Expo East

Tickle Water expands the reach of sparkling water’s popularity to the children’s market

By Elizabeth Crawford contact

- Last updated on GMT

Source: E. Crawford
Source: E. Crawford

Related tags: Fermentation

The growing popularity of sparkling water among health-conscious adults who want an alternative to soda and sugar-laden beverages now is bubbling over into the children’s beverage segment with the launch of Tickle Water in May. 

Tickle Water is a premium sparkling water company that claims to be dedicated to providing parents with “an honest hydration option for their children”​ in the form of the “first-ever sparkling water geared towards children,”​ according to the company.

The creator and company founder Heather McDowell explained at Natural Products Expo East that the idea for the all-natural, unsweetened, zero-calorie beverage came to her when her young son constantly grabbed for her sparkling water.

“One day when he was over two years old, I thought, okay, why not. So, I gave him a little bit and told it would tickle his tongue with the bubbles and he drank the whole cup, laughing and giggling. He thought it was the coolest sensation on this tongue, and the next day he asked for tickle water again,”​ McDowell recalled.

“The name stuck and we started calling it Tickle Water in our house, and then his friends started coming over and they wanted Tickle Water, too. And I realized that our kids were asking for water”​ instead of other beverages targeted to children that are brimming with sugar and calories, McDowell said.

“I did a lot of research and realized there wasn’t a lot out there in terms of sparkling water for kids, so I started making Tickle Water available to everyone,”​ she added.

The beverage may be free of sweeteners, artificial colors, sodium and calories, but it isn’t devoid of flavor. The drink currently comes in four options: plain sparkling water, green apple, watermelon and cola.

“All of our flavors are 100% natural. We start with the real essence of the fruit and nothing artificial goes into this of any kind,”​ McDowell said, adding that the watermelon is “by far the best seller.”

Transparent packaging for a transparent product

Tickle Water also sets itself apart from other beverages aimed at children and in the sparkling water set though unique packaging “specifically designed to fit children’s mini hands,”​ McDowell said.

The water comes in 8-ounce BPA-free, PET plastic cans that “give kids the sensation they are drinking soda because they are drinking out of a can,”​ but because the cans are clear “you can see that it is pure sparkling water,”​ McDowell said.

In addition, because the cans are plastic and not glass they can go in children’s lunchboxes and to the playground without parents worrying that they will break, she said.

The cans also are a shrewd business decision on McDowell’s part because she acquired the exclusive rights in the US, so she does not need to worry about me-too products with similar design launching and confusing consumers.

Beyond the plastic can, the packaging features a different animal mascot on each flavor water to help make the beverage more accessible and fun for children, McDowell said, noting that the sparkling water features a Boston terrier, the green apple has a tiger in a top hat, the watermelon has an owl in glasses and the cola a monkey in a bowler hat.

On the horizon

Even though the beverages launched only a few months ago, they already are distributed in 200 stores in the northeast and available online with free shipping to the lower 48 states. McDowell hopes to slowly expand distribution into the mid-Atlantic region and focus on increased penetration and name-brand awareness before expanding further West.

This cautious approach does not apply to flavors, however. McDowell said during the next production run the company will launch a new grape flavor that will taste like unsweetened white grape juice. The can will feature a fox as the mascot to recall Aesop’s cautionary fable about belittling or dismissing that which you cannot achieve. 

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