And he has some observations to back up his forecast: This year the three-year-old company experienced year-over-year retail sales growth in the triple-digits, and has just landed a deal with Kroger, which Fortuna said is “the first company with a national footprint to carry [Blossom Water].”
As of now, the product can be found in 1,075 Kroger stores and its banners, as well as hundreds of other retailers such as Whole Foods in the Mid-Atlantic and Rocky Mountain regions. “If you look at our distribution footprint, if you look at the chains we’re currently in—it’s saying that people like it, people like it and people want it, that really is the best endorsement of the concept,” he added.
In the packaged, non-alcoholic beverage space, floral flavors are few and far between. There’s H2Rose, which focuses on rosewaters flavored with fruits, and the use of hibiscus to flavor drinks is slowly creeping into the mindset of US consumers.
Primary flavor and aroma comes from plant’s essence
There are four flavors in Fortuna’s brand: Lemon Rose, Plum Jasmine, Grapefruit Lilac, and Pomegranate Geranium, each sold in a 16 fl oz. glass bottle for anywhere between $1.99 to $2.19. The beverages’ flavor and aroma come mostly from essences— which are derived from the named plant.
Because it is water, Fortuna said that the production aspect, as well as finding co-packers, was a straightforward and simple process. “The challenge was in the formulation,” he said. The company spent 12 to 15 months coming up with the right amount of ingredients before it launched in the autumn of 2013.
To avoid the waters tasting like perfume, or losing their subtle floral scent, Fortuna decided to add some sweeteners to his product (agave nectar and erythritol). The brand’s website prominently displays the claim “lightly sweetened,” riding on the wave of US consumers moving away from sugary drinks. With 11g of sugar per bottle, it is far below the amount of sugar in leading soda drinks.
Floral waters are novel, but not that novel
“Thousands of years ago, people started using roses to create rose water—so this is something which is very different in the US, but less different in other cultures,” Fortuna told FoodNavigator-USA. Because floral water has been consumed for centuries by other cultures, he thinks the flower water category’s growth trajectory here in the US can be similar to what happened with coconut water.
“Coconut water has been used for centuries in South America. And a couple of smart guys decided to bring it to the US, and now [coconut water] is its own category, it’s not going to go [away]!” he said.
Fortuna argued that flower waters like Blossom Water can eventually become more mainstream. With a target audience of men and women “between the ages of 6 and 66,” the challenge for his company has been to make sure people don’t see it as a premium product.
“We quickly worked hard to dispel that notion. This year we were very focused on reducing the price point—we want to be able to address the entire market for water, this is a water substitute,” Fortuna said.
The epiphany to design the beverage came to the former Wall Street financier while he was gardening, a hobby that de-stressed him. His years of management experience and business acumen taught him that, for a young company, there is“no need for glitzy marketing.”
Instead, he invested heavily in getting the product in consumers’ mouths through in-store demos, further adding to the approachable image Fortuna wants for Blossom Water. With this strategy, the brand is aiming to spread across the nation like wildflowers.