the company up to
Nick James Consultant, Westra (and former manager, external affairs and brand marketing, Britvic)
Britvic's relaunch of Fruit Shoot has not gone well. A problem with a new cap design has led to a full recall and its factory cannot implement a fix for months. Cue worried mums, unhappy retailers and miserable shareholders. The only happy people will be the competition, in this case Coca-Cola Enterprises' Capri-Sun, which will be maximising the chance to steal further shelf and promotional space, including during the key back-to-school period.
Product recalls don't have to be long-term brand disasters. Just look at Cadbury, which came back strongly from a salmonella contamination in 2008. Britvic's situation is far less severe and, of course, it has secured reputational credibility through its swift and decisive action.
There is no need, therefore, for any long-term damage to the consumer's perception of the brand. The real test will be in how it re-engages in a competitive market after its absence.
- Go 'always on': don't be silent. Now is the time to engage heavily with the core consumer. Bring mums and kids into the recovery process. Do it with personality, humility and humour. Create a mainstream social-media presence for Fruit Shoot.
- Be aggressive once relaunched: this is not a time for a conservative approach. The brand needs to scream its presence again once it's back to full distribution.
- Hold space: it will be tough going, but use the full portfolio to do so.
Try to avoid excessive financial penalties through retailer exclusives and limited editions.
Mike Cavers, Executive creative director, Lateral Group
Arguably, the 'magicap' design should never have made it to the shelves in the first place, with products like these usually tested to destruction by the audience they are aimed at - kids.
Judging by parents' reactions, who took to social networks to complain, it was clear from the start that this would be a big issue for Britvic.
The company was quick to respond, and has been open with consumers and retailers throughout the recall process. As a result, drinks and packaging industry experts have applauded its prompt response. But how will this affect the company long term?
While financially it will lose profits (the largely poor summer weather won't have helped either), in the short term, Britvic's transparency stands it in good stead to overcome this issue with its reputation intact.
Its response may help restore the confidence and goodwill of consumers and retailers and regain its market position. However, it can't rely on its status as a traditional British brand to help it out of every sticky situation.
- Monitor and embrace social media to respond to consumer conversations and participate in real time. This will help to take the pulse of the nation and engage in the social space when the line is reintroduced.
- Step up trade support through pricing, display and consumer promotions to re-establish retailers' confidence in the brand.
- Keep communication open with customers. Transparency is attractive in brands and encourages customer loyalty and trust.