While clean-label aficionados might raise an eyebrow at the ingredients deck of VitaminFIZZ, the dazzling success of Sparkling ICE proves that artificial sweeteners, colors and preservatives are not a deal-breaker in this category, says Scott Vanis, CEO of brand owner Level 5 Beverage Company Inc.
“VitaminFIZZ has zero calories, tastes great, has 100% of your B vitamins and vitamin C, and it's affordable – typically $1.29-$1.49 or down to 99 cents on deal,” Vanis told FoodNavigator-USA.
"There is a subset of consumers that won’t buy anything with artificial sweeteners or colors, but this hasn't held Sparkling ICE back. We haven't had a flat-out NO from a single retailer, and everyone that has taken the brand on has re-ordered it, so we’re extremely confident. Sampling programs show that if people try it, they buy it. It’s also very popular with college kids.”
As to how VitaminFIZZ - which is sweetened with erythritol, sucralose and ace K - is positioned, he said: “We sit between Sparkling ICE and Vitaminwater, but each 17oz bottle of VitaminFIZZ contains 100% of the RDI for vitamin C and the B vitamins B6, B3, B5 and B12 [whereas a 17oz bottle of Sparkling ICE has 20% of the RDI for these B vitamins].”
Sampling programs show that if people try it, they buy it
But are retailers looking for another Sparkling ICE, albeit with a higher dose of vitamins?
Yes, said Vanis, who said buyers are looking for a strong #2 in the category, and like the packaging, taste, price and functionality of VitaminFIZZ, which is initially targeting drug and grocery chains but would fit equally well in the convenience channel further down the line.
"It's now available in 1,400 stores in the US from Albertson’s and Walgreens to Kmart."
VitaminFIZZ has also attracted the attention of overseas buyers and will hit the UK market in May, said Vanis, who said marketing activities would step up in the summer, but that promotions and sampling were most effective at driving sales.
“Our initial focus is on southern California, although we also have a presence in Las Vegas and the New York Metro area. We want to build a critical mass in one region, learn what works, and then copy and paste that model into other regions such as south Florida, south east Texas and New England, where we can support the brand.”
There is a subset of consumers that won’t buy anything with artificial sweeteners or colors, but this hasn't held Sparkling ICE back
So could VitaminFIZZ emulate the meteoric success of Sparkling ICE, which was a $10m brand in early 2010 and is now on a mission to be a $1bn brand in 2018?
Said Vanis: "We're very confident that VitaminFIZZ could be a national and an international brand."
Analyst: The product seems to be very consciously taking on Sparkling Ice
But do the market researchers agree?
Howard Telford, senior industry analyst, beverages, at Euromonitor International, told FoodNavigator-USA that he thought VitaminFIZZ had potential.
He added: "I think it’s an interesting space to be in; fruit flavored carbonates that are very competitive in terms of price, attractive in terms of calorie count, and resemble traditional carbonated soft drinks in terms of flavor profile and ingredients….but consciously position themselves outside of flavored, diet soda when it comes to package, branding and placement.
"The product seems to be very consciously taking on Sparkling Ice – which has been one of the fastest growing functional bottled water brands in the US – with this 'un-soda' positioning. That’s a high growth space, for sure, but it’s also got a strong and growing leader to contend with."
Therefore, the success of VitaminFIZZ will "depend a lot on price and distribution relative to the leaders and private label", he predicted.
"I do think we’ll see more products trying to strike that balance with the slim packaging, low calories and functional ingredients….trying to appeal to a set of consumers who have taken a step away from the diet carbonated soft drinks space but still desire a sweeter, fruit flavor profile that is harder to achieve with 'clean' ingredients."
Developed by Power Brands Consulting, VitaminFIZZ is backed by beverage industry veterans including Big Red CEO Gary Smith, former Red Bull North America CEO Dan Ginsberg, PowerBrands CEO Darin Ezra and PGS Management & Consulting CEO Peter Strahm.
Level 5 Beverage Company Inc is a subsidiary of Minerco Resources Inc.