As I was gasping for a drink on a red hot summer’s day at Alton Towers 12 years ago, a team of samplers came to the rescue with a cold, uniquely packaged juice drink the new Fruit Shoot.
I feel for Britvic now the weather finally promises a much needed sales uplift – just as its ‘spill-proof’ Magicap bottles have been pulled. I’m certain those caps were tested and that the incidents of failure were minimal but safety always comes first and they have taken it on the chin. Their punishment is the £25m budget hole, plus the cost of the campaign to regain the trust of a shaken consumer base.
But retailers are poised to exploit the situation too. Unlike ‘batch’ recalls, after six weeks without supply, shelves will be redrawn without Fruit Shoot. Buyers will have managed their mix to maximise margin – let’s face it, their own-label offerings spend the whole year trying to steal sales from Fruit Shoot anyway. Britvic will emerge from this ‘launching’ into a category with a margin dilutive offering.
Having seen the scenario unfold, retailers should respect the legitimacy of Britvic’s position. ‘Stuff happens’ to retailers too and they will help the recovery honestly. Yeah right!
Demands for penalties have already begun. With recalls, unless you signed a contract to say you’d pay penalties, you owe nothing. But they will want distribution allowances, listing fees and anything else that comes to mind for a ‘new’ launch.
Suppliers normally make one of two mistakes here. They either pay up after a few internal conversations about the ‘cost of doing business’. Or they dig their heels in and back the retailers into corner and lose more sales.
Getting it right requires firstly firm rejection of the demands followed bv a period of deadlock in which the resolve is demonstrated but communication routes are kept open. The next stage involves the introduction of new factors into the deal – things that deliver value for Britvic so as to arrive at a combination of traded commitments: buyers can come out of their corner and business can resume. Then keep fingers crossed for decent weather – and sales – next summer!