Talking Rain talks sustainability efforts and 'extremely big expectations' for 2021

By Mary Ellen Shoup contact

- Last updated on GMT

Photo Credit: Talking Rain
Photo Credit: Talking Rain

Related tags: Talking Rain, Sparkling ice, Carbon footprint, Sustainability

Addressing its natural gas use and fleet emissions, Talking Rain (maker of Sparkling ICE) is funding over 28,000 metric tons of carbon reduction offsets through taking on ownership of three land projects in need of environmental clean up. But what significance does that hold for the consumer?

Working in partnership with terrapass​, the three carbon reduction projects Talking Rain has committed to (located in Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Michigan) will address and offset 100% of the company's Scope 1 and 2 emissions (the vast majority of which comes from transportation of its products to retailers nationwide).

Each project, identified by terrapass and selected by Talking Rain is different in scope.

For instance, at the Cambria 33 Abandoned Mine Methane Capture Project in Pennsylvania, Talking Rain will work to "vacuum out"​ and "destroy"​ the methane gas being emitted from the unsealed mine which was deserted in 1994. 

At the South Kent Landfill Gas to Energy Project in Michigan, the goal will be to convert the methane gas released by the landfill into renewable green energy.

'We wanted to select projects that would be easier for us to communicate to consumers'

"Sustainability can mean many different things,"​ Talking Rain EVP of marketing, Sarah Gustat, told FoodNavigator-USA. 

"We wanted to select projects that would be easier for us to communicate to consumers."

Communicating sustainability efforts on large scale to consumers is an ongoing lesson for most companies and Talking Rain has found that its customer base responds well to speaking in equivalencies, noted Gustat. 

"This is a newer endeavor and oftentimes there’s language around that that maybe hasn’t made it into commonplace discussions with consumers yet,"​ she said. 

"Rather than just saying we’re offsetting our full Scope 1 and 2 emissions or 28,000 metric tons of carbon reduction,"​ said Gustat, more successful marketing language has been that the environmental impacts of these projects will amount to "the equivalent of taking 6,000 cars off the road for an entire year, planting 460,000 trees, powering over 3,200 homes with renewable energy for a year, or recycling 1.1 million bags of trash."

These equivalency figures can be found throughout the company's social  communications and marketing plans.

Are consumers prioritizing sustainability?

But with the tumultuous year of 2020, is sustainability -- specifically what major CPG companies are doing in this space -- as much of a priority for consumers?

According to a joint study​ between IBM and the National Retail Federation which polled 3,500 North American consumers, nearly 70% of respondents said that they prefer sustainable brands and that it is important for companies and brands to be eco-friendly. More than half (57%) said they are willing to change their purchasing habits to help reduce negative environmental impact.

"Everything that we’ve heard from our consumer research, and from our customers, is that sustainability is still extremely important. With this pandemic we’ve realized the importance of having a safe world, and sustainability is certainly a part of that,"​ noted Gustat. 

'We see a tremendous amount of opportunity for our +Caffeine line'

Talking Rain's sustainability mission of offsetting its carbon emissions has become particularly important as the company continues to grow and reach more consumers with its expanding portfolio of products, said Gustat.

"We’ve certainly observed major channel shifts away from immediate consumption (i.e. in the c-store channel). Those cases can now be captured in club, mass, and e-comm, and that’s where Sparkling ICE has always been traditionally very strong, and that’s what’s allowed us to continue to see that growth month over month,"​ she said.

Outside of its core line of Sparkling ICe flavored water products, Sparkling ICE +Caffeine (launched in 2018​) has taken off in the past year, according to Gustat. 

"We hit just over $50m in retail sales in the second year (for Sparking Ice +Caffeine alone), so we see a tremendous amount of opportunity for our +Caffeine line. It’s meeting a consumer need,"​ she said. 

SparklingIce_Caffeine+

According to Gustat, the company has not taken its foot of the gas pedal in terms of new product innovation and is continually adding products to its portfolio that fit into high-growth categories.  

In October 2020, Talking Rain introduced an alkaline water line called Rain Essentials Hydration​, which will expand to wider markets in 2021. 

When asked about the most exciting new product innovation to come from Sparkling ICE, Gustat shared that the company is entering the booming hard seltzer category with a completely "home-grown"​ brand named Sparkling ICE Spiked​. 

"We’re expecting to see a lot of growth as we expand into new markets in early 2021, but we have extremely big expectations for this brand and we’re expecting to be in full national distribution by the end of this year,"​ she said.

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