“This is definitely something out of the ordinary for Uncle Matt’s,” which until recently has focused primarily on 100% juices and juice blends with coconut water and matcha tea, said Matt McLean, CEO and founder of the company.
But, he added, it also is “a natural fit for our brand” and Uncle Matt’s evolving strategy to be an organic, healthy beverage company, which began with the recent launch of two blends that combine citrus juice with coconut water to cut calories while preserving a 100% juice status and nutritional benefits.
Like those launches, this one likely is driven in part by the ongoing demonization of sugar and high-calorie drinks, which have contributed to a 5-8% drop in conventional juice sales in recent years.
The company also was drawn to enter the premium water category in part because “water obviously is overtaking carbonated soft drinks as the largest beverage category,” and, therefore, offers significant marketing potential, McLean said.
Finally, the company “had permission from the consumer” to expand beyond juices into water, he said. “Consumers have asked us for lighter options … [and] something that could be more for just hydration,” he said. With only 10 calories or fewer and 2 grams of natural sugar or less per serving, the new line offers a substantial savings in that area than traditional higher-calorie but nutrient dense juices.
Just because the new line uses water to cut sugar and calories, does not mean it has fewer health benefits than juices that are packed with vitamins, minerals and fiber, McLean said. Rather, he noted, the new beverages have unique functional benefits that consumers want.
For example, each bottle has 1 million CFUs of patented GanedenBC30 probiotics, which is twice the amount clinically shown to support healthy immune and digestive systems and to help with protein absorption, McLean said. He explained the company wanted two full doses in each bottle so that if consumers drank only half of the 16.9 ounce bottle at a time they still would receive the benefits they expect from probiotics.
The bottles also come with a healthy dose of antioxidant flavonoids, including hesperidin, because Uncle Matt’s adds citrus peel that has been saved from the oranges, lemons and grapefruits that were used to make the company’s juices. A partner dehydrates and mills the peels into a fine powder, which Uncle Matt’s then adds to the finished beverage, McLean explained.
Making water something to crave
Between the reduced calorie and sugar content, the light, refreshing flavors of lemon, grapefruit and orange, and the added functional benefits of the probiotic waters, McLean says the beverages are positioned to attract several types of consumers.
On one side is the consumer who wants a beverage that is functional and flavorful, but low in calories and low in sugar. And the other is the consumer who is bored with water, but is trying to drink more of it, McLean said.
“Our tagline is we are trying to get people to crave their water. So, this is for those who are tired of drinking just plain spring water or filtered water. This gives them some fresh squeezed juice, plus the functional aspect. And we believe that is how we make water craveable for someone looking for a change,” he said.
With taste and function satisfied, the only real challenge that McLean sees for the beverage is identifying where best to stock it.
Because the waters blur the line between juice, water and functional beverages, Uncle Matt’s doesn’t yet know if it is best placed on the shelf next to the premium waters that people reach for to quench their thirst, next to the other high-pressure pasteurized juices that are more lifestyle choices or next to functional beverages such as kombucha, which often also have probiotic benefits.
Given that the waters rolled out in early July, McLean says retailers will test the product in several locations to find out where it sells best, but ideal Uncle Matt’s would like to see it with the regular premium water, with the plant-based waters and with functional beverages positioned for post-workout use or health benefits.
Looking forward, McLean said the company already is working on additional flavors for the probiotic waters once the concept is proven in store sales. It also is exploring additional functional beverages to further develop its portfolio.