Take advantage of fluid sales

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Take advantage of fluid sales

By Dana Cvetan, - 04/06/2016

The better-for-you trend shows no sign of abating when it comes to beverages. In particular, thirsty Americans seem to be walking away from carbonated soft drinks, which are losing ground to flavored sparkling and still waters. The bottled water category posted record-high sales of more than $15 billion in 2015, a 6.4 percent increase over the previous year, according to global market research firm Mintel in its January report “Bottled Water — US.”

Furthermore, Mintel projects dizzying sales growth through 2020 for bottled water: overall category growth of 34.7 percent plus an impressive 75.1 percent for the sparkling/mineral water/seltzer segment.

On the other hand, sales of 100 percent juice, juice drinks and smoothies remained flat in 2015. Mintel estimates in its November 2015 report, “Juice, Juice Drinks and Smoothies — US” that there will be less than 1 percent growth within the category. The lack of category growth could be because the 100 percent juice and juice drink segments, which comprise the bulk of the category, suffer from consumer perceptions that they are unhealthful.

Value-added preferences

The dominant trend in the juice and water category is value-added better-for-you beverages, declares Dave Lockwood, vice president of sales for Ice River Springs Water Co., with U.S. headquarters in Morganton, N.C.

Premium offerings with additives are driving growth within the bottled water category, he explains. “Fifty-three percent of consumers want premium water,” Lockwood says.

“Of course, everybody’s got a different opinion of what that means. It could mean water with a high pH, electrolytes, vitamins, minerals or energy additives.”

Kim McClure, director of marketing – natural brands for Denton, Texas-based Lily of the Desert, agrees. Consumers are looking for value-added enhancements from fruit, vegetables and plants such as aloe vera.

“Consumers want to know that what they are putting into their bodies is going to have a positive effect on their health,” she adds.

Just as important to consumers is what is not in their beverage, Lockwood says. And consumers don’t want anything artificial.

They also don’t want anything super sugary. For example, the industry is moving away from adding syrups for flavoring, observes Denis Paquette, vice president of sales and development for Les Moûts de P.O.M. Inc., Saint-François-Xavier-de-Brompton, Québec, a supplier of artisanal all-natural, non-alcoholic sparkling fruit juices, lemonades and mocktails.

Instead of syrups, fruit, vegetables and herbs are used more often to flavor beverages, Paquette states.

“You will see more and more blends of these, which will not only enhance flavor but will be functional as well,” he adds. “They will be designed to enhance energy or promote relaxation.”

Creative and unique flavors are especially important within the sparkling water category, Lockwood states. Sparkling water also happens to be one of the fastest-growing water segments. Consumers are leaving carbonated soft drinks but still want carbonation in their drinks. Ice River Springs, which bottles spring, purified and distilled water for the private label market, is in the process of introducing a line of sparkling Canadian spring water in organic flavors, including lemon, lime and tangerine orange.

Looking ahead

One of the most significant emerging trends within beverages is the use of high-pressure processing, says Casey Beard, general manager and chief operating officer of Allendale, N.J.-based Kristian Regále Inc. The company makes premium preservative-free, all-natural non-alcoholic sparkling fruit juices based on Swedish family recipes. The post-packaging cold-pasteurization technique is used to kill microorganisms while retaining freshness and flavor and extending the shelf life of the beverage.

Meanwhile, Paquette foresees more high-quality juices and juice blends using real juice and much less sugar coming to market.

“Products will be more natural. More will be pasteurized in the bottle to protect the product without adding chemicals,” he says.

And Lockwood believes that maple water will become popular in the near future. When trees are tapped, maple water is what comes out of the tree. It is then boiled to make syrup. Maple water is a slightly sweet low-calorie liquid with the consistency of regular water and a hint of maple flavor.

Small and large

When it comes to packaging, more flavored seltzers are popping up in PET bottles and “stealing” shelf space from traditional carbonated soft drinks. In fact, Beard feels there is “phenomenal” potential for store brand flavored seltzers. And many flavored water brands seem to be copying Sparkling ICE with its slim-line PET bottle.

Lockwood, however, sees opportunity in small (8- to 10-ounce) cans of sparkling water.

Retailers should also keep in mind that consumers like to “pantry-load” bottled water. Lockwood suggests that they consider offering packs as large as 40 bottles, rather than the traditional 24.

And retailers also should take into account the recyclability of their bottled water and juice packaging. Lockwood says Ice River Springs produces and uses 100 percent recycled bottles in its closed-loop recycling facility. Retailers that partner with suppliers that make sustainability a priority could see their store brand products begin to resonate with eco-conscious consumers.

Emphasize health, quality

To promote store brand bottled water and juices, retailers would do well to get involved with the community and health-conscious events and activities such as foot, bike or swim races, Beard advises.

“Find people striving to live a more healthy lifestyle, and show them that your store and brand are aligned with the lifestyle,” Beard says.

Standing out is important, too.

“Allow consumers to easily identify the product, the quality and the attributes. When the consumer can easily find and identify your product, they will probably be willing to pay a little more for its quality,” Paquette says.

McClure agrees that labeling should be simple.

“Sometimes having too much [information] on the bottle clouds the real benefit of the product,” she says.

She also encourages retailers to make good use of grab-and-go refrigerated stations within stores when merchandising store brand waters and juices.

Do follow the better-for-you trend in bottled water and juice.

Don’t “hide” healthful bottled water and juices in center aisles; showcase them at health-conscious community events.

Do consider offering flavored sparkling waters in small cans.

Don’t ignore the trend away from syrups and artifical flavorings.

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