Coca-Cola is taking Apollinaris out of the markets – a logical and long overdue decision. The mineral water with the red triangle has been submerged in insignificance for more than ten years.
The lights are gradually going out for the Apollinaris mineral water brand. Brand owner Coca-Cola announced that from next year the former “Queen of Tablewaters” will only be sold through hotels and restaurants. The mineral water manufacturer from Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler has been part of the Coca-Cola Group since 2006. The reason for the withdrawal is the highly competitive and shrinking water market in Germany, where little money is earned, explains the European headquarters of Coca-Cola, based in Berlin. The food-pleasure-restaurants union does not want to accept this decision without resistance. With works councils and the employees you will fight for every single job. 80 of 320 jobs are to be cut.
Appendage and niche
The reasons for the supermarket withdrawal of the brand with the red triangle are as obvious as they are diverse. “Apollinaris has lost its attraction,” says Klaus-Dieter Koch, brand expert and founder of the management consultancy BrandTrust. In the end, the brand was just a product of little importance, comparable to Warsteiner in the beer market – lost in the unattractive center. “At the bottom of the entry-level price, the discounters’ water or the tap water bubblers for home dominate,” says Koch. “And above that, young and hip, very high-priced brands such as Viva con Agua or Aqua Monaco are clearing away.”
In the giant realm of the world’s largest beverage company, Apollinaris only played the role of an appendage. Among the countless beverage brands such as Coke, Sprite, Fanta, Lift, Mezzo-Mix or Vio, Apollinaris was “just as sold by the Coke sales force,” says an industry expert. A few years ago, Coke stopped international sales. Instead, the marketing power of the billionaire company was pumped into the development of the water brand Vio.
Apollinaris was also unable to take advantage of its regionality, such as Hassia in Hesse or Rheinfels in North Rhine-Westphalia. At most, the strong position and the good image in hotels and restaurants have probably secured the brand’s survival so far. But there is also an ebb there. Due to the month-long corona lockdown, sales and revenues have plummeted. A shift in sales from catering to retail, such as with beer, did not take place in the water market. Therefore, Coca-Cola Germany is focusing its mineral water brands in Germany on those market segments in which they are strong, the group announced.
Often passed around
When the winemaker Georg Kreuzberg bought a vineyard in the Eifel in 1852, he had no idea what was under his vines. But when his vines do not want to thrive at all, he gets to the bottom of the matter. And in the depths you will find the best quality mineral water with its own carbonic acid. Thanks to the volcanic soils in the Eifel, it contains important minerals. Kreuzberg then no longer wants to be a winemaker. He exposes the water sources and names the mineral water after St. Apollinaris, a patron saint of wine. Initially, the water in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler is filled into stone jugs, made by hand. From 1923 the company was given the new name Apollinaris Brunnen Actiengesellschaft. In the anniversary year 1952 – one hundred years after Georg Kreuzberg’s discovery of the source – Apollinaris puts its first modern bottling plant into operation.
After the British Schweppes Ltd. acquired the company, in 1956 all shares were resold to the Dortmunder Union, which later ended up with the beer and beverage company Brau und Brunnen. In 2002, the then third-largest German beverage company sold its 72 percent stake in Apollinaris for 151 million euros to its previous co-partner, Schweppes GmbH from Hamburg. Four years later, Apollinaris ended up with the investment companies Blackstone and Lion Capital, which sold the brand to Coca-Cola that same year. Since then, Apollinaris has been bobbing around and making headlines again and again. For example in 2013, when it became known that Coke was discontinuing international sales of the premium water.
Shocking test result
With an average of 0.77 euros per liter, Apollinaris water is one of the comparatively more expensive mineral waters. However, this does not mean that the quality is better, as a test by the consumer magazine Öko-Test from June last year showed. Öko-Test had examined 100 of the most popular medium mineral water. Just over half were able to shine with the top grade “very good”. Apollinaris, on the other hand, received the grade “unsatisfactory” and was thus the worst product in the test. She was shocked, said Barbara Körner, managing director of Apollinaris Brands and Coca-Cola GmbH in Germany, after the test result became known. Apollinaris, she adds, was not judged fairly.
More on the subject: Once the Germans’ favorite pilsner, Warsteiner has been losing sales and sales for decades. A lesson in how a market leader disappears into oblivion through management errors.