“A lot of [consumers] really are concerned about not having enough energy to get them through the day, which is why coffee is so big, that is why energy drinks are so big and energy shots are so big. But what we really heard loud and clear from consumers is that two-thirds of them were really concerned about all the nasty ingredients that are found in a lot of energy drinks that are on the shelves today,” Chris Cuvelier, founder and CEO of Zola, told FoodNavigator-USA.
To help consumers out from this rock and hard place, he said the brand created a line of drinks “that start with a base of sparkling coconut water that delivers hydration, and then infuse it with only plant-based ingredients such as organic green tea extract and green coffee extract.”
The “clean” ingredients in Zola’s new line of Organic Hydrating Energy Drinks allows the company to “plus-up not just energy” but to offer “healthy energy,” Cuvelier said.
He explained that for years consumers tolerated unfamiliar ingredients in energy drinks in exchange for fuel to keep going, but in the past two years “there has been a shift” where consumers are less willing to compromise on their health, and are looking for foods and beverages that support their long term wellness as well as their immediate needs. This has opened the door for energy drink “brands in the healthy space that have cleaner ingredient decks than the big energy brands to start to get traction in the natural foods market,” he said.
And now, he adds, the healthy energy category is ready to make the leap from natural to conventional, with which Cuvelier says Zola’s new line can help.
“The natural and healthy energy space is growing very rapidly in natural and has some penetration in the conventional channel currently, but it is growing very, very quickly and we think with the timing of our launch we can go into natural and conventional simultaneously” and become a key player in both, he said.
He added that the new line’s organic certification and use of plant-based ingredients also positions the product well to help expand the overall energy drink category with consumer research conducted by the company finding 50% of non-energy drinkers reporting that would be interested in trying Zola’s new Organic Hydrating Energy Drinks based on these attributes.
Hydration adds an extra functional benefit
Another way that Zola’s new product can help expand the energy drink category is by offering more than just energy by also offering hydration, which can help maintain longer-term health goals.
Cuvelier explains that the line’s slightly effervescent coconut water base is packed with potassium, which allows the company “to deliver an extra benefit of hydration … and a point of differentiation on the shelf” that ultimately can help grow the category.
The inspiration to combine hydration and energy came in part from the success of the brand’s existing espresso coconut water, which “is one of the most liked items and products in our entire set” because it not only is it thirst quenching but also naturally energizing, said Pete Brennan, Zola’s chief growth officer.
He added the slight effervescence of the new line also delivers on this promise of hydrating energy while at the same time “delighting the consumer” in a way that will keep them coming back.
Forget medicinal, Zola embraces on-trend natural flavors
Finally, Zola’s new line sets itself apart from the competition in a way that can expand the energy category by coming in natural flavors that consumers don’t simply tolerate – but actually like, the executives said.
With flavors such as Acai Berry, Matcha Green Tea, Pineapple Coconut and Dragon Fruit, “we are running counter to a lot of what is out there in the energy drink space, in terms of the overly medicinal flavors,” Brennan said.
In addition, the flavors are “unique and on-trend,” Cuvelier said, pointing to the rising popularity of acai, matcha and dragon fruit on social media platforms, such as Instagram, where many recipes are shared.
While pineapple-coconut is not as new and sexy as some of the other flavors, it can be a good introductory flavor for consumers who are looking for something a little more familiar, Cuvelier said. Plus, he added, it matches well with the company’s coconut roots.
To support the launch in late July, Zola also launched a “Live Zola/Be ____” campaign that the company says “focuses on fueling those who live what we call the ‘slash life,’” or the “daily hustle to purse passion/profession/play.”
To illustrate how Zola helps support the slash life, the company will partner with Startup Grind, TECHmunch and IVY: The Social University to identify entrepreneurs and athletes who are living examples of the multifaceted and multitasking life, the company says.