Rob Paladino, CEO at brand owner World Waters, was speaking to FoodNavigator-USA at the BevNet Live conference in Santa Monica this week after WTRMLN WTR picked up the ‘Best Juice’ and ‘Best Packaging Design’ gongs in BevNet’s ‘Best of 2014’ awards.
Above all, said Paladino, consumers liked its simplicity: “It’s 100% watermelon, the flesh and the rind - everything except the skin - plus lemon juice, and that’s it. There’s no added sugar, water or flavors.
“It’s a cold pressed 100% juice product, and that helps consumers understand the value [it’s $4.99 for a 12oz bottle and has a 45-day shelf life as it is high-pressure processed], but that’s not why we exist. We’re something you’d position next to a premium raw coconut water [such as Harmless Harvest] rather than, say Suja Juice.”
But what else is there to excite consumers about the brand, which was launched in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut in spring/summer of this year, has just launched in Los Angeles and will be heading to San Francisco and the Pacific Northwest next year?
First, the unusual taste, said Paladino, who says the brand is now in "hundreds" of stores including Whole Foods: “If you just put watermelon flesh in a blender and drink it, it delivers, but when you add in the rind and some lemon, it tastes incredible.”
It’s got a lot less sugar than most juices
Next, the nutrition, he added: “It’s the best kept secret, but watermelon is an excellent source of vitamin C and potassium. Our product has 740mg of potassium [per 8oz serving] which is almost double what you’d get in a single banana. It’s also got 540mg of L-Citrulline, an amino acid great for muscle recovery, and lycopene [9.5mg], which has a whole lot of health benefits, so it’s actually much more nutrient dense than coconut water.
“This makes it a great post-workout beverage, but this product belongs everywhere where people sweat, whether it’s a pilates or a yoga studio or a spinning class. It’s great in the morning after a party the night before, it’s rejuvenating, rehydrating and refreshing.
“It’s also got a lot less sugar than most juices [60 calories and 12g sugar per 8floz serving vs more than 100 calories and 20g+ sugar for an equivalent amount of orange juice].”
740mg of potassium per 8oz serving - almost twice the amount in a banana
Next, the packaging, said Paladino, a beverage industry veteran who joined the firm in September: “Our co-founder Jody Levy is a great designer and when you see a bunch of the bottles together on shelf there is a great billboard effect with the rind and the flesh.”
On the production side, World Waters presses and bottles the product (made from US-grown watermelons) at its own facility in upstate New York and then transports it up to a high pressure processing (HPP) facility before it its transported on to retail customers.
While this extra step adds costs, it would not be commercially viable for World Waters to buy its own HPP machine at this early stage in the business, he said. “Maybe when we’re at $20m we’ll think in those terms.”
A good idea with great execution will always beat a great idea with poor execution
So what is watermelon like to work with?
“It’s a delicate brute, and there can be variations between the product you get from different growers,” said Paladino.
“It all depends on the soil, the rainfall and so on. We’re aware that there can be natural variations so we have done a lot of testing to ensure we’re not making claims we can’t support.”
The product is also supported via sampling, coupons and marketing activities of all kinds, added Paladino, who says brands that succeed in the ultra-competitive beverage space must have “an intriguing voice” and an “attitude” along with a laser-like focus on execution.
“A good idea with great execution will always beat a great idea with poor execution.”