What one major cola group does, the other is sure to copy. PepsiCo last week announced plans to launch a vanilla-flavoured variant of its popular Pepsi-Cola brand, almost a year after arch-rival Coca-Cola launched its vanilla drink in May 2002.
The vanilla drink was unveiled last week as part of a package of marketing measures from PepsiCo designed to promote is soft drink brands throughout the summer period. The measures include new packaging designs, a number of high-profile promotions, including sponsorship of TV programmes and films, and several product launches.
While the Pepsi brand will sponsor a new quiz programme offering US consumers the chance to win a billion dollars, the Mountain Dew and Sierra Mist brands will sponsor one of the summer's biggest movie releases, The Hulk.
There will also be a major promotion for Aquafina, which PepsiCo claims is the best-selling brand of bottled water in the US, with consumers offered a chance to win one of more than 40,000 prizes simply by being spotted drinking Aquafina or Aquafina Essentials.
But the highlight of the summer will be the new products. PepsiCo has already announced the launch of Mountain Dew LiveWire, an orange-flavoured version of its Mountain Dew brand which will be available for a limited period during the summer, but the Pepsi Vanilla launch is brand new, and will see the cola group once again take on its chief rival Coke once the brand is rolled out in late summer.
The two companies already compete in the flavoured cola market, with Pepsi Twist, a lemon-flavoured variant of the soft drink, going head-to-head with Lemon Coke.
There will also be bold new package graphics for Pepsi-Cola and Caffeine Free Pepsi-Cola, which began hitting store shelves last month and are now being reinforced at the point of sale, on merchandising materials and on cold drink equipment.
But as ever, Coca-Cola is not to be outdone by its New York-based rival. Also last week, the Atlanta-based company unveiled plans for its latest soft drink - Sprite Ice, the first flavour extension for the lemon-lime brand offering consumers a hint of mint.
The new drink will be available only in Canada and Belgium, two of the biggest markets for the core Sprite brand. "Sprite is the number one lemon-lime soft drink in Canada," said Joanne DeVisser, brand manager for Sprite at Coca-Cola's Canadian arm.
"When we explored ways to provide an even deeper sense of refreshment, the crisp and cool attributes of mint made it a logical addition to Sprite's winning formula."
Sprite Ice will be packaged in clear blue plastic bottles with blue and silver graphics, and will also be available in 12-can packages.
DeVisser said that while mint had been used for many years as a popular flavour variant in the confectionery industry, it was now becoming more widespread in the drinks sector, with alcoholic beverages such as mojitos and juleps helping to increase its popularity.
A new advertising campaign for Sprite Ice in Canada will begin in May, De Visser said.