Ribena is known all over the world as a household brand for its blackcurrant cordials and beverages, and in Malaysia it is also very much a formative part of many consumers’ childhoods.
But whilst product innovation with blackcurrants is very much within the firm’s comfort zone, this year it has opted to move beyond this by launching new products based no longer on blackcurrants, but on strawberries, a first for the firm.
“Ribena Strawberry is our first venture outside our popular blackcurrant flavour after more than 80 years,” Lam Hui Min, Head of Marketing, Beverage at Suntory Beverage & Food Malaysia (which owns the Ribena brand in Malaysia) said.
“We have used European strawberries in this range and the products are also packed with our signature goodness of Vitamin C, which meets daily 100% vitamin C requirements.
“Strawberries are a popular fruit [in Malaysia] and well-known for their sweet, juicy disposition - many people already love these due to their goodness as a superfruit, sweet taste and attractive red color.
“With Ribena Strawberry, [the aim is for consumers to be able to] enjoy the delicious, refreshing taste of strawberries anytime, anywhere [and to enable this we have designed] the Ribena Strawberry range to comprise a 1L cordial, 450ml PET bottle, 330ml cheer pack, and 200ml tetra pak [so that] consumers can access these at home as a group or on the go.”
Lam also highlighted that the use of a fruit associated with health benefits such as high vitamin C or as a superfruit is important in innovation, as consumers today are increasingly demanding products better for health.
“In the wake of the pandemic, there’s an increased interest in health-boosting drinks or flavours, which is natural as people look to safeguard their health by watching what they consume,” she said.
“People want to consume healthy beverages that taste great while helping them stay fit and well, and this is something that Suntory and Ribena are certainly taking notice of.
“Ribena Blackcurrant and Ribena Strawberry are both made with no artificial flavours, and our cordial contains enough vitamin C to meet 100% daily requirements [and] we’re conscious that the Ribena consumer base appreciates this about our beverages.”
Berry important for success
In terms of further flavour expansion, Lam remained coy on specific details but acknowledged there was potential for further development, particularly when it comes to the berry category.
“The possibility is always there - We are continuously monitoring the consumer market, which continues to evolve and produce varied interests and demands. If the time is right, we’re definitely open to producing new and exciting flavours,” she said.
“Berries have remained a popular flavour over the years [due to being] delicious, refreshing, and having strong appeal to consumers across various age brackets.
“It’s something that is worth innovating on, with various berry flavours to be explored. Malaysians are quite open and adventurous, and they’re very receptive to trying to new tastes.”
She also highlighted that there is a very strong tendency for drink-sharing in Malaysian culture, an area that Ribena has managed to tap on and secure a strong foothold in over the years with Ribena Blackcurrant, and plans to continue doing with Ribena Strawberry.
“We have noticed that drinks that are best shared with large groups, such as family or friends, tend to do especially well,” she said.
“For example, Ribena Blackcurrant has gained such a nostalgic place in Malaysian culture due to its family-friendly nature; it is very common to find Ribena served in family gatherings or cultural festival celebrations.”