While supermarket shelves are littered with the carcasses of ultra-niche – and ultra-unsuccessful - functional beverages, Mr Pink – which contains a hefty 1,000 mg of Asian panax ginseng plus 100% of the RDA for vitamin B3, B5, B6 and B12 per 355ml serving - has mass market potential, insists the former Procter & Gamble executive behind it.
Marty Brown – chief operating officer of start-up Mr Pink Collections – spent 16 years at P&G and eight years at can giant Rexam before taking the helm at Power Brands Beverage Consulting in 2007, where he worked with firms all over the world on new beverage projects from concept to launch.
A premium alternative to energy drinks?
Mr Pink, which was launched in late November 2011 and is currently doing the rounds at upscale bars and clubs in Beverly Hills and around 200 stores in southern California, is the vehicle to take ginseng into the mainstream, he insists.
“It’s a premium alternative to energy drinks priced at around the same as a can of Red Bull. There are niche products out there with ginseng, but I don’t think anyone has really got it right. We want to do for ginseng what has been done with coconut water, to bring it to the mainstream.
“I think the average consumer has heard of ginseng, but they don’t really know why it is good for you.”
How to launch a functional beverage
While the product has to be right - ginseng has an earthy taste Brown says takes a lot of formulation and flavor expertise to overcome - marketing support at each stage of its development will also be critical, he says.
“When you look at where start-ups often go wrong, is that they don’t support their products properly, they try to do too much, too fast and spread themselves too thinly. If you do something and it works in one market, you need to provide just as much support at the next market you move into and so on.
“Very often people have good products and good ideas but they are just totally underfunded. A lot of people want to be the next VitaminWater, and forget that it took VitaminWater 12 years to make it.
“We recognize that we have got to build a buzz around the brand, secure celebrity endorsements, and build up distribution gradually in the southern California area before going national”, added Brown, who is also developing new ready-to-drink still and sparking teas with ginseng.
As for health claims, Brown is working closely with a range of industry and legal experts including the American Botanical Council to ensure the firm only makes claims that can be supported by science and will not land Mr Pink in legal hot water, he says.
“We are in the process of evaluating what we’ll claims in advertising and marketing materials to make sure we don’t over-extend our bounds.”
The management team at Mr Pink includes national sales manager Patrick Haynes, director of sales and marketing Craig D’Eletto, sales representative Kyle Emerson-Brown, sales and marketing co-ordinator Twila Grissom, and Brown himself (chief operating officer).
Mr Pink Collections, LLC is owned by Kings International Investment Group.