Tolga Sezer, CEO, Aujan Coca-Cola Beverages Company Image Credit: Supplied

The dark red liquid at the iftar table; the blue hue of a tall can; and the green bottles of malted beverage you can see on supermarket shelves.

Vimto, Rani and Barbican are three brands of beverage with one thing in common: all belong to Aujan Coca-Cola Beverages. For decades, residents in the region have supped on them. But as economies and tastes change, how will Aujan keep people thirsty for more? GN Focus asks CEO Tolga Sezer.

Changing markets

“We are working on a number of concepts under the mega-trend of health and wellness, particularly on added sugar reduction for our beverages. Before, there used to be a big gap between the mega trends across the world and the extended Middle East region. Now this gap is becoming narrow because consumers are aware, they are engaged.

"When it comes to reaching consumers, digital has taken the lead. There is universal smartphone penetration. Youngsters are not watching as much TV as before. You have a limited time span of five to eight seconds to capture consumers’ attention. There is a revolution going on in the industry in terms of the consumer, industry, landscape — everything is changing. These changes are quite drastic.”

E-commerce

“For example, we set-up a digital store with Souq.com. That partnership is going well and we’re seeing significant incremental sales. It’s not a matter of price but of convenience for consumers. We are trying to connect everything digitally. For instance, we market our brands on Souq.com via video to adapt to new buying habits. On Souq, you can click directly on a Barbican video to order your favourite beverage on the spot. We don’t have the patience. Young consumers do not have much patience and will move on if you cannot capture them.” 

New tastes

“We have evolved together with the changing taste profile of the young consumer. Rani Float Super Orange is a great story. Over the past 10-15 years, the taste profile for a typical orange drink has changed and consumers, especially youngsters, got used to the fresh orange taste profile.

"So we decided to upgrade our formulation with much lower sugar levels and the result is impressive. We are looking at all our formulas in order to upgrade and bring down added sugar, although it is not straightforward due to the sweet palate of the region. Awareness among consumers has grown with an appetite for more natural and healthier offerings.”

What’s special about Rani Float?

“Rani Float is a unique proposition: A fusion of fruit juice with real fruit pieces, in chunks. It is a beverage that can be enjoyed like a snack. The most important part of the Rani Float concept is the big fruit chunks, which needs an extended supply chain. We’ve had relations with some of our dedicated suppliers for 30, 40, 50 years in places including Spain, Greece, China, India, the Philippines and Thailand. These suppliers work against our specs. Some of them have our equipment. During harvest, they produce for us. It’s a very delicate and important extended supply chain.” 

Consumer wellness

“It’s a continuous effort. As a responsible manufacturer, we are looking at all ways of improving our formulations and offerings. But it’s also important for consumers to target a balanced diet. Calorie intake needs to be controlled and should be balanced with an active lifestyle.” 

On Gulfood

“Aujan Coca-Cola Beverages Company has to be there with Barbican, Vimto and Rani. This is a great platform to meet our partners, distributors and importers across the region. This is a real industry celebration. In honour of our former chairman, Sheikh Adel Aujan, last year we launched the Adel Aujan Awards (AAA) to celebrate the valuable contribution of our suppliers, partners and distributors. Categories for AAA include innovation, quality, service, value addition and a special one for long term partnership.”