A&W Root Beer Float Re-Creates a Nostalgic Experience

With some complexity, Dr Pepper Snapple Group’s A&W Root Beer Float re-creates a nostalgic experience.

By Hollis Ashman, Jacqueline Beckley and Jennifer Vahalik, Consumer Understanding Editors

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The twist-off cap and heavy, shapely bottle was kind of nostalgic. There were no “instructions” on the bottle itself, which can lead to a less than optimum experience if you don’t have the carrier to read. Some of the folks who tasted the product straight from the bottle or who did not go through the whole upside-down experience got a lot less foam. These tasters did not like the muddy, slightly opaque appearance. It took one taster talking to another to figure out how to use the product.

Those who followed the directions reported a very pleasant and surprising experience. The bubbles from the top of the soda in the glass gave off a cream soda smell. The product had a nice “head” and held it for a while. The root beer flavor seemed like authentic A&W. Some wanted a “better” vanilla ice cream but others thought it got the point across. It had creaminess like melted ice cream and a nice mouthfeel.

Some thought the root beer tasted weaker than if you had made it yourself. Feelings about aftertaste varied, with some having a pleasant aftertaste while others finding strong flavor notes.

We did collect a slightly different story for the non-label readers. They found the product to be very tangy in the first sip — which was unexpected. After the first few sips, that taste went away, but it was a little overly sweet. But since some of our tasters don’t drink a lot of full-sugar sodas, this may just be a lack of experience. The biggest issue was the unpleasant aftertaste. It was either from the extreme sweetness or from the French Vanilla-ness of the ice cream. Some asked for water after the taste test to get rid of the taste — it just lingered.

Those following directions and drinking it from a glass found more foaminess, which was pleasant. Some found it a convenient product, especially if they do not normally carry ice cream and root beer at home.

One comment was: “We drank the product on the hottest day [so far] of the year out on the back lawn swing. Thinking about floats, it seemed like we should be somewhere relaxing when we evaluated it.”

This product definitely is a treat. At 260 calories for 11.5 ounces, it has 50 percent more calories than a normal, sugared CSD. The ingredient statement is fairly clean: carbonated water, sugar (yes — sugar) and skim milk represent the first three ingredients.

Does the product deliver?

For many, it did deliver. Few brands could hope to create this type of experience, but the A&W concept really helps this one come together. But you needed to get into the experience.

Drinking straight from the bottle gave a suboptimum experience and did not do the creativity of the idea justice. Several thought it was an adequate replacement for a root beer float.

How to make the idea bigger: DPSG are the same people who make what many diet-soda drinkers consider the best diet soda on the market: Diet Dr. Pepper. So why not a Diet A&W Float? Lose the lingering aftertaste and adjust that ice cream flavor and every person in Weight Watchers will be drinking these!

Additionally, we can see further tweaking to help the product taste even creamier with less lingering sweetness as they figure out how to blend the cream/root beer taste together.

Thinking more broadly, the “healthy” aspect of root beer might be driven further with beverages that are not yet mainstream, such as Indian lassi and chai.

The clever crafting of product, package and messaging is intriguing. But the bottle needs to communicate the experience better — the twist, pour and foam message needs to be worked on so everyone who buys the product gets the fun.

Rating: This product is good. But it could be improved. It is a great start.

Market potential: OK. There will be moms and grandmoms who will purchase this and enjoy it for the convenience it brings to a nostalgic fountain product. The bigger impact will be what others (or Dr Pepper Snapple Group) do to build upon this innovation with the bottle, the components and the story. It will be fun to watch where this goes in a year or so.

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