“People really love the product and the formulations, but the packaging is what makes it stand out on shelf," Dust Cutter Beverage Co. CEO and founder Eric Green told FoodNavigator-USA.
“I did a Google search on innovative beverage packaging, the Alumi-Tek bottle from Ball Corp came up [click HERE to read about fellow user Green Sheep water] and I just fell in love with it. It reminded me of the canteens you’d get in the Old West.
"It’s a bit more expensive, but it’s what sets us apart, as no other premium lemonades are packaged in aluminum bottles."
As to whether an aluminum bottle signals 'premium' to a consumer, he added: "Some people say how can you put a premium product in an aluminum bottle, you can’t see what it looks like, but honestly, I don’t think people care. Our bottles chill faster, stay cool longer and they are re-sealable. We can also sell to all of these outdoor venues where they don’t allow glass containers.”
While some consumers familiar with Coors and Miller products in Alumi-tek bottles sometimes (erroneously) assume Dust Cutter lemonade is alcoholic, they are quickly disabused of this once they pick up the bottle, said Green, whose family owned a dude ranch in Jackson Hole, Wyoming in the 1940s to the 70s, served up lemonade to guests and called it a ‘dust cutter’.
As for finding the right co-packer to bottle his product, it didn't take very long, he said: “There’s actually only one co-packer in the country, in Minnesota, that could fill our containers and do the tunnel pasteurization process we need to keep our product all-natural and get a two-year shelf life, so it wasn't a difficult decision."
We’re in talks with distributors all over the country for 2015
As for the concept, it's taken time to develop and evolve, he added: “It’s been a labor of love.
"I started off adding alcohol and didn’t succeed for many different reasons, and I decided to go the non-alcoholic route and it’s been gangbusters ever since we launched in May of 2013."
Retail buyers, he said, have been very receptive: "It’s very very rare that we get an outright 'no' from a buyer, which is amazing because some of these distributors are getting hundreds of calls a week from new brands.
“What also kind of surprised us was that we are really popular with children. When we started I thought the product would appeal to hip 18-35 year olds, but kids really love it.
“Today we’re in around 2,000 stores and have distributors throughout Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, Texas and Oklahoma, but we’re in talks with distributors all over the country for 2015 so we hope to be in ten times that by the end of this year.
“We’ve had talks with major regional and national chains for the first time and hope to be in with the Targets and Walmarts of the world as well as the smaller regional grocery chains and convenience store chains. We’ve also been successful getting into the Anheuser Busch distribution network.”
When we first launched we had ginseng and B vitamins
The sugar level in Dust Cutter - which comes in original lemonade, huckleberry lemonade (by far the most popular flavor) and iced tea lemonade, with an MSRP of $1.99 - is either consistent with or a little lower than some rival products (20-21g and 80 cals per 8fl oz serving).
But Green is also developing two new flavors and a low sugar version with cane sugar and stevia that will contain around 5g sugar per bottle.
As for the packaging and branding, it hasn’t changed since the launch, but the formulation has been tweaked, said Green, who said the products tend to perform the best in the grab & go chiller next to products such as kombucha.
“When we first launched we had ginseng and B vitamins because we felt we needed something to differentiate ourselves, but we got a lot of consumer feedback saying that people weren’t drinking our product because of these ingredients, so we dropped them - which has obviously saved us some money too!"
Keep up with the latest beverage trends at our Beverage Innovation Summit on Feb 4.
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- Janie Hoffman: Founder & CEO, Mamma Chia
- Bill Moses: Co-founder & CEO, KeVita
- Chris Reed: Founder & CEO, Reed’s
- Pamela Naumes: Senior director of brand engagement, Bolthouse Farms
- Reuben Canada: Founder & CEO, Jin+Ja
- Steve Jones: CEO, Fairlife
- Seth Goldman: Co-founder & TeaEO, Honest Tea
- Shaun Roberts: Founder & CE, KonaRed