Nov. 14, 2006, marks
“Bawls Guarana Day” in Miami. The proclamation by the
city’s mayor kicks off the celebration of Hobarama LLC’s Bawls
Guarana’s 10 years in the beverage market.
Founder and Chief Executive Officer Hoby Buppert
generated the idea for Bawls Guarana during his senior year of college. He
always has loved caffeine, but was not a coffee drinker. (One of
Buppert’s claims to fame is that he’s never been inside a
Starbucks.) Even though he wasn’t originally from Miami, Buppert
launched Bawls Guarana in that area because of its lack of seasonal weather
fluctuations. In addition, the product’s main ingredient, guarana,
originates from South America, and Buppert figured there would be more
South Americans in Miami who knew what he was trying to sell.
Hobarama has been growing every year since its
founding. About three years ago, the company launched its sugar-free
product Bawls Guaranexx, which was its first line extension. Hobarama also
came out with a frozen product, which it sells at 7-Eleven stores under the
brand name SnoBawls. Then two years ago, the company released a caffeinated
carbonated mint candy, Bawls Mints, that it will rebrand Bawls Buzz and
relaunch in January.
With all the other energy drinks on the market, the
Bawls product line is differentiated by using guarana as its flavor. The
Bawls flavor profile is a citrus-infused cream soda, and offers the same
amount of caffeine as coffee and nearly three times that of traditional
sodas due to the naturally occurring caffeine of the guarana berry, Buppert
Packaging that sells
For most of its existence, Bawls also distinguished
itself by being bottled in glass. “Glass really is the star of our
show,” Buppert says. “Glass is what people recognize the brand
While Buppert feels glass packaging holds temperature
better and offers the look and feel the brand portrays, the company
extended its line this year into an aluminum can.
“It came first with our growing involvement with
paintball,” Buppert explains. “A lot of the venues were having
some issues with the glass, so we worked on a couple versions of the can to
come to the one we finally arrived at this spring.”
The company rolled out the new Bawls can at its
sponsored paintball events, and the response from the customers was
fantastic. “At that point we didn’t even have a UPC code on it
because we didn’t plan on selling it,” Buppert says.
“Then the can made it into the hands of some of our distributors who
were basically begging for it.”
Hobarama test marketed the can this summer with three
distributors in the Midwest, and since August has rolled out the new
packaging to about 70 percent of its distributors.
With packaging considered very important to the Bawls
brand, the company sought Crown Holdings Inc., which was able to print with
textured inks to replicate the feel of the bumps of Bawls glass bottle,
Buppert says. A special foaming ink was spot-applied in small circles all
over the 16-ounce can, creating a unique velvet feel for consumers as they
grip the package.
Because Hobarama recognized Bawls tactile packaging
was something consumers associated with its brand and the fact that it
maintained that equity in its new packaging format, Beverage Industry’s sister
publication Brand Packaging selected the Bawls Guarana 16-ounce can as one of the best new
consumer package goods packages of 2006.
Guarana and games
Buppert attributes Bawls 10 years of success to
creative product development, and to the adoption of non-traditional
marketing tactics. Hobarama has been careful in adopting potential fans,
rather than choosing a mass marketing approach. The company has taken on
sponsorships of niche industries, including video gaming, paintball and
fashion. Bawls sponsors more than 1,000 PC gaming groups, and is the
official energy drink of the National Professional Paintball League,
Olympus Fashion Week and Gen Art Fresh Faces in Fashion.
“We do anywhere from 30 to 40 events every
weekend,” Buppert says. “We look for opportunities where really
no other beverages are involved. It gives us an opportunity from the ground
level to get in and really develop a strong and loyal consumer base.”
Interestingly enough, one of Hobarama’s
strongest retailers is CompUSA, for which the company supplies a custom
12-pack. “It’s been a great relationship for both of us,”
Buppert says. “We draw in the consumers they are looking to get. And
it’s a great billboard for us because we drop a pallet in every store
and there are no other beverages there.”
For the past three years, Bawls has found a following
among paintball players as well. While its paintball sponsorship fits Bawls
target of 18- to 34-year-old males, Bawls Guaranexx, the sugar-free
version, is being marketed at the fashion-related events. “We
don’t want it to become his and her versions,” Buppert
explains. “We’ve actually found a real upswing of our
sugar-free product at paintball events. It’s been about
Bawls can be purchased in every state, but it has a
solid foundation in about 38. “We’re very strong in the Pacific
Northwest, Midwest and Florida,” Buppert says. Next year, the company
plans to focus on growing in New England and California, and upgrading and
increasing distribution in its current markets.
Every year Hobarama has seen significant double-digit
growth, and Buppert predicts the company will continue to see that next
year, with new retailers offering Bawls. For example, the energy drink has
been available in Target Superstores for about six months and will make its
way into the entire chain in the second week of January.
Bawls Guarana’s 16-ounce can was chosen as one
of the best new consumer packaged goods packages of 2006 by Beverage Industry’s sister
publication Brand Packaging, and is featured in Brand Packaging’s Design Gallery book. More information on the book
can be found at brandpackaing.com
Beverage Industry’s October issue features a cover story on our 2019 Executive of the Year, Jim Koch of the Boston Beer Co. This issue also features a category focus on bottled water and the innovations that abound in flavored, functional and sparkling waters. The issue also includes an ingredient spotlight on the beloved chocolate ingredient as well as voice-picking solutions aimed at streamlining beverage warehouses. As usual, we rounded up the latest trends in products, packaging and ingredients.
Check back throughout the month for additional content.