Lilt: The totally tropical waste

Andrew Wiseman looks at the decision to axe the Lilt brand, and why we shouldn’t be surprised.

This week, Coca-Cola brought the curtain down on Lilt after 48 years, with the iconic soft drink being re-badged as Fanta Pineapple & Grapefruit. In the 70s and 80s, Lilt was very much part of pop culture, and known for its advertising, which gave us both the ‘Lilt Man’ and the ‘Lilt Ladies’.

Like most things that are familiar, there was an outpouring of sadness following the announcement, with some saying they’ll continue to call the rebranded drink Lilt, and others stating their disappointment that things just aren’t allowed to be different anymore.

But should we be surprised at its demise? To find out, we ran a snap poll of 500 consumers to see when they’d last consumed Lilt. The results showed that almost three-quarters had not drunk Lilt in the last year, or ever. Conversely, only one in 25 people were weekly Lilt drinkers. There are likely many reasons for this: lower penetration, smaller numbers of facings in-store, the vast amount of space given over to cola as the largest drink in the carbonates space, and the growth in both energy and functional drinks over the past few years. However you dress it up, Lilt wasn’t performing in the market – and bringing it under the banner of Fanta makes sense – both in terms of brand awareness, but also from Coca-Cola’s perspective in having a smaller number of brands to manage. We’ve seen this before with the roll-up of Cadbury brands including Whole Nut and Fruit and Nut under its Dairy Milk banner, and more famously with the globalisation of brands including Marathon to Snickers, Opal Fruits to Starburst and Jif to Cif.

Some brands have been more subtle, keeping the individual product names but increasing the presence of the mother brand. Kellogg’s is arguably the best example of this – where its signature ‘K’ logo is now at least as prominent on packs as the individual cereal name.

But what will all of this mean for Lilt, or should I say Fanta Pineapple and Grapefruit? From a Coca-Cola perspective, they’ll certainly hope to gain distribution for the new Fanta variant, given the appeal of the brand in the fruit carbonates sub-category, and there’ll no doubt be efficiencies to be made in packaging and marketing by bringing it under the Fanta banner. But what about what it means for consumers? In our snap poll, we also asked whether the rebrand to Fanta would make consumers more or less likely to drink it; the results showed that less than one in ten consumers would drink the new Fanta variant more than they did Lilt, with almost three-quarters stating it wouldn’t change their consumption at all. The remainder claimed that they would drink it less often, no doubt a visceral reaction to a well-loved brand, that may well fade over time.

Without doubt, this week’s news has done one thing for the re-badged Lilt. It’s made it front-page news again and can be seen as a clever marketing ploy from Coca-Cola as the newly packaged Fanta is rolled out this week. Whether this results in a sustainable future for the pineapple and grapefruit variant in the long term remains to be seen.

Written by Andrew Wiseman
Posted on 15th Feb, 2023