Global Drinks Company explores opportunities to innovate in the C4DI

There's a chance that you may not have heard of Suntory, yet it's the third largest drinks company in the world, bringing us the refreshing tastes of Lucozade, Ribena and Orangina, to name just a few. Andrew Kirkwood works on their Open Innovation wing, so it made perfect sense for him to join the Centre for Digital Innovation as a company member and access its resources and community to the full.

Already immersed in our culture of collaboration and innovation, he's now researching how the global drinks experts can become more connected with their online consumers.

“The idea is to create a plan of how Suntory can better utilise digital channels,” explains Andrew. Currently, in its very early stages, the project has already seen him discussing opportunities with several C4DI members: “It’s all very exciting. We’ve essentially been given a blank canvas and there are so many wonderful possibilities out there. We chose the Centre for Digital Innovation as it's a natural base for brainstorming and pooling resources.”

Suntory was founded in Osaka, Japan in 1899. Today the corporate giant employs nearly 40,000 people across Europe, Asia, America and Oceania. The question is, how can one of the world's oldest global drinks companies transform to open a two-way communication portal with its customers?

“There are countless potential developments when it comes to fast-moving consumer goods companies embracing the digital world,” explains Andrew. “Perhaps we could develop an app, design a form of wearable tech, or create another type of conduit entirely.”

With wearable technology becoming increasingly popular, especially in the health industry, Andrew might be onto something: “On the market there is a beaker that digitally links to your mobile device, notifying you to take a sip.”

We all realise that we should drink more fluids, and many of us know too well the symptoms of dehydration: tiredness, poor concentration and reduced levels of wellbeing.

“Nowadays, people monitor how many steps they take and are encouraged to hit exercise targets, a similar relationship could be replicated for the drinks industry,” Andrew enthuses. “An app that reminds you to rehydrate regularly may cause a mini-revolution in the way that people live, buy and consume."

In Japan, Suntory has several brands under its belt that present medicinal properties (or are labelled as FOSHU, Food for Specified Health Uses), so the nutritional route could tie in very well when thinking digitally: “Perhaps we could design a platform for inputting your health data," Andrew suggested, "which then calculates how much liquid you personally require daily."

“We don’t want to limit ourselves at the moment, I’m here at the C4DI to investigate all sorts of windows for collaboration.”

The company has already been creative with online campaigns for their V Energy brand. The caffeinated can has a large student market in Australia and New Zealand, with many young people reaching for V when they need a boost of focused concentration. A perfect example is when deadlines are looming: “Frucor (Suntory's sister company) developed a promotion where customers could download an app to replace online advertising pop-ups with useful study notes, it worked really well!”

With brands like Jim Beam and Schweppes to consider, Andrew also wants consumers to enjoy their products on additional levels: “It would be fun to create a cocktail-making app, or something that invites people to get involved in new experiences.”

With all of these ideas flying around Andrew’s head, he couldn't be in a better environment to turn them into reality. Working with a few fellow members, we anticipate that Suntory will soon connect with the public in entirely fresh, clever and effective ways. With this motivational vibe going on, it seems only right to end with Suntory’s mantra of Yatte Minahare, i.e. Go for it! 

Find out more about innovation opportunities by contacting Dee Ranawake: