Snapple sales have been strong through the first five months of 1996, showing promise of a turnaround for the slumping Quaker Oats Co. brand of bottled tea and juice drinks. Quaker has rolled out several new flavors of Snapple this spring, as well as new packaging. New 64-ounce plastic bottles and 12-packs of 16-ounce bottles in-troduced in highly developed markets should help the brand's supermarket sales.
Quaker said in its first-quarter report that sales of the brand, which declined 9 percent in 1995 to $610 million, rose 11 percent in the year's first three months on a 7 percent volume gain.
Quaker will not release April and May sales figures, but distributors and sales managers said they have been surging.
``We're kicking butt,'' said Virgil Scott, a Quaker sales manager in Atlanta.
``We're pretty pleased with early '96 results, but it's still very early,'' said a Quaker spokesman.
With the start of new advertising and promotional campaigns, strong April sales were expected as retailers stocked up. How well the products sell, though, as measured by scanner data, will be the real proof of success.
Quaker would not release current scanner data. At its annual meeting, William Smithburg, Quaker chairman and chief executive officer, said Snapple owns about 25 percent of the single-serve tea market and about 15 percent of the single-serve juice-drink market.
Distribution problems largely have been fixed, Quaker said. Those hitches occurred after Quaker acquired the brand in late 1994 and tried to meld Snapple's network of independent bottlers with its Gatorade network.