And as a format, with sugar growing under increasing pressure, sparkling water is becoming massively popular.
BÖ: Sparkling waters is a very exciting category here in the US for sure, there’s no question about it. I think the challenge for us was, when we came up with the active components, we needed to figure out the most obvious and the most logical delivery format for it. It seems to be to us that the most common denominator among everybody for a beverage to drink with a meal would be some kind of water. We landed very quickly on the sparkling flavoured water category, obviously because it’s becoming hugely popular here and it actually just tastes very good with our product. We could potentially, over time, branch out into other beverage categories – that’s totally possible – but for now I think we’re very happy to be in the sparkling water category.
Regardless of functionality, how important is taste to you?
BÖ: First of all, lesson ‘Food Development 101’ is, if it doesn’t taste good, you can forget it. It doesn’t matter how functional or how well it delivers whatever property you want, if it doesn’t taste good, forget it.
Where is the brand in its evolution and where do you think it’s going?
BÖ: I think we have two facets in the development of our company: the first, the development of the product and proving the functionality and efficiency of the product. That took a couple of years and quite a lot of money. We’ve gone through that and we have a lot of clinical proof to back our claims. We have been doing this, I think it’s eight years now, or depending on when you look at when the actual groundbreaking research started it may be even longer than that, so bear that in mind: that’s phase one for us as a company.
Phase two started really early this year when we started launching in the US; we did a stealth launch online late last year but we went into retail in earnest in June of this year, so we are only four months into the market. In that sense we are a baby, we’re just crawling. We’re learning, we’re getting some exciting velocity data from our first supermarkets that rolled us out here in northern California, so we’re very excited about that. Now we’re crafting some unique, or at least some very different, marketing approaches; we’ll start rolling out marketing campaigns in fast-food restaurants and supermarkets this fall to test a slightly different approach to marketing a product like ours.
You talked about sparkling water: I think the beverage category in total is incredibly overcrowded here in the US. I think they say about 2,000 new beverages being launched every year, and maybe a few percent of them will survive after a couple of years. So you have an incredibly competitive landscape, which we need to cope with. We don’t [just] compete with other sparkling waters; we compete with every beverage on the shelf. You compete for the share of the wallet that the consumer is prepared to spend on their beverage with their meal. So our challenge here is to come up with somewhat unique and different branding and marketing activities – something we’ve learned a lot about first-hand in the work that we’re doing with Oatly, for example.
We’re in our early stages, we get some early reactions and some positive feedback for sure, the professional healthcare community is giving us tremendous support and that’s very exciting for us – but the jury’s still out. Next year will be very important for our commercial success here in the US.