“When I was a young boy, I would drink rosewater in the summertime,” Kia Illulian, H2rOse’s president, told FoodNavigator-USA. “The elders in the family would suggest that it enhances the mood and relaxes the mind.”
H2rOse is the only retail product company owned and led by the family-run conglomerate Illulian Group, who focuses on real estate and operates in Southern California. Rosewater is an important ingredient in Persian culture, the Illulians’ background, for its culinary and cosmetic functions.
“We do a fast once a year, and immediately [after], you’d want to eat a big pizza or hamburger. You’ll figure out soon enough that it doesn’t work well for the stomach because it’s been empty for so long,” Illulian said. “We’d drink rosewater to help alleviate the cramping in the stomach.”
A big gap in the market
Rosewater is abundant on the market, from small regional grocery stores to big box chain supermarkets, and it is a staple in many pantries and medicine cabinets across North America, especially in households with Middle Eastern or South Asian heritage. But it is sold as an ingredient used for culinary and topical uses.
Made out of diluted rose oil, which comes from distilled rose petal, the liquid gives off a strong sweet scent—and a strong bitter taste.
“That’s what gave us our drive and reason to exist, there are so many health benefits but there weren’t any ingestible products with rosewater,” he said. “I knew many Indian, Iranian, and so many Middle Eastern cultures use rosewater in their recipes, but it’s not marketed in the United States.”
As there is no palatable taste to rosewater, H2rOse’s four beverages are flavored with apple, mango, berries, or peach. All of them also contain saffron, a spice claimed to have appetite suppressing and mood boosting features.
"I believe we've seeded a niche in the marketplace we call 'health and beauty'," Illulian said. Though to the best of their knowledge (and a Google search) they are the only rosewater beverage out there, competitors include other health drinks using Ayurvedic ingredients, such as Temple Turmeric.
Health conscious fans
The product launched in April last year, and made its Expo West debut in Anaheim last week. For now, it is sold only in California or online. A case of 12 can be bought for $46, and a single bottle is sold for $3.79 at Selected Whole Foods stores in southern California.
“Our target audience is anybody who’s into a healthy lifestyle, and appreciates looking youthful, feeling youthful,” Illulian said. “We’ve had an incredible response from Millennials.”
And what better way to harness the power of Millennial support by taking to social media? “Every day more and more people learn how to use Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat,” Illulian said. “It’s the ideal way to gain our target consumers attention while also educating them about our brand.”
The brand’s Instagram account, 12,000+ followers strong, captures the “athleisure” aesthetic—symmetrical top shots, marble surfaces, vibrant colors—favored by the target audience. It's teeming with tags from fans recommending the product to their friends, submissions from followers on how they use H2Rose in their health regime, and questions from interested consumers who want H2rOse in their area.
“Right now we’re focusing on South California and the East Coast,” Illulian said. “And Hawaii—they love health and wellness there. You can find our product in every 7-11 in Hawaii.”
The rose petals are sourced from a proprietary location—part of the product’s trade secret—while saffron comes from Spain. Bottling is done in California, New York, and New Jersey, and soon to expand to Las Vegas. The company is looking to expand to Florida, Michigan, Nevada, and Canada, specifically chosen because of high concentrations of populations familiar with rosewater.
“There are a lot of products consumers can buy to stay healthy, but we think it’s not just about being hydrated,” Illulian said. “It should also be beneficial.”