In the beverage market, one can see the recent success within the sparkling/mineral bottled water market. According to data from Chicago-based Information Resources Inc. (IRI), the segment was up 16.2 percent totaling more than $1.4 billion for the 52 weeks ending July 12 in U.S. multi-outlets, including supermarkets, drug stores, gas and convenience stores, mass merchandisers, military commissaries, select club and dollar retail chains.
V. Scott Vanis, Minerco Resources Inc.’s chairman and chief executive officer, is no stranger to this performance. “To very simply state it, I would say the sparkling water market is one of the hottest markets in the country, if not the world,” he says.
The Houston-based company is adding to the market’s growth through VitaminFIZZ, a brand of its subsidiary Athena Brands. Originally conceptualized in 2011, the brand’s original founders instead focused their efforts on the energy shot market and stepped away from the project, Vanis explains. However, VitaminFIZZ re-emerged in the market last year hoping to stand out from its enhanced sparkling water competitors.
“[VitaminFIZZ] has 100 percent of your daily B and C vitamins while still being zero calories,” Vanis says. “But quite honestly, the real standout — and what we’ve found our success has been based upon — is the taste.”
Like some other sparkling waters in the market, VitaminFIZZ uses sucralose as part of its sweetening system. But it also has included the sugar alcohol erythritol in its formulation process. “The sugar alcohol is something that sets us apart from some of the others, and really, in my belief, is what makes our [product] taste so much better than all the rest,” Vanis says.
This differentiator is a key component of VitaminFIZZ’s marketing structure. To get consumers engaged with the brand, field sales managers conduct retail promotion programs where shoppers can try samples of its six flavors: Mango Orange, Strawberry Watermelon, Lemon Lime, Black Raspberry, Strawberry Lemonade and Coconut Pineapple.
“[W]e firmly believe that if someone tastes our product that they will buy it,” Vanis says.
Although the company also has explored traditional advertising and marketing, in-store sampling has produced a strong return on investment. “For us, the efficient spending of marketing dollars is product promotion or product demonstration and sampling in stores,” he says. “That’s really what we focus on for our marketing. As we continue to grow and expand into more markets, I’m sure that will change.”
Another source of pride for the brand is that it uses non-GMO ingredients. “All the consumer data these days show how important [the] accountability [is] in terms of the ingredients that we put into our products. Non-GMOs is just one of the many assurances that people are looking for,” he adds.
With a presence in New York and its entrance in the London market in July, VitaminFIZZ is building out its partnerships with distributors and retailers. However, in Southern California, the brand has the benefit that Minerco’s subsidiary Avanzar Sales & Distribution LLC handles the distribution.
“For the most part we use what we would call a hybrid [direct-store-delivery] (DSD),” Vanis says.
This model allows Athena and Avanzar to coordinate what the retailer wants through its sales and store service departments, he adds.
Although Avanzar handles the brand’s Southern California distribution, Minerco also maintains strong partnerships with its other distributors. Edison, N.J.-based Drink King Distributing handles its New York distribution and has a working relationship with its principal owner, Peter Strahm.
“Drink King is one of the fastest growing distributers in the Northeast, and we are very fortunate to have Drink King on board as we look to dominate the New York marketplace,” Vanis said in a statement in August 2014. “They are passionate about working with emerging brands, especially VitaminFIZZ, and there is no distribution partner better suited to help deliver value to our shareholders and refreshment to our customers. Strahm, [Sal] Salvato, and the entire Drink King team are invaluable additions to our team.”
Across the pond, the brand is distributed through JD’s Food Group, which also distributes Coca Cola, Arizona tea, Naked Juice, Ocean Spray, and many other top beverage brands.
“With its delicious flavor profile and modern packaging, VitaminFIZZ is gaining tremendous traction in local London locations,” said JD’s Food Group Director Tom Demetriou in a statement earlier this year. “Based on initial feedback from London-based buyers, we are confident that VitaminFIZZ will be a success in the London market, including the major chain placement.”
Beyond expanding its market presence, Vanis notes that the company also will consider product expansion. “We definitely will be adding more flavors within probably the next six months or so; before next summer,” he says. “As far as the evolution of the actual product itself, … we’re thinking about adding some more ingredients that will differentiate it from other products in the category.”