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Tuesday, Oct 07, 2003

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RC Cola comes to India

Ratna Bhushan

New Delhi , Oct. 6

EVEN as the controversy over high traces of pesticide in soft drinks is yet to be sorted out, the world's third largest cola brand, Royal Crown Cola (or RC cola), has now come to India.

While RC Cola was introduced in Delhi, and parts of Punjab and Haryana on Sunday, the brand was soft-launched in pockets of Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh almost a month back.

The RC Cola brand was acquired by the London-based Cadbury Schweppes Plc in October 2000. However, subsequently, the Canada-based Cott Cola acquired the rights for the RC Cola brand for all world markets other than the US. In the US, RC Cola claims an approximate two per cent share of the total cola market, while 12 per cent of the brand's sales are outside the US and Canada. RC also supplies concentrate to some other soft drink brands. For its Indian operations, the company has appointed three licensing, franchising bottlers.

While the Delhi-based Shivam Cool Drinks has been appointed as RC Cola's bottler for the Delhi, Western Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Uttaranchal and Chandigarh markets, Asian Lak Health Foods Ltd has been appointed as RC Cola's bottler for Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh. For the Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh markets it is Trinity Beverages.

RC Cola has been introduced in PET bottles of 600 ml and 2-litre, priced at Rs 15 and Rs 40, respectively. There are no immediate plans to foray into glass bottles, Mr Rehan Khan, Head, Operations, Shivam Cool Drinks, told Business Line. However, in acknowledgement of the fact that small sizes would be required to drive volumes, options of introducing RC Cola in smaller PET bottles are currently being explored. "The smaller bottles, at lower prices, could be introduced a couple of months later. However, these plans have not yet been finalised," Mr Khan said.

While RC Cola is being introduced in `cola nut' (a tropical cola nut) flavour for the time being, the brand will be introduced in lemon and orange flavours the following month.

Meanwhile, the company claims it has made all efforts to ensure safety of the ground water for bottling the beverage. According to Mr Khan, the groundwater being used by Shivam Cool Drinks for RC Cola, for example, has been cleared by the verification and testing institute, SGS India Pvt Ltd.

Unlike Coca-Cola and Pepsi, RC Cola will not splurge big budgets on marketing and celebrity advertising. "We are not competing with Coke and Pepsi head-on. Currently, the brand is in test-marketing stage, and we have to gauge consumer response to RC Cola before finalising specific marketing strategies," Mr Khan said.

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