Preston, Wash.-based TalkingRain Beverage Co. recently placed a focus on its Sparkling Ice enhanced water brand, which in turn has experienced a national surge. Sparkling Ice reported $43 million in sales for the 52 weeks ending March 18, 2012, in supermarkets, drug stores, gas and convenience stores, and mass merchandise retailers, excluding Walmart, club and liquor stores, according to Chicago-based market research firm SymphonyIRI Group. The sales represent a 1,979 percent change in dollar sales of Sparkling Ice compared to the previous year in SymphonyIRI’s measured channels, and a 2,103 percent increase in unit sales compared to the 52 weeks ending March 18, 2011.

The brand ranks as the fifth best-selling sparkling or mineral water with a market share of 8.6 percent of the category, which is led by private label brands at 21.6 percent market share, according to SymphonyIRI data. Sparkling Ice is available in eight flavors that are made with spring water, fruit juice, vitamins and antioxidants. Each is carbonated and sweetened with Splenda resulting in a no-calorie, carbohydrate or sodium beverage, the company says.

Sparkling Ice has been available since 1992 and was popular in the company’s home market in the Northwest, but TalkingRain noticed consumer trends that primed the product for expansion, says Kevin Klock, president of TalkingRain Beverage Co. “Recently, there has been a shift in the market — consumers are seeking out what Sparkling Ice is already offering: a refreshing, flavorful alternative to carbonated soft drinks,” he notes.

TalkingRain also offers company-branded spring water, sparkling spring water, Twist Essence Water and AirWater, an oxygen-enhanced water, but the company elected to emphasize one brand for national expansion.

“A recent change in management brought with it a fresh take on our brand focus,” Klock says. “At TalkingRain, we changed our philosophy regarding which product to consistently focus on and developed a new go-to-market strategy. Sparkling Ice became our focus.”

The company also refreshed Sparkling Ice’s packaging for a more modern look that highlights the natural fruit flavors used in each of its varieties. Sparkling Ice’s lineup includes the following flavors: Orange Mango, Black Raspberry, Pink Grapefruit, Lemon Lime, Kiwi Strawberry, Pomegranate Berry, Coconut Pineapple and Lemonade.

Feeding market demand

Announced earlier this year, Coconut Pineapple and Lemonade varieties were the most recent additions to the Sparkling Ice line. The newest flavors include B vitamins, vitamin D as well as green tea extract. The choice to expand the portfolio was based on consumer preferences, Klock says.

“We look at market trends, for example, the explosion of coconut products on the market,” he explains. “And we time our product launches in terms of seasons. Coconut Pineapple and Lemonade launched in time for summer, and we positioned these new flavors as refreshing, must-have drinks for the hot summer days.”

Klock says Sparkling Ice’s flavors perform well individually with each one not far behind any one variety. Yet, he notes that Black Raspberry and Orange Mango generally rank as the top sellers. Its portfolio also has broad consumer appeal, Klock explains.

“We say our target market is [ages] 7 to 70 because we’re hard-pressed to find a demographic that does not enjoy Sparkling Ice,” he says.

To grow the brand, TalkingRain remains focused on Sparkling Ice’s core message: refreshment, Klock says. In order to expand availability, TalkingRain worked with existing distribution partners to build relationships and distribution channels for Sparkling Ice, he says. Sparkling Ice has seen success across all retail channels, but grocery, mass merchandise and club outlets have been the main growth drivers, he adds.

In addition to emphasizing Sparkling Ice’s refreshment with point-of-sale merchandise, the company organizes price-oriented promotions to encourage consumer trial and purchase. TalkingRain also organizes sampling events across the country to introduce consumers to the brand.

“We’re involved with activities and events throughout the nation, from walks and runs aimed at people with an active lifestyle to community outreach events and more,” Klock explains. “We’ve received such positive response from our partners and have generated new fans for the brand. This summer, as the months start to heat up and people look for refreshing drinks, we’re excited to continue to appeal to the demand through our sampling efforts.”

 With a mission to make Sparkling Ice available wherever U.S. consumers demand the brand, TalkingRain announced a partnership in February with Mountain Valley Spring Co., Hot Springs, Ark. Mountain Valley Spring Co. will bottle certain TalkingRain-branded bottled waters and is in the process of enhancing its production capacity and upgrading one of its five bottling lines to permit the addition of flavors and carbonation to its natural spring water. BI