“We're seeing an explosion across categories in botanicals, maybe it's the essential oil revolution, maybe it's just we're getting more and more familiar with craft and unique brands. Or frankly, in our case, we needed to differentiate in our craft sparkling water. It's not enough just to make a better citric-acid free sparkling water that's just grapefruit flavor," he said, adding consumers now want cocktail-inspired blends such as grapefruit and elderflower.
Breaking into the sparkling water category with botanical flavors
Launched in 2019, Aura Bora is growing its brand around the increased demand for premium sparkling waters at a time when the space is increasing in the grocery store and competition is fierce. The global sparkling water market was valued at $28.72bn in 2022 and is expected to grow by 11.2% CAGR between 2023-2029, according to Precision Business Insights.
“Sparkling water is obviously famously a very competitive category; beverage is competitive. But I would say sparkling water even more, and you're not just competing against big national brands and big conglomerates; you're also competing against European imports in Perrier and San Pellegrino. You're competing against private label, depending on the store you're selling it to. And any fast-growing category will have more and more competitors.”
To distinguish itself from the competition, Aura Bora has been built its brand around botanical flavors and focused on providing a premium drinking experience, Voge said. Part of the premium-drinking experience are ingredients that might be more common in fine dining and bringing them into the sparkling water category, he said.
For example, he said, "can we take high-end ingredients you might be familiar with from your last excellent restaurant experience, or maybe you're familiar with it in beauty or personal care, and can we give it a sparkling water flavor?"
Growing beyond the natural channel with the help of multi-packs
As the demand for sparkling water has increased, Aura Bora has moved beyond the natural channel and offers more multi-packs, Voge said. “Today, we're pretty evenly split between natural and conventional, and we were primarily a single-serve business for each of the first three years of our existence, ... [but] today more and more, we're selling our newest product, which is a multipack,” he said.
Like other sparkling water brands, Aura Bora is now selling a six-pack of its top flavors at Publix, Wegman’s, and other retailers, Voge said. And while the company will continue to support its single-serve business, multi-packs provide a way to build brand loyalty and get households familiar with the product, he explained.
“The goal of the business in the future is to make that our marquee product. Can we sell our multipack not just in natural or conventional but both?" he said. "And we'll still have single-serve available for customers that are grabbing a bite of lunch and want a cold beverage in a cold box. But we want to be a premium sparkling water the same way that Topo Chico and Spindrift are, which is mostly a multipack business.”
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Building an innovation pipeline with monthly LTOs, preparing for growth
In addition to its main portfolio, Aura Bora also releases limited time offerings (LTO) monthly through its website, including Mango Chili and Blueberry Wildflower, Voge said. This provides a pipeline for flavor innovation and helps the brand understand what consumers want and provides them with a way to connect with their diehard fans, he added.
“We test out 12 things, and our consumers will pick their two or three favorites, and those two or three will then sell into distributors into retail on the store shelves. The other piece is some of those nine and 10, even when we release them, we know they're never going to retail. I'll give an example of guava eucalyptus was a flavor three months ago... The percentage of Americans that can imagine either one of those ingredients is very, very small.”