Before, the sports drink startup led with its USDA organic positioning and trusted consumers would pick up the bottle to read its 7-ingredients statement (filtered water, organic cane sugar, organic apple juice concentrate, organic lemon juice, natural flavors, fruit/vegetable juices for color, and sea salt for its lemon and fruit punch flavors).
"We tried to allow the package to work a little harder for us from the store shelf," Hardgrove-Koleno told FoodNavigator-USA. "Before, our ingredients were on the back where you’d always find them, but now we put in large print so that people don’t have to work hard to realize that this is a clean sports drink."
The new packaging defines the KRā acronym ("keep rising above') on the neck of the PET bottle because "people kept asking us what does KRā mean?"
The new bottle also feature a bolded list of its four key ingredients: water, organic fruit juice, organic cane sugar, and sea salt, along with updated brand messaging on the front of pack.
"We kind of think of ourselves as the RXBAR of sports drinks. We hope that [the new packaging] helps us drive sales and increase velocities right from the shelf," Hardgrove-Koleno said.
'This is a California drink'
KRā has been focused expanding on its home Chicago market and Washington D.C. gaining distribution at Kroger-owned Mariano's stores and select Whole Foods stores in the Mid Atlantic region. Last month, the brand entered Safeway stores in Northern California, a market the company has been working towards entering since launching a few years ago.
"This is us dipping our toe in the California market, because we do think that’s going to be key to our growth in the future," Hardgrove-Koleno said. "We’ve had our eye on California since day one, because really, this is a California drink -- It’s organic, it's clean, it’s for athletes and active people."
The target consumer
Since launching in 2016, KRā's target market has been the young athlete. There are currently 8 million students participating in high school athletics in the US, a number that has increased for 29 years in a row, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS).
"Our bulls-eye target is the young athlete: the 13- to 18-year-old who's playing sports," Hardrove-Koleno said.
Hardgrove-Koleno added that a key part of entering more doors has been its partnership with Alliance Sales & Marketing, a brokerage firm that's worked with many better-for-you brands including Health-Ade Kombucha, siggi's, and Sweet Earth.
"When you’re doing everything else it’s hard to get into every door. With alliance we have the same focus we’ve had, we’re going to grow in our own backyard, but it’s calculated and strategic," she said. "What they’re able to do is get the meetings with retailers that we may not have been able to get just by picking up the phone or sending an email."
Having a broker on board has also helped the company focus on other brand initiatives including 'KRā for Play' (a giveback program that provides resources and funding for disadvantaged youth sports programs).
"KRā for play is the most satisfying and rewarding part of this. It was something that we considered from day one when we created this sports drink company," Hardgrove-Koleno said.
The brand has also upped its social media strategy, launching its #junkfreeme social media campaign that encourages its followers to post photos of how they're purging the 'junk' in their lives for a chance to win cases of KRā and autographed items from the startup's professional athlete non-endorsed supporters including: Meyers Leonard, Ender Inciarte, Glenn Robinson, III and Charles 'Peanut' Tillman, and others.
"The reality is we’re a startup and we can’t pay people for endorsements. Every one of our athletes that are interested in the product it’s because they genuinely like the product," Hardgrove-Koleno added.