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Consumers React to Tropicana's New Carton

New York Times – January 26, 2009

Q & A with Stuart Elliott
Published: January 26, 2009

Dear readers, I received a considerable amount of e-mail messages from you about my recent article in The New York Times about a new campaign and new packaging for Tropicana orange juice. The mail was noteworthy not only for its volume but also for the passionate nature of the comments. What follows are some of those messages, along with a response from Tropicana.

Q: (Reader)

I’ll be honest with you, I couldn’t make it through your recent article on Tropicana. It had nothing to do with the article itself, and everything to do with the new carton.

I drink Tropicana fairly frequently. I have paid in excess of $2.25 for a pint on occasion here in New York City so that I have my morning juice fix to start my day. I don’t really think it’s worth that much, and yet I pay for it anyway, fully against my will.

I can’t stand the new packaging. It’s driving me nuts. I think it’s stupid and makes me not want to pick up the carton. The lettering is faint against the juice and the half-glass graphic is just, well, ugly.

I don’t need to see “100 percent juice” in big letters. I know it is; that’s why I buy Tropicana and not any of the other brands. What I need to know is “Am I buying no pulp, some pulp or lots of pulp?” and “Is this orange juice or some other juice?” I think I have a right to be able to look at a carton and know what it contains.

Q: (Reader)

I enjoyed your article about Tropicana’s new promotional program, especially since my wife and I are everyday Tropicana consumers. But still being interested in my old profession — package design — I was not particularly impressed by the package design change.

I picked up a Tropicana container last week and did, of course, notice the new design. But I did not recognize that the large orange shape is supposed to represent a glass until I read your article. To my mind, the orange shape is barely identifiable as a glass and I am not sure that, in its present form, it particularly fulfills the objective of communicating “freshness.”

Q: (Reader)

While I think the slogan and ad campaign could be a winner, I can’t help but wonder what were they thinking with the new package design? On shelves, it now blends in with every generic orange juice. Do they really believe that an orange-colored cap will replace the brand equity of the straw logo?

Q: (Reader)

Perhaps it will improve with time, but my first take on Tropicana’s new shelf presence is “generic bargain brand.” I know it’s intended as classy, but to me, it just doesn’t come off that way. First time looking in the supermarket, I spent minutes before I realized the “store brand” in front of my eyes was Tropicana.

Q: (Reader)

Regarding your Jan. 8 column on Tropicana’s new “branding,” including the new packaging, I must ask: Do any of these package-design people actually shop for orange juice? Because I do, and the new cartons stink.

I don’t care about the marketing, but I do care about the cartons. I encountered them this weekend, when I did the weekly shopping. The cartons minimize the text that tells you what kind of orange juice is in the package (pulp, no pulp, a little pulp, vitamin-enhanced, orange-and-some-other-juice, or even no-orange-juice-at-all).

The old Tropicana cartons had large text and distinctive colors, to help you find the type of juice you wanted. The new ones have a standardized look and smaller type, which means that the consumer — who is me — has to stand there examining the cartons more closely. Not to mention the fact that it makes it harder for the shelf stockers.

I don’t understand why these packaging changes had to be part of the new “branding.” These marketing geniuses may not be aware of the fact that when you buy a carton of orange juice, you do it by going to the orange juice case in the market. The orange juice cartons are not next to the energy drinks or flavored waters or anything else with which they claim they are in competition. That stuff is off in other, nonrefrigerated aisles.

If the brand makes it harder for the consumer to find what he or she is looking for at the orange juice case, the consumer may give up and pick that brand which makes it easier to “grab and go.”

Q: (Reader)

Ugh, what an ugly new box. It looks like a generic store brand.

But what a cool new cap!

A: (Stuart Elliott)

Here is a response from Jamie Stein, a spokeswoman in Chicago for Tropicana, sold by the PepsiCo Americas Beverages division of PepsiCo.

“We’re pleased people feel so passionately about our brand and we’re listening to their feedback,” Ms. Stein writes in an e-mail message. “While the packaging has changed, the product inside is still the same high-quality orange juice consumers know, love and trust.”

“Our new design is sleek and simple and for the first time is branded with ‘100 percent orange,’ to remind consumers it’s made from fresh oranges with no added sugar,” Ms. Stein says. “We realize this new look is a big change for many of our loyal consumers and we hope they will continue to share their thoughts with us.”

Q: (Reader)

I enjoyed reading the newsletter report on Jan. 12 on the new campaign for the online Kaplan University. One of my clients is the University of Phoenix Oregon campus, and it’s amazing the interest and enrollment increases they’re seeing right now.

They, too, recently introduced a big campaign, “I Am a Phoenix.” Online learning is clearly becoming more popular and accepted. And it is undoubtedly stimulated when the economy is struggling, as we’re seeing with these numbers.

I think you’re onto something with the virtual cheerleaders, by the way.

A: (Stuart Elliott)

Thanks, dear reader, for your comments.