Recently having secured a distribution partnership with Dr Pepper Snapple Group, bai, a 100 percent natural coffee fruit infusion, has big plans for the upcoming year. A brand that was built a little over two years ago in the up-and-down-the-street channel with the first bottle being sold by Bai Brands’ CEO Ben Weis in Princeton, N.J. where the company is based, the drink has attracted a niche consumer. Weiss says that the brand tripled its sales from 2010 to 2011 and expects to increase 2011 numbers five-fold in 2012.
Tapping into the functionality of the coffee fruit, a super fruit that is loaded with antioxidants, bai has generated a buzz without being backed by any advertising, but solely from the word-of-mouth chatter of those who try and purchase the brand. In addition to the core “black cap” lineup of four flavors like top seller Jamaica Blueberry, the brand offers a low-calorie “red cap” version, bai5, in soon to be eight flavors. The newest flavor is Tanzania Strawberry, Weiss says, adding that the bai5 outsells bai almost three to one. Bai5 has five calories per serving (two servings in each 16.9-ounce bottle).
Now, with new proprietary packaging, a new website, added retail locations and a new VP of sales who formerly worked for Fiji, Weiss believes 2012 is the year for the brand to “explode on the scene.”
Beverage World: How would you describe bai?
BEN WEISS: Bai is an antioxidant infusion. It’s not a juice; it’s not a water; it’s not an enhanced water; it’s an infusion. We feel our responsibility, or at least what we task ourselves with, is the opportunity to make antioxidants fun, relevant and delicious. Bai is powered by the coffee fruit, which is a very exotic and unique delivery of those antioxidants. We are, we feel, creating a new category—what we call the super natural category. We target what we call healthy activists, people who are actively looking for a healthier alternative to what they have been told is healthy today.
BW: When did you know you had a special product on your hands?
WEISS: Almost immediately after it hit the market in Princeton, [N.J.], which was literally me selling it out of my car. I realized the stars were somewhat aligned for this brand—it was interesting, it was relevant and the liquid in the bottle was pretty darn good and people were pretty receptive to it.
BW: From where do you source your coffee fruit?
WEISS: We source all of our coffee fruit from the best place…and that’s Indonesia. Some of the most robust coffee comes from the high mountaintops in that region and that’s where we source all of our coffee fruit.
BW: Where did the name bai come from?
WEISS: Bai means pure and white in mandarin.
BW: This year has already been a busy one for the brand. What’s next?
WEISS: Huge plans for 2012. We’ve got new distributorships in key markets (New York and LA); we feel that we have top-tier distributors working with us as partners; we’ve got the resources both from a sales and a marketing perspective to support their distribution efforts; we are activating chains really for the first time as a brand. Our growth to date has really been up-and-down-the-street and product performance has really been rooted in digging deep in the markets that we are in and letting same-store sales grow. But now it’s about introducing the brand to chains. We’ve got a lot of exciting chain partners on the convenience side and on the grocery side as well. So we feel this is going to be a big, big year for bai.