Talking Rain CEO outlines strategy for US brand Sparkling Ice in UK and Ireland
Sparkling Ice launches in UK and Ireland: ‘We have bold ambitions for the brand in these markets’
The brand’s entry into the UK and Ireland follows international expansions in Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Australia, and Klock says he has found that demand for refreshing, tasty sparkling beverages is universal.
The brand is making some changes for the UK and Ireland markets.
Packaging changes for UK launch
Sparkling Ice is launching nationally across the UK and Ireland in over 8,000 stores this month, including grocery, high street and convenience outlets, and with a specific focus on London, Dublin and Belfast.
Sparkling Ice beverages use sparkling water, natural flavors, fruit juice and vitamins to create a lightly carbonated beverage.
The 12 calorie drink will initially be available in three flavors: black raspberry, orange mango and peach nectarine. The manufacturer recommended retail price is £1.49 in the UK and €1.99 in Ireland for a 500ml bottle.
Talking Rain was founded in 1987 and attributes its recent growth to the increased focus on the Sparkling Ice brand. The brand has been recognized in IRI’s New Product Pacesetters reports, as well as being included in Inc. Magazine’s Fastest-Growing Private US Companies lists for 2014 and 2015.
But will the reputation Sparkling Ice has built up in the US help it as it enters the UK market?
“In the US, Sparkling Ice is already heading towards $1bn at retail and is widely available across the country so, not surprisingly, due to the growing level of trans-Atlantic travel, we have found there was a latent awareness of the brand,” said Klock.
“Nevertheless, the challenge will be to ensure UK and Ireland consumers adopt the brand as their own and incorporate it into their everyday repertoire.
“It is always a challenge entering a new market as one needs to appreciate the different consumer needs, and tastes, as well as the pre-existing competitive set.
“Fortunately, the UK market was ripe for the arrival of Sparkling Ice - we see the prevalence of all the same trends of “health consciousness”, “better for you”, and “active lifestyle”, and a discerning consumer seeking lo-cal, lo-sugar, but “non-diet” brands, yet with an unwillingness to compromise on taste. Sparkling Ice delivers against all of these measures and we are excited to offer our brand to the UK consumer - we’re confident they’ll love it.”
Talking Rain has made a few minor changes to the brand for the launch in UK and Ireland, explained Klock. For example, the bottle size is 500ml to fit the competitive set (sizes in the US are based on fluid ounces). It also uses a sleeve, rather than label, to give maximum standout for the graphics.
“After some market research, the UK consumer fed back to us that they were suspicious when a brand contains juice declaring ‘zero calories’, as they know it requires artificial ingredients to deliver that. We’re proud that our drink is packed with flavor, but only contains 12 calories per bottle, so we’ve clearly stated this on the bottle for the consumer to see,” added Klock.
Sugar tax: reshaping UK shelves?
The announcement of a UK sugar tax on sugar-sweetened beverages, set to come into effect in April 2018, could accelerate a change on UK shelves, says Klock. And he believes his brand will fit perfectly into a new category alignment.
“We find the UK impulse shelves still have a high proportion of full-sugar carbonate and diet carbonated soft drink brands,” he said.
“In recent years in the US, space allocated to these beverages has been shrunk to make way for new emerging categories including lo-cal, lo-sugar ‘non-diet’ refreshment, and additional growth categories such as teas, iced coffees, functional waters and HPP juices.
“The advent of the recently announced sugar tax in the UK may accelerate the move towards this new category alignment. Sparkling Ice is a lifestyle brand that represents all the positive credentials of taste, without the calories and sugar, yet not carrying the ‘diet’ or ‘lo’ label.”
New flavors, bold ambitions
For its launch, Sparkling Ice is focusing its efforts in big cities such as London, Dublin and Belfast.
“There will be a particular focus on sampling, outdoor, and merchandising in selected key cities,” said Klock.
“We have found that the early adopters of new trends, new brands, and healthier consumption patterns tend to be found in these centers so we wanted to dial-up the focus accordingly.
“We have bold ambitions for the brand in the UK and Ireland and already have some exciting new flavors in the pipeline, which we will introduce in the coming months. In parallel there is an aggressive distribution plan across both markets.”