Slice, a once-popular soft drink from the 1990s, faded into obscurity for years before being relegated to the trademark trash heap — discontinued and, for all practical purposes, dead.
And that’s exactly where Mark Thomann, a Chicago entrepreneur with a knack for reclaiming old brands, hunts for treasure. “People remember the brand, but they don’t always remember the specifics,” Thomann said. “It’s sort of like clay that you can mold how you want.”
Dormitus Brands and Spiral Sun Ventures — two entities run by Thomann — are partnering to relaunch Slice this year after acquiring the brand’s trademark rights, which were formerly owned by PepsiCo.
The new Slice will be a lower-sugar, lower-calorie beverage sweetened only with real — possibly organic — fruit juice, Thomann said. The product’s still being developed, but the plan is to distribute it nationally through regional retailers in six months or so.
“If we were just relaunching it the way it was before, I don’t think it would be successful,” Thomann said. “We believe this will be a $100 million brand in the next five years.”
In the U.S., the total volume of carbonated soft drinks sold has decreased from 51.4 billion liters in 2012 to 47.4 billion liters in 2017 — a decline of about 7.8 percent, according to data from Euromonitor International.
Meanwhile, sales of alternative drinks — everything from bottled tea to flavored water — continue to grow, while still representing a smaller part of the beverage industry by volume, according to Linda Montag, senior vice president at Moody’s Investors Service. But despite this shift in consumer tastes, large corporations like Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, which also own healthier brands, are poised to capitalize most because of their marketing and distribution muscle.
Facing such competition in a crowded marketplace, the successful revamp of Slice is not guaranteed. But Thomann said he believes he has a solid plan for distribution and marketing that will help the brand catch fire. Flavors will include grapefruit, berry and lemon-lime. Revolution Brands, the Chicago-based product development and marketing firm working with Thomann on the project, is in the process of selecting a manufacturer, said Glenn Backus, managing partner of Revolution Brands.
Flavors are likely to include grapefruit, berry and lemon-lime, Backus said. It’s too early to say exactly how many calories and grams of sugars the new Slice will have, but it will be healthier than a normal soda, while sweeter than most flavored water, he said. Think Spindrift, but a bit sweeter.
“I think there’s an opportunity to have something more palatable (than most flavored waters),” said Backus, a former executive with companies like Topco, H-E-B and Trader Joe’s.
Thomann believes Slice will be pleasantly familiar to people of a certain age who have since turned to healthier products. Those consumers have grown up and changed; so, too, has Slice, Thomann said.