The group of drinks that have vitamins stored in their caps, ready for release upon consumption, is a relatively small category, often referred to as having dosing cap technology or called drink-to-mix beverages. Though some brands have been on the market for four-plus years in the United States, these drinks offer a somewhat new packaging technology and product positioning that rivals the popular vitamin-enhanced segment of the industry.
Benjamin Punchard, senior global packaging analyst for Mintel Group Ltd., says that while these drinks come in different formats—vitamins in caps, pouches or tablets—the positioning is the same. “By providing packaging that visibly offers an additional level of protection, you are communicating to the consumer that either the vitamins that you are providing require that and therefore they must be better than the competitors, or the general efficacy is going to be better. In terms of communicating that aspect to consumers I think it’s quite a good strategy.”
However, educating consumers about the fledgling category is a big—and expensive—part of the battle, suppliers say.
Reza Mirza, president of Activate Drinks, is one of those suppliers who realizes the battle ahead in educating retailers and consumers about its product line. The Newport Beach, Calif.-based company offers 10 SKUs of its Activate bottle line, featuring a proprietary cap that stores and then releases vitamins A, B and C into the water below and is designed to offer a potent dose of vitamins in each bottle. Company officials say the product is naturally sweetened with Stevia, has no sugar or calories and no preservatives.
“We know we have a lot of work to do teaching people about our product and how our cap works in terms of dispensing the vitamins,” says Mirza. “Our cap is not intuitive. We realize that we must spend a lot of our marketing dollars to educate consumers on how it works and how it will benefit them. We also have to teach them about the efficacy issue. We have to tell them what the product will do for them and still show them that it tastes great. ”
CJ Rapp, CEO of Karma Culture, makers of Karma Wellness Water, agrees that education is key to the future success of his product. The Pittsford, N.Y.-based company estimates, based on qualitative research, that less than 1 percent of the public know about these kinds of drinks. “The how-to-use aspect of mix-to-drink beverages is very much in its infancy,” he says, “and there is a tremendous amount of education that is needed. I think that challenge will continue for another 12 to 18 months.”
That leaves Rapp optimistic that there is a great opportunity to grow the category. Karma Wellness Water, introduced last year, has grown its distribution from only being available in Rochester, N.Y. to now being sold in more than 21 states. Karma’s cap technology involves pull, push and shake rather than a twist. Pull off the tamper evident seal on the top of the cap, push down with a thumb or index finger to see what he refers to as the “wellness plume” (the colored powder get released into the water), and shake to mix it all together. Rapp calls the cap, “intuitive and user friendly.”
Karma Wellness Water, which is spring water, offers seven vitamins in its cap for each of the five flavors including vitamins A, B3, B5, B6, B12, D, E, in addition to other natural ingredients. Its Balance drink also contains 1,000 mg of vitamin C for an immunity boost.
“We have gotten to the stage where consumers realize that their diet is unhealthy,” notes Punchard, “but rather than eating fresh fruits and vegetables they are looking to branded products to give them some kind of boost and provide them with some kind of health angle, so [dosing caps] fit into that trend as well.”
Punchard says that while many consumers are still learning about this niche category—for example, in Europe consumers are just getting introduced to the technology—34 percent of consumers interviewed by Mintel for a bottled water survey said they might be interested in this type of product. “That is quite high for something that is not yet established in the market and is quite a novel idea really in terms of concentration in this market,” he says.
Early last year, VBlast introduced a new dosing cap, a two-piece, 28 mm cap that replaced a more complex sports cap, which dispenses a liquid vitamin blend into mountain spring water. The 6 ml reservoir is emptied with a counter-clockwise twist of the cap, explains Luke Zakka, vice president of operations for New York Spring Water, Inc. producer of VBlast.
Zakka explains why he feels a liquid vitamin blend is better than a powder blend: “It mixes much more easily, there is a more interesting experience, and…the taste itself is a lot smoother and also it mixes a lot easier—you don’t need to shake the bottle, it mixes pretty instantaneously and there is no texture associated with it.”
In October, the brand, which originally focused on offering a core multivitamin blend (vitamin A, D, E and a B complex), introduced a new product on the East Coast, VBlast Gator Pit Energy Formula that is sugar free and taurine free. Initially available in Lemon Lime, a tropical Mango Guanabana flavor is set to launch next.
VBlast, sweetened with sucralose, is available nationwide and is sold at a competitive price, notes Zakka—$1.39 to $1.79. With new products in the pipeline, he is looking forward to the year ahead.
“I think that this year is going to be an extremely defining time in the market for this idea, because you had a development period to incubate these ideas,” he says. “Like with any technology, all of the people who are participating in the market have had a chance to figure out what they believe consumers are looking for and how the technology works from a customer experience standpoint. So, everyone is positioned now and the distribution is there.”
To reach his target consumer, Mirza says that Activate Drinks is using the Internet as well as retail sampling. Activate is placing a big emphasis on its packaging, hoping that it will stand out in a crowd on retail shelves.
“This is all about bringing innovation to the retail shelves and offering consumers the products they want and need,” he adds. “We must offer healthy options to consumers because that is what they are looking for. At the same time, it will help retailers build sales and profits from the beverage set. Its a win-win for everyone.”
Additional reporting done by Seth Mendelson.