Launching a new brand in the ultra-competitive US carbonated soft drinks market - which is facing well-documented problems right now - is notoriously tough, but the Dutch entrepreneur behind new market entrant Veri Soda is convinced he has found the sweet spot in the category.
“While there are zero calorie ‘natural’ soft drinks [such as Zevia], there are no USDA NOP certified organic and low-calorie alternatives available in a full line of flavors, which is surprising because the organics industry here is booming,” Veri Soda founder and CEO Leonard Freeke told FoodNavigator-USA.
“Lack of good tasting, and low-calorie, options in the organic category present a substantial market opportunity, so we are launching the first full line of USDA certified organic, non-GMO low-calorie sodas in the US in mainstream flavors: Cola, Lemon Lime, Orange and Ginger Ale.”
Consumers are moving away from sweet diet soda, their palates are changing
While Veri Soda - which has 60 calories per 335ml can and contains organic cane sugar, organic stevia leaf extract, organic fruit juice concentrates, and sparkling water - might be classified by some as a ‘mid-calorie’ soda, it’s not a category Freeke feels he is playing in.
For a start, he says, “Veri Soda is by definition a low calorie product. It’s got 70% less sugar than other sodas and is slightly less sweet than many low or zero calorie drinks but it absolutely delivers on taste. Consumers are moving away from sweet diet soda, their palates are changing.”
Second, Veri Soda is not competing with Pepsi Next or Dr Pepper TEN, which use artificial sweeteners (Dr Pepper TEN combines HFCS with aspartame, and Pepsi Next combines HFCS with sucralose in the US market), said Freeke.
“Veri does not contain high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, preservatives, artificial colors and artificial flavors.”
Third, while Veri Soda might seem more akin to recent launch Coca-Cola Life (sweetened with stevia and sugar and designed to appeal to consumers looking for more ‘natural’ soda options), it is different because it uses only USDA certified organic ingredients, he said. It’s also non-GMO and caffeine-free.
Veri Soda contains organic cane sugar, organic stevia leaf extract, organic fruit juice concentrates, organic flavors and colors… and no preservatives
Available at selected stores nationwide including Sprouts, Wegman’s, Stop & Shop and Whole Foods Market, Veri Soda has a suggested retail price of $4.99 for a four-pack, said Freeke, who originally planned to launch the products in Europe but grew fed up with waiting for regulators to approve the use of steviol glycosides in organic products.
“We entered the US market in September 2013 and we’re working with Presence Marketing as our brokers. We’ve got national distribution with firms including KeHe, Nature’s Best, UNFI (United Natural Foods, Inc) and DPI (DPI Specialty Foods).
“It’s very early days but we’ve had really fantastic feedback and we’re doing a lot of sampling and work on social media.”
An economist and chartered accountant with a background in corporate finance, Freeke founded The Veri Soda Company in 2012 with business partner Zeger van Hovell.