True Drinks launched its zero-calorie line of naturally flavored and sweetened vitamin waters in distinctive ball-shaped bottles emblazoned with Disney and Marvel characters during the first quarter of 2013, having identified an opportunity in the $2 billion children’s beverage market dominated by brands like CapriSun, Kool-Aid, and BellyWashers. (Capri Sun is the clear leader in this industry, with nearly 50% market share.)
“Same store sales are increasing,” said Lance Leonard, the company’s CEO and a former director of global customers for Nestle Waters. “Consumers are looking for healthier options and up until now we’ve not seen better-for-you products for kids.”
“We’re focused on increasing consumption and getting a larger share of stomach,” added Leonard, who will also be a speaker at FoodNavigator’s Food Vision 2015 event in Cannes on March 18 to 20 (click here for full details).
True Drinks has also received a commitment from Vinny Smith’s Toba Capital Management for $4.0 million, with the first $1.5 million already with the company. Smith will also act as a strategic advisor to True Drinks.
Leonard said the capital will be utilized primarily to support its dramatic same store sales increases through our brand awareness and marketing campaigns.
Smith has expressed his enthusiasm for the company's mission of helping to combat the rising childhood obesity and diabetes epidemics, but such issues are not limited to the US, with worrying statistics in LATAM and China and many other markets.
“As we developed the product we understood what consumers in the US wanted,” said Leonard. “We’re also seeing consumers shifting in emerging markets, and we’re seeing those increases in juvenile diabetes and obesity and changing diets. These trends are rapidly developing and there is a need for healthier options.
The focus in Asia has mostly been on China and Hong Kong, where there has been a dramatic increase in childhood obesity, but they are expanding throughout Asia, he said.
AquaBall’s partnership with Disney has been key to its domestic growth, it is also helping in these emerging markets, said Leonard. “Consumers there love and trust products associated with Disney,” he said, while also noting that the imminent opening of Disney Shanghai will certainly help the brand.
Leonard’s presentation at Food Vision will focus on several issues, including how to know when a category is ripe for transformation. For AquaBall it started with the ball-shaped bottle.
“We started by being offered a patented bottle with no idea what to do with it or how to position it,” admits Leonard. The True Drinks team took it on and realized its potential for the children’s beverage market. “It’s a $2 billion market but nobody was doing it the right way,” he added. “The brands haven’t changed in 30 years.”
With the bottle in hand and a vision, they team set about developing a great tasting formula. “We found a huge open area in that category. Moms had been adding water to juice to make it healthier, and we saw that as an opportunity to take advantage of. And Disney allowed us to evolve really quickly.”
Despite the growth – the product is available in 26000 retailers, including Kroger, Albertsons, Walmart, Sam’s Club, and RiteAid – staying small and agile remains a vital part of the company’s DNA, said Leonard.
“Every month there is a new technology, a new processing method, new ways of delivering ingredients such as calcium, omega-3s, and protein in clear water beverages. These developments are happening at light speed and we need to ensure we stay at the forefront of that.”
At the upcoming Food Vision 2015 event in Cannes, Leonard will delve into the secrets behind AquaBall’s success, including:
- Letting the consumer decide – why it’s vital (and more than possible) to let consumers dictate the direction of innovation
- The need for speed – how to make sure the innovation process keeps pace with science, the consumer and the art of the possible
- Get in at the grassroots – why ‘marketing’ is out and ‘dialogue’ is in
- Spotting the opportunities – how to know when a category is ripe for transformation