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After rants, Tropicana says never mind on new carton

Orange you mad they messed with the packaging of Tropicana Pure Premium?

So is marketing consultant Bryan Stapp.

Last month he sat at his computer and joined a growing coven of O.J. change haters.

Having lived in Florida for over a decade, and graduated from the University of Florida (Go Gators!), I know something about orange juice, he typed on his marketing blog, loudamplifiermarketing.com.

This new package is boring, unattractive, and completely generic. The distinctive logo is gone. When my kids saw it, their immediate reaction was, "What's that? Where is the Tropicana?"

(Those poor kids.)

You've heard about this?

PepsiCo Americas Beverages, which claims Tropicana Pure Premium as a flagship product, introduced the delicious drink's new packaging in early January.

The design — minimalist, sans straw protruding from orange — was subsequently trashed by many, many blahgers.

Consumers complained in letters, e-mails and phone calls, so Tropicana pulled a New Coke-ish never mind, and decided to bag the new cartons and bring back the old logo.

(Think about that image for a moment. The juicy orange. The beckoning straw. Genius?)

"We underestimated the deep emotional bond" consumers had with the original packaging, Neil Campbell, president of Tropicana North American, told the New York Times.

Really?

A trip to Publix is in order.

Inside, straight to the back.

Behold, the orange juice.

Wait.

Which is which?

Tropicana's new packaging — juice in a clear glass against a white background — looks strikingly similar to the Publix brand. The Publix brand features juice in a clear glass against a white background, and costs 30 cents less.

The man shelving produce rolls his eyes when asked whether customers have noticed.

He says the vendor told the produce department to refer all complaints to Tropicana's toll-free 800 line (1-800-237-7799), and there have been references.

Here comes Dave Kelly.

"Thirty-five million," he huffs. "What a waste."

He's talking about the estimated budget for the redesign and accompanying ad campaign, highlighting the word "squeeze" — as in what you do to oranges, and what you do to good children in the morning.

The 54-year-old Merchant Marine captain came back from a job in New Orleans to find the Tropicana Pure Premium in his refrigerator looking all dressed-down, like government juice.

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it," he says.

Like that time Burger King jacked with its fry recipe.

Stapp, the marketing consultant serving time in snow-covered Michigan at the moment, said the banal packaging made Tropicana look like any old juice.

"They couldn't have done a better job of trying to emulate a generic package," says the former South Tampa resident on the phone. "The old Tropicana logo was very inviting and happy and it hadn't changed a lot over the years. It was a familiar brand design. … There's a comfort level there."

And that's what we want, especially in uncertain times, he says. Times of war. Uncertainty. Depression.

We want to open the refrigerator in the morning and see an impossible dream, a reassurance of reality, an old friend. We want to believe you could stick a straw into an orange, and it would taste like this.

Ben Montgomery can be reached at bmontgomery@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8650.

After rants, Tropicana says never mind on new carton 02/24/09 [Last modified: Friday, February 27, 2009 9:04am]
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