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Cheerwine brings its effervescent Carolinas flavor to Florida

Cheerwine, a ruby red soda with a cultlike following in the Carolinas, is now sold in Florida.

Created in 1917, it is one of the only soft drinks still controlled by its founding family. Carolina Beverage Corp. of Salisbury, N.C., struck a deal to sell the concentrate to Pepsi Bottling Group.

Cheerwine is debuting locally at many Publix, Walmarts and Winn-Dixies in 12-pack cans and four-packs of distinctive glass bottles. The name dates from when chemists formulated nonalcoholic alternatives like birch beer and ginger ale. Caffeinated and more bubbly than rivals, the cherry-flavored soda is accented by pure cane sugar, while the diet version is sweetened with Splenda.

"It's a quirky brand that's a lot of fun," said Tom Barbitta, senior vice president of marketing.

In the Carolinas, Daisy Dukes-wearing Miss Cheerwine has a promotional tour, Food Lion stocks Cheerwine-laced ice cream, and Krispy Kreme makes cream-filled Cheerwine doughnuts for a month each year.

STARBUCKS LITE: The folks who brought "barista" to American coffee lexicon are going "blonde" on Jan. 10.

That's what Starbucks — which made its name with dark roast coffees critics labeled "Charbucks" — calls its new light roasts that mimic the less-bold brews at rival Dunkin' Donuts and McDonald's.

Starbucks research found that the roast is preferred by 40 percent of U.S. coffee drinkers.

So Starbucks sold in supermarkets and its cafes will come in "blonde," "medium" or "dark" roast.

Starbucks just added a light roast to its Seattle's Best Coffee brand.

SMART PHONES, DUMB APPS: Almost half of all smart phone users have downloaded a retailer's app, yet only one in six has ever used one to help make a buying decision, according to research by Retrevo.com.

"We were really surprised how many people made the effort to download, then never used the app," said Manish Rahti, co-founder of the Silicon Valley firm that runs the second-biggest ad-supported customer review site for consumer electronics.

Blame consumer eagerness to load and wariness to learn. Also, many stores limit their apps to a coupon-dealing tool connected to a loyalty program.

Few offer comparison pricing, suggest alternative products, or compare product features or customer reviews on their app like Amazon.com does. In fact, 78 percent of smart phone users have checked out a product in a store, then bought it from another retailer online.

"It's making stores into showrooms for Amazon.com," Rahti said.

Database Dumpster Diving: Borders is gone, but its customer list lives on. Barnes & Noble acquired the database for one-on-one marketing. The list has no credit card information, but it does clue the largest store-based bookseller in on e-mail addresses and each customer's buying history. Customers are notified that they can opt out before the spam comes.

DVD Price Bump: Netflix lost a heap of customers when it jacked up DVD rental fees 60 percent, but it remains to be seen if coin-operated rival RedBox will suffer a similar fate by imposing a 20 percent rental hike.

The new price: $1.20. Blu-ray video prices did not budge from $1.50 or games from $2.

Mark Albright can be reached at albright@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8252.

Cheerwine brings its effervescent Carolinas flavor to Florida 10/31/11 [Last modified: Monday, October 31, 2011 9:35pm]

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