Inspired by less-traditional sports, like skateboarding, snowboarding and the X-Games, as well as the personality of energy drink brands, Roly Nesi, founder and chief executive officer of Huntington, N.Y.-based ROAR Beverages, was dedicated to changing the game in sports drinks in order to speak to a new generation of consumers.
A lineup of coconut water-based isotonic sports drinks boasting B vitamins and electrolytes, ROAR Beverages launched in 2013 and has seen high triple-digit growth quarter after quarter, Nesi says. “When I set out with ROAR, I didn’t want to convert life-long Gatorade and Powerade drinkers, it’s too much of an uphill battle,” he explains. “What I wanted to do was make a product that was young, fun, cool, in-the-moment, and on-trend with street wear and sportswear and sneaker culture, which has become even more viral due to social media.
“… And I wanted to create a product for a young kid — someone who didn’t have brand loyalties yet, somebody who was looking for something that aided in their quest for uniqueness,” he continues. “… At the same time, I wanted it to be healthy. It was a tight rope, you want it to be cool and you want it to be healthy, that’s tough to do, but we’ve done that by doing really loud, out-of-the-box flavors and packaging.”
With nine flavors in the main lineup, ROAR’s top-selling flavors are Iced Out, a blue raspberry flavor; Patriot Punch, a strawberry lemonade flavor; OBJXIII, a strawberry and watermelon flavor that debuted the ROAR Odell Beckham Jr. Signature Series; and Cotton Candy.
“The original inspiration was to recreate and reimagine the titan sports drink-type flavors,” Nesi says. “What we quickly realized was that puts you in a position where you’re going head-to-head on everything, so we decided we wanted to step outside of the box, and that’s when Patriot Punch and Cotton Candy, and all those flavors, started to gather steam.”
Nesi anticipates that Cosmic Grape, which launched in August, will round out the Top 5 flavors. “The Grape, which is brand new, has had such a huge buzz on social media, and the demand for it is crazy. I’m pretty sure Grape will be in the Top 4 or 5 when we do our data in the next quarter,” he says.
Whether it’s the company’s unique persona or its innovative flavors, ROAR sports drinks are catching on. In addition to gaining distribution in high schools in 14 states throughout the country, the sports drinks are available in numerous U.S. retailers, including Costco, Sam’s Club, HEB, Shaw’s, Price Choppers, Reasor’s, King Kullen, 7-Eleven, Key Foods, Randalls, QuickTrip, ShopRite and Fairway locations, as well as online through Amazon.
Additionally, ROAR is available overseas in Costa Rica, Brazil, Ecuador, the Philippines and Australia through a number of partner distributors. But, most recently, the company partnered with the United Kingdom-based C&C Group for exclusive distribution throughout Ireland and the United Kingdom. More than 3,600 stores have been authorized to sell ROAR there, Nesi says. A factory is in place to produce the product in the United Kingdom, and the company has established another headquarters in Dublin, he adds.
“We’re taking it seriously; it isn’t just sending a couple of cases to a distributor,” Nesi explains. “It’s really a full brand effort, and we hope to see quicker success there, because we’ve got an unbelievable partner with a huge footprint and we’ve had our product dialed in lightyears from where it was when we started out in America.”
The brand puts this same dedication into its packaging and promotions. In order to garner attention from its target consumer, ROAR constantly is evolving. “We’re always trying things that are new and fun, and that was the idea with ROAR. The idea was to always have fun [and] to always be cool,” he explains. “… All of our packages are limited edition; we’re always updating and evolving everything. It gets my investors angry at times, how frequently I’ll update packaging, but the way I look at it is attention spans are shorter, staying power is less, so we want to always have something fresh and new that kids can bond with and [that] is always living up to the newest hottest trends.”
Also helping the company reach its consumers, N.Y. Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. partnered with ROAR for a signature line of sports drinks as well as a range of marketing efforts. Beckham embodies the brand and also has immense popularity with its target consumer, Nesi says.
This year, Beckham will play a more prominent role in the brand’s overall marketing as the NFL season continues, Nesi says. “We have some pretty cool concepts for some Internet video commercials,” he says. “It’s all about integrating his involvement in the brand throughout social media, digital, in-store point-of-sale … you’ll be seeing a lot more of that stuff.” BI
ROAR Beverages achieves in-school distribution in 14 states
Between the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Smart Snacks in School standards and the Washington, D.C.-based American Beverage Associations’ School Beverage Guidelines, many beverages have been pulled from schools, leaving open shelf space for innovative, better-for-you products.
When Huntington, N.Y.-based ROAR Beverages launched locally in 2013, the company was bombarded by parents who wanted the product carried in their children’s schools, according to Chief Executive Officer Roly Nesi.
“So we found out the way schools work, at least where we are,” Nesi explains. “There’s a big buying group in Long Island called the Long Island CoOp, and we presented our product to them and they loved it. Overnight we were put into about 40 schools as a test, and the product just started flying off the shelves.
“It was May that year that Michelle Obama created the Smart Snacks for a Healthier Generation that changed nutritional guidelines for products sold in schools,” he continues. “… We were given a heads up on this by Cisco and U.S. Foods. They basically said, ‘Everything’s going to be changing. We’re going to be needing a sports drink for schools, do you guys think you could reformulate a product that meets these new requirements and can you get it done in the next eight weeks?’ and I said ‘Yes,’ because I always say yes.”
Thus, ROAR Light was created. The varietal meets all of the Smart Snacks in School standards for high schools and currently is available in high schools in 14 states throughout the country, Nesi says.
“We’re in a competitor-free zone for eight hours with our target consumer, and making money off of that is just the icing on the cake,” he says. “It’s really about brand awareness and getting the brand in front of the kids.”
This year, the company introduced an Odell Beckham Jr., signature flavor in schools in the North East, which is just one part of its continued efforts within schools. “Each year, we grow our school footprint 30 to 40 percent,” Nesi says. “It’s a worth-while mission, so we pursue it.”