Coca-Cola aims to make Thums Up a billion-dollar brand in 2 years
New Delhi: Thums Up, the carbonated beverage brand owned by Coca-Cola Co.’s Indian unit, is the largest cola brand in India with Rs5,000 crore in annual sales, which the company said it is aiming to increase to $1 billion (about Rs6,500 crore) in two years.
This would mean a compound annual growth rate of 14% for the 40-year-old fizzy drink that has dominated India’s cola market in the past four decades.
“Thums Up will be the first Indian beverage brand to cross the $1 billion mark,” said Vijay Parasuraman, vice-president (marketing), Coca-Cola India and South West Asia. Globally, Coca-Cola has 11 brands with more than $1 billion in annual sales.
In February 2016, the company had said its mango drink Maaza will reach annual sales of $1 billion by 2023 from around $400 million that time.
“We thought that Maaza will be the first home-grown brand (for Coca-Cola Co.) to reach the $1 billion sales mark. But when we assessed the growth of Thums Up, we realised that it can reach $1 billion in revenue much before Maaza,” added Parasuraman.
Both Thums Up and Maaza were acquired by Coca-Cola in 1993 from Parle Bisleri Ltd along with other brands such as Limca, Citra and Gold Spot. Post acquisition, Coca-Cola discontinued Citra and Gold Spot.
According to market research agency Euromonitor International, Thums Up is the largest cola brand, but Sprite, another brand owned by Coca-Cola, tops the carbonated beverage market in India. In the year ending 2016, Sprite had a share of 20.5% in terms of retail value in the carbonated beverages market in India, followed by Thums Up with a 15.4% share, according to Euromonitor data.
Thums Up, however, has lost market share in the past few years. Its market share in 2013 was 17.1%. Thums Up was originally launched by Ramesh Chauhan in 1977 which was sold to Atlanta-based Coca-Cola in 1993. The beverage industry has, in the past, alleged that the American beverage maker had intended to kill the brand initially by cutting down marketing spend and production which did not work in its favour because of Thums Up’s loyal consumers. Coca-Cola, however, has always denied the allegations.
“There is no reason why we would intend to kill any brand. It is all based on consumer preferences. We are here to serve consumers. And the scale where Thums Up is today, it could not have been possible without Coca-Cola’s marketing,” T. Krishnakumar, president (India and south-west Asia), Coca-Cola, said in an interview in August.
According to Ajay Bathija, director (marketing for Colas), Coca-Cola India and South West Asia, the company’s overall marketing and promotional spend on brand Thums Up is proportionately higher compared with the company’s other cola brands because of Thums Up’s scale and presence across the country. Bathija, however, declined to give specific details.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday, Coca-Cola unveiled the first-ever extension of Thums Up—Thums Up Charged—a stronger version of the 40-year old cola brand.
Thums Up Charged, which has more caffeine than the regular Thums Up, is also the first drink from Coca-Cola India’s stable that is defined as a caffeinated drink.
Coca-Cola, which has been witnessing slower growth in India in the last couple of years, has increased focus on the non-carbonated beverages segment and has launched products such as Vio (a milk-based drink) and Zico (packaged coconut water).
Over the next few months, the company has plans of launching a range of beverages, carbonated and non-carbonated, in Indian flavours such as jal-jeera and revive RimZim, originally a masala soda drink also acquired from Ramesh Chauhan in 1993 along with Thums Up.
In October, Coca-Cola global president and CEO James Quincey, in an investor call, said the company’s India business returned to growth with volumes up 6% driven by solid performance across the portfolio.
The company had been witnessing slower growth in India as consumer preferences shifted to healthier beverages.