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Sanofi-Coke beauty drink JV offers no ‘phood’ signal: Analyst

By Shane Starling , 19-Oct-2012
Last updated on 22-Oct-2012 at 12:25 GMT

Sanofi-Coke beauty drink JV offers no ‘phood’ signal: Analyst

Sanofi’s new beauty drink joint venture with Coca-Cola is unlikely to precipitate a more serious leap into functional or medical foods for the French pharma titan, an analyst has said.

The two companies will launch into French pharmacies this Autumn a juice-mineral water drink with nutritive ingredients under the Beautific Oenobiol brand Sanofi acquired in 2009. Coke and Sanofi have not yet stated what those ingredients will be but the product will claim to, “help strengthen hair and nails, embellish skin, lose weight and improve vitality.”

While Sanofi has been expanding its Consumer Health portfolio for some years including the $1.9bn (€1.46bn) acquisition of US-based cosmetic, personal care and OTC specialist, Chattem Inc, Barclays analyst, Michael Leuchten, said the company was more likely experimenting than plotting a gargantuan phood empire to compensate for generic competition to its patented drug offerings.

Pilot programme

“Compared to others, Sanofi’s position is looking good in this regard, which is why it continues to forecast 5-7% top line growth after 2012. Their Consumer Healthcare buys have tended to fit their existing portfolio so this move surprises a little.”

“That said, it is a pilot programme at a few French pharmacies so it fits with Sanofi’s liking to think a little outside the box. The pharmacy distribution would have appealed as well. But I don’t see a massive phood-nutrition division in Sanofi’s sights.”

It will be interesting to see how the product’s bold claims meet with tough new EU health claim laws that have raised the level for the scientific substantiation of claims to near pharma levels.

Weight loss claims in particular have not performed well under the EU nutrition and health claims regulation (NHCR).

The move fits a longer term strategy on the part of Coke to broaden its portfolio into healthier beverages as traditional soda sales growth has slowed or flatlined in many markets, especially established markets like North America and Europe.

Glo(un)welle

Also of interest will be the performance of the drink in the pharmacy channel, an avenue already unsuccessfully ventured down by Nestlé with its Glowelle beauty drink that was pulled in 2011.

It was a proprietary blend of vitamins, phytonutrients, and botanical extracts that claimed to, “replenish the skin's antioxidants, which help fight free radicals & promote younger-looking skin”.

The global market for ‘Beauty From Within’ products is estimated to be worth more than €3bn, with the bulk of sales in the Asia-Pacific.

Coke France sent a statement that said: "Sanofi and Coca-Cola have signed a partnership for the co-development and distribution of a range of beverages positioned around beauty under the Oenobiol 'Beautific' brand. This is a small scale pilot which is currently limited to a number of pharmacies in France."

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