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‘Perfect pH’ CORE premium bottled water could be $60-100m brand at retail in 2016, predicts founder

By Elaine Watson+

02-Feb-2016
Last updated on 02-Feb-2016 at 17:34 GMT2016-02-02T17:34:33Z

Following a soft launch in Southern California in 2014, CORE is now in 30,000+ points of distribution nationwide. Picture: CORE Nutrition LLC
Following a soft launch in Southern California in 2014, CORE is now in 30,000+ points of distribution nationwide. Picture: CORE Nutrition LLC

CORE Hydration – an ultra-purified, electrolyte-infused bottled water with a ‘perfect pH’ of 7.4 that first hit shelves in late 2014 and is now in 30,000+ stores – is on course to generate retail sales of $60-100 million in 2016, predicts co-founder Lance Collins.

Collins, who has already struck CPG gold with brands including NOS, FUZE and Body Armor, appears to have found the winning formula again with CORE, which taps into growth at the premium end of the bottled water category and stands out on shelf with its proprietary bottle design.

Cynics might argue that most drinking water already has a pretty neutral pH, and that our bodies have developed effective mechanisms to keep our blood within a narrow pH range (between 7.35 and 7.45), regardless of the pH of the food or beverages we consume.

Collins, however, argues that there is a wide variation in the pH of municipal tap water and that ensuring a consistent pH means that “your body is not having to work so hard” to maintain its natural pH balance.

CORE, he argues, works “in harmony with your body” and has a superior taste to rival products, in part because of its neutral pH.

He also challenges the science behind firms making claims about the benefits of alkaline water, arguing that they are “deceiving” and “confusing” consumers by implying that the higher the pH, the better.

“I think this is going to cause consumer dissatisfaction in the end which usually translates to class action lawsuits,” he tells FoodNavigator-USA.

An ‘iconic, contoured bottle’

However, CORE is not making any hard claims about the pH of its product on pack, and chief marketing officer Eric Berniker stresses that this is only one aspect of its appeal, which is driven in large part by its great taste and “iconic, contoured bottle” and an unusual 38mm wide-mouth closure and translucent overcap, which helps it stand out on shelf and appeals to Millennials looking for something a bit more stylish to take to the gym or yoga class.

From a sustainability perspective, using “locally sourced” municipal water as a water source rather than “trucking water half way around the globe like VOSS, Evian and FIJI do” also appealed to Millennials concerned about sustainability, says Collins – who co-founded CORE in 2014 with songwriter and music producer Lukasz Gottwald (a.k.a. ‘Dr Luke’).

“We’ve got plants on the east and the west coast and we’re planning one in the middle, which also saves on freight costs as well as generating fewer carbon emissions than some of these imported brands.”

Bottled water will soon surpass carbonated soft drinks as the #1 drink in the beverage category

Retailers, meanwhile, are giving bottled water more space on shelf, particularly the premium variety, as shoppers continue to replace carbonated soft drinks with water, says Collins.

CORE is purified using a seven stage process including U.V., carbon filtration, reverse osmosis and ozonation that removes impurities and contaminants. It is then balanced with a blend of electrolytes and minerals to produce a water with a pH of 7.4.

“Bottled water is a $13bn category [IBWA figures, wholesale, for 2014] and Americans drink 21 gallons per capita. Soon it is going to surpass carbonated soft drinks as the #1 drink in the beverage category.”

The speed with which CORE has picked up distribution is a testament both to Collins’ credibility in the industry and the brand’s appeal: Collins has struck deals with big names from Dr Pepper Snapple Group in Northern California, to Polar Beverages in New England, Kalil Bottlers in Arizona, John Lenore in San Diego, Honickman in Philadelphia, Columbia in the Pacific Northwest and New Age in Denver.

From a marketing perspective, there will also be opportunities to use the influence of celebrity investors and brand ambassadors from Adam Levine, Becky G, and Demi Lovato to Diplo, Juicy J and Katy Perry to promote the brand now that it has secured national distribution, says Berniker.

“These artists are investors as well as ambassadors, so they really want to see CORE succeed."

CORE Organic: We think this is going to be a disruptive brand

The latest innovation under the CORE platform is CORE Organic, an organic 5-calorie-per-serving flavored water/juice blend with coconut water concentrate and antioxidants from white tea extract and maqui berry that is sweetened with organic enzyme-modified stevia extract and erythritol (RSP $2.49).

The product, which has just launched in upmarket chains including Bristol Farms in Southern California but will be more widely available in April, looks similar to Bai5 (a 5-calorie beverage featuring antioxidants from organic coffee fruit extract, vitamin C and white tea extracts) and comes in an 18oz aseptic bottle.

The six-strong range includes: Peach Mango, Watermelon Lemonade, Pomegranate Blue Acai, Orange Clementine, Coconut Colada, and Orchard Pear.

“Organic is the new badge of health and it’s mainstream now,” says Collins, who says retailers that he has shown it to are excited about the product.

“We think this is going to be a disruptive brand.”

Interested in the bottled water market? Register for FoodNavigator-USA's LIVE online beverage innovation summit  on Feb 18.

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