Kaylee’s Culture builds test market for kids bubbly probiotic water: ‘It’s not another juicebox’

By Mary Ellen Shoup

- Last updated on GMT

Photo: Kaylee's Culture
Photo: Kaylee's Culture

Related tags Food for kids Probiotics Sparkling water

The market for functional yet fun drinks that parents feel good about giving their kids – and that kids want to drink – is narrow, and a pain point for many parents combing store shelves looking for something other than a juice, water, or milk product, says Kaylee McLaughlin, founder of Kaylee’s Culture, a bubbly probiotic water brand for kids.

McLaughlin was frustrated by the lack of healthy, functional beverage options specifically designed for kids, and wondered why this market hadn’t caught up with the plethora of healthy beverages available to adults.

“Children's beverages, even those marketed as healthy, tend to be loaded with sugar, dye, and artificial additives. I wouldn't drink any of those beverages, and I wouldn't want my children to either,”​ said McLaughlin, who set out to create a beverage that was nutritionally on par with the adult beverage options out there.

As a personal proponent of fermented foods (her kids are no stranger to sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles, and kombucha cut with water or juice, she said) McLaughlin targeted the underdeveloped kids gut health market as her entry point to starting a beverage brand with probiotics.

“The most important thing to me was hydration and probiotics,” ​McLaughlin told FoodNavigator-USA.

Kaylee’s Culture​ also sweetens its products with monkfruit to create a taste that would appeal to kids.

Noting that it would have been a challenge to market a kombucha for kids -- as many non-alcoholic kombuchas still contain low levels of alcohol (but must contain less than 0.5% abv), McLaughlin found the best way to incorporate probiotics was in shelf-stable form through the use of a patented encapsulated probiotic strain B. subtilis​​ DE111 from Deerland Probiotics and Enzymes.

“It’s encapsulated so it doesn’t activate until it’s in the right environment, which is in your gut,”​ said McLaughlin, who says the probiotic strain serves as a more reliable way for parents to know that their kids are actually consuming the 5 billion CFU (colony forming units) count from in the products.

The specific health benefits associated with B. subtilis​​ DE111 are that it may improve occasional constipation and/or diarrhea in healthy individuals, according to a 50-person study by Deerland Probiotics & Enzymes reported on our sister site​, NutraIngredients-USA.

Branding strategy: ‘I think it’s ok to dumb it down’

Working with a college friend who's also a creative designer at Mattel, McLaughlin wanted to strike the balance between appealing to adults with clear nutritional information displayed prominently on front of pack, and kids with colorful and bold packaging.

"I wanted to stay really simple with the packaging, and I wanted something a kid would look at and also an adult would look at,”​ she said. "And I think we achieved that."


Market testing phase

The retail availability of Kaylee’s Culture products is small with distribution in ten Los Angeles-area stores, said McLaughlin, who sees the addressable market reaching far beyond the West Coast.

The company ships nationwide and is gaining feedback and insights from its growing consumer base, but the brand has barely pushed the gas pedal on marketing and raising brand awareness, noted McLaughlin.

I don’t think anybody really knows about my product yet, because there hasn’t been any marketing for it,”​ said McLaughlin who is proud of the 100% authentic and organic growth the brand has seen so far.

According to McLaughlin, the brand has big plans in 2021 to expand its market reach and introduce still probiotic water options (aimed at younger kids who she found aren’t huge fans of carbonation) and options for adults as well.

2020 trailblazers gallery

Kaylee’s Culture was one of the runners up in our annual Trailblazers Challenge as part of our FOOD FOR KIDS​ virtual series.

Check out the other entrepreneurs to watch in the kids food and beverage space in this GALLERY​.

Interested in learning more about the kids beverage category?

Tune in to the FOOD FOR KIDS Beverage Trends Webinar taking place TOMORROW at 12 p.m. CST.

Register – for free – today!


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