Can Shunya FIZZ bring back the ‘cool' quotient to fizzy drinks?

Hamsini Shivakumar and Naheed Akhtar of Leapfrog Strategy Consulting, decode if Naturedge Beverages' Shunya FIZZ can bring back the lost ‘cool' quotient to fizzy drinks, that the big brands had lost due to their excess sugar content

Hamsini Shivakumar
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Over the course of time, Indians have consistently showcased a profound affinity for sweetness, whether it's indulging in post-meal treats or enhancing their chai with spoonsful of sweetness. This cultural inclination for sweetness is even visible in the historical realm of fizzy drinks.  

History buffs would find it interesting to know that fizzy drinks in India date back to 1873, with products like Roger’s Club Soda and the introduction of raspberry fizzy drinks in Parsi cafes by Palonji in Mumbai around 1865.  Post-independence in 1949, Parle, launched India's first-ever cola beverage named Gluco-cola which was later changed to Parle-Cola. Parle faced a conflict with Coca-Cola regarding the use of the term "cola" because Coca-Cola had already registered the trademark for it. Following nearly two years of dispute with Coca-Cola, Parle ceased production of the beverage in 1951. Later in 1971, since Parle knew it wouldn’t be able to beat Coca-Cola, it transformed the conventional lemon soda, commonly known as 'banta,' into the widely embraced Limca, a lemon-flavoured soft drink.

This historical context indicates that Indians had a strong inclination towards enjoying sweet, fizzy drinks to quench their thirst and rejuvenate themselves in the country's warm climate. The habit of seeking something cool and refreshing (“Kuch thanda peete hai”) has been an integral part of Indian culture for a long time. 

Post-liberalisation in 1991, the fizzy drinks market received heavy investment from the global giants, Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola.  These brands aimed at the youth market and shaped the social imaginary of youth culture. 

They infused fizzy drinks with the ‘cool’ quotient, through the use of advertising featuring Bollywood mega stars, sports stars and engaging stories, jingles et al. The ads were complemented with trendy packaging in cans, special edition packs etc.

During these same three decades, Indians have also experienced a huge rise in lifestyle diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. The recent Covid pandemic made Indians even more conscious of the need to be more mindful of health and the relationship between what they eat and their good health. “You are what you eat” has become a more widely acknowledged and accepted mantra.

Growing consciousness of the connection between food, drink and good health has led to the shift away from sugar-laden drinks and foods. Many individuals are either eliminating sugar from their diets entirely or seeking out healthier alternatives such as stevia, brown sugar, dates, or jaggery. This shift stems from their desire to indulge in foods and beverages that they love and enjoy, without compromising on health.

The millennial generation revelled in the fizzy drinks category as they came of age, enjoying both the drinks and the advertising. However, as Gen Z has come of age now, health consciousness has grown significantly and they can no longer revel in fizzy drinks as the previous generation did.  Their thirst for the fun and cool quotient of fizzy drinks but guilt-free and healthy has grown by leaps and bounds.

This emerging need for “guilt-free”, tasty and “healthy” drinks especially among Gen Zs has been spotted by and catered to by an Indian challenger brand of fizzy drink, Shunya FIZZ.  Shunya offers herb-infused fizzy and fruit-based drinks. Shunya is positioned on three good health claims:  Zero calories, Zero sugar, Zero artificial sweeteners.  Along with taking away the bad stuff, it adds in some good stuff by way of ashwagandha, vitamin C and antioxidants. 

The brand name itself, "Shunya," holds significant meaning in Indian philosophical contexts, translating to 'zero' in Sanskrit. The combining of the Sanskrit word Shunya with the English word Fizz, points to the Indianizing of carbonated drinks via the inclusion of ayurvedic herbs.  Fizzy turns fusion with the cultural blending of American and Indian cultures.  In this way, the brand aims to connect with the dual identity of Gen Z, who consider themselves to be both Indian and International.  The choice of name could also connote a clean slate, a departure from the conventional fizzy drink, indicating a fresh beginning or a break from the norm.

The trajectory of beverage preferences in India mirrors a cultural journey. India, with its deep-rooted Ayurvedic practices, initially embraced fermented and herb-infused drinks. The timeless trio of Indian beverages - Chai, Chass, and Kadha - catered to a myriad of needs. Offering refreshments with Chai and snacks, combating the scorching Indian climate with Chass, and serving as a healing tonic during illnesses, this trio fulfilled a spectrum of purposes for the Indian populace. However, the advent of aerated beverages like Coca-Cola and Thums Up marked a departure from these roots. Now, there's a resurgence of interest in herbal and healthy drinks, representing a return to traditional wisdom and wellness-oriented choices.

Packaging plays a pivotal role in consumer appeal. Shunya, like other contemporary brands, adapts to global packaging standards to captivate the younger demographic. Employing sans-serif fonts, vibrant colours, and packaging in cans, they cater to the aesthetic preferences of the modern consumer.

Shunya retains all the ‘cool’ imagery of fizzy drinks, anchored in Bollywood stars and interesting storylines. Actress Shraddha Kapoor is their ambassador.  And they speak youth lingo, with the line “The only cola that loves you back”.  Their strategy aligns with the ethos of 'Cool bhi, tasty bhi, healthy bhi,' akin to Nestle Maggie Atta Noodles' 'Taste bhi, health bhi.'

In conclusion, Shunya stands as a torchbearer of innovation in the evolving landscape of beverages. It is an interesting blend of different and contrasting elements - Indian and American cultures, tradition and modernity, fizzy and healthy, ‘cool’ and serious in a coherent mix.  Blending so many different elements into an integrated whole without getting lost in confusion is a tough ask and the Shunya team passes with flying colours.

Their website claims that over 2 million people have already switched to the healthier choice. It remains to be seen, as to how many more millions they can convert. And in the process, they can bring back the lost ‘cool’ quotient to fizzy drinks, that the big brands had lost due to their excess sugar content.

Shunya Fizz campaign link:

Limca lemon soda sweetness Parle-Cola Gluco-Cola fizzy drink Shraddha Kapoor Shunya FIZZ Leapfrog Strategy Consulting Coca-Cola