Kids Drinks Grow Up

As kids get older, looking and appearing “cool” quickly becomes a top priority and even the drink they carry around can take on increasing significance.

Beverage marketers have picked up on this and have begun to more specifically target “tweens” and teens with their drinks.

For example, Honest Tea, which has had strong success with its Honest Kids line for the younger set, this month is rolling out Honest Splash. The formulation is the same as the Honest Kids’ brand, but the optics for Splash communicate a more grownup image. The drink replaces the drink pouch that Honest Kids uses, with a 12 ounce PET bottle, perfect for chugging after soccer.

“It’s really about packaging format,” explains Seth Goldman, Honest Tea’s CEO. “As you might expect, pouch drinks work especially well in lunch boxes and probably up through middle school, which is the crossover point, and after middle school and by the time you get to high school they don’t want to be carrying a product that says kids on it.”

The Splash package is ABA compliant for schools so Goldman hopes to have it available on campus in vending machines. “Here’s the irony,” he says. “We had this lower calorie line that’s what our brand is about and we’ve never been able to sell our product in school systems. First we didn’t have access to the distribution channel, and we didn’t have a package that met the ABA standards, now we’ve got both.”

Another brand, WAT-AAH!, offers a line of functional waters aimed just at kids. Formulations include no sugar, calories or coloring, and a number of varieties including Body—pure spring water; ph+—naturally alkaline spring water; Energy—ultra pure water +oxygen; Power—water +magnesium and Brain—water +electrolytes. The brand’s founder, Rose Cameron, is a parent who was unable to find healthier options for her own children and decided to found the brand in 2008. Since then it has grown from five employees to 30. Helping WAT-AAH!’s success are cool-looking 16.9 ounce PET bottles with the fun, colorful image of a kid shouting “Drink WAT-AAH!” The brand is currently distributed nationwide.

And the increasing focus on healthful drinks is resulting in some adult-targeted drinks starting to eye the kids category as well. For example, Hint Water’s creator Kara Goldin explains, “With the obesity epidemic, parents are trying harder than ever to give their kids healthy foods and beverages.  We have found that both parents and kids love our packaging, and that we do not need to have different packaging for kids,” she says.

Similarly, Janie Hoffman, CEO of the brand Mamma Chia, says kids take naturally to her brand without her having to repackage it in any special way. Helping in this case are the drink’s unique chia seeds, which float in the liquid. “We find that kids really do get the magic of how fun it is to drink. It’s almost like drinking liquid jello,” she says.

This enhanced focus on healthful offerings is even starting to filter down to some of the more traditional categories, such as chocolate milk. Dean Foods, for example, has introduced a reformulation of its popular brand of chocolate milk, TruMoo. The new product, which hit shelves in January, contains 35 percent less total sugar than the leading chocolate milk competitor, and has 40 percent less sugar than its previous formula. “Moms told us they weren’t really sure how to feel about the chocolate milk category,” says Greg Schwarz, the brand’s marketing director, specifically referring to the sugar content of traditional chocolate milk. “So really what this brand is about is creating a win-win between mom and her child; her child wanting a sweet treat and mom wanting something that’s nutritious.”

And another brand, Aqua Ball, replaces high fructose corn syrup with stevia sweetener and also includes vitamins B6, B12, B3 and vitamin C, all in a round plastic ball with licensed Disney and Marvel characters adorning the label. The brand is owned by the Irvine, Calif.-based True Drinks, Inc.

Eduardo Nigro, SVP Marketing, Buddy Fruits, a line of 100 percent blended fruit beverages and smoothies packaged mostly in pouches, says especially appealing to the kids’ demographic are the smoothness of its fruit blend and the brand’s unique combinations of flavors. “The 3.2 ounce pouches’ blended fruits are ideal for kids because the flavor profile is sweeter and is a little bit more about the comfort of a strawberry, or a banana, apple and mango flavor,” he says.

But some kids drinks marketers say the current attention to healthful formulations and reduced amounts of sugar can be tricky. For example, Justin Yarro, president of Zimbi, which markets a spaceship-shaped kids’ drink, says he walks the fine line between a healthful formulation and still making the product appealing to kids. “You could end up really hurting your business by not following the market and instead following what people say they want,” he says, explaining that the market data still testify to the fact that sugary drinks still result in sweet sales as well. “It’s a very delicate line to find the right balance of health and value and what kids are willing to drink all the time. The pull numbers have to be there so kids have to love what they’re drinking.”

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