It is officially “summer summer summertime, time to sit back and unwind.” Through its diverse portfolio of refreshing Calypso lemonades, limeades and teas, King Juice Company Inc. is helping consumers unwind as its Calypso Lemonade portfolio brings the “Taste of the Islands” to consumers’ homes.  It all starts with a differentiated brand and great tasting products.

“Calypso is the originator of the flavored lemonade category and our products are truly unique and delicious — they really are a ‘mini-vacation in a bottle,’” says David Klavsons, chief executive officer of King Juice Company Inc.

Although the juice and juice drinks market has lacked a high growth catalyst in recent years, the lemonade segment has shown to be a success story, driven in large part by the performance of Calypso, Klavsons notes.

“[L]emonade is a bright spot within the juice category, growing substantially faster (6.3 percent vs. 1.4 percent: 52 week MULO+C IRI data ending May 17),” he says. “I believe lemonade represents a flavor profile that has a wide appeal and that is [a] key reason it outperforms. We are elevating and redefining lemonade through our brand and unique products. Like all categories, I think there is always an opportunity to drive growth with products and innovations that connect with consumers and meet their needs.”

Although the performance of the lemonade market is noteworthy, the Calypso brand surpasses even that as it recorded more than 33 percent sales growth in 2019. Klavsons credits a powerful brand that resonates with consumers and the company’s assembling of a strong leadership team with members supplying diverse experience throughout the consumer packaged goods industry. That helped the brand roll out initiatives that lead to that double-digit growth.

“Commercially, we refreshed our visual identity with a cleaner look that enhances appetite appeal and really brings out that ‘Taste of the Islands’ feel,” he says. “We also invested in marketing, particularly paid social on Instagram, which works well for a visual brand like ours. Finally, we built-out our sales capability to drive distribution and retailer activation.”

Klavsons adds that the company foresees this momentum continuing throughout 2020 and beyond, particularly because it was able to secure three months of inventory for key ingredients and packaging in February, before the coronavirus pandemic disrupted various supply chains.

“We did see a slowdown in suburban convenience stores in March and April, which was offset to a large degree by food and mass customers,” he says. “In May, we saw a notable uptick in performance and June has been very strong for us. Right now, we are seeing that ‘v-shaped’ recovery not only in our U.S. business but in our international markets as well. 

“All told, we don’t see a major impact to our growth plans; in fact, we anticipate Calypso being plus-40 percent in the first half of 2020, which has a lot to do with proactive planning by our operations team, strong commercial plans, and [a] great brand that deliver an affordable and differentiated experience to our consumers,” he continues.

The lighter side of lemonade

To support 2019’s growth into 2020, the Calypso brand is investing in marketing efforts and sales initiatives to drive distribution and performance. However, that’s not the only way the brand is hoping to add to its sales growth. Enter the zero sugar innovation: Calypso Lights.

“Another major growth driver for us in 2020 is the launch of Calypso Lights, which we believe represent a taste and flavor breakthrough for a zero sugar, 5 calorie lemonade,” Klavsons says. “This is an underserved segment of the category and Calypso Lights deliver on both the taste expectations and better-for-you benefits consumers are looking for.”

Noting Calypso’s passionate consumer base, Klavsons highlights that the brand listened to their fans’ input through its digital and social platforms to create the Light line.

“While our core line of lemonades is seeing rapid growth, it was clear that an underserved need in the category was a great tasting, low calorie offering,” he says. “That led to the development of Calypso Lights, which launched earlier this year. We took our time to make sure that the product delivered on the taste that people have come to expect with the Calypso brand. We believe the Lights will bring an incremental set of consumers to the brand. While early, we are pleased with the response we are getting from consumers and customers on Lights.”

Featuring zero sugar and 5 calories in each bottle, Calypso Lights are available in Original, Ocean Blue, Strawberry and Southern Peach. “Given that these are the most popular flavors in our core Calypso portfolio, we felt they made sense as the lead entries for Lights,” Klavsons says.

Although the company saw the potential for the light lemonade market, Klavsons adds that the team didn’t want to develop a product that didn’t convey the same flavor experience as its full-calorie lines.

“As a leadership team, we committed to launching Lights only if they delivered on the taste expectations people have for the brand and also tapped into an incremental consumer set,” Klavsons says. “We did our research with a quantitative concept-product test and 94 percent of respondents said the Lights tasted as-good-as or better than regular lemonade. Lights also got a 93 percent purchase interest score, which is very strong.”

Through Calypso Lights, Klavsons prognosticates that the brand will be able to appeal to new consumers, “those in favor of better-for-you alternatives,” helping to drive incremental growth for the brand as well as its retailer partners.

“Our goal with the launch of Lights is to establish a strong foundation at key retailers, like Kroger,” he says. “We will be executing a substantial amount of programming this summer to drive trial as we are confident that once someone tries the Lights, they’ll make that repeat purchase. Next year, the goal is to drive more distribution gains with Lights versus launching more flavors. However, we will be launch-ready in 2021 with new Light flavors in the event we want to expand or refresh the portfolio.”

Blueprint for success

As the Calypso brand looks to bring new consumers to the lemonade market, its ability to do so stems from the recipe and legacy that established the brand back in 1985. In 2000, it was able to reinvent its branding to make Calypso what it has become today with its 20-plus flavor portfolio.

“From the beginning, the idea was to launch delicious and unique lemonade flavors that celebrated the ‘Taste of the Islands’ and would surprise and delight our consumers,” Klavsons says.

When the company looks to add to its lineup, the formulators always revert to the Original Lemonade recipe. “It’s basically the blueprint for how we think about flavor development,” Klavsons says. “Original lemonade is not too sweet and not too sour and that’s exactly where you want to be with a lemonade — perfectly balanced.”

This recipe served the Calypso brand well when it looked to create its limeade and tea and lemonade spin-offs, which have helped the company reach a broader consumer base.

“Limeades and tea and lemonades are important flavor platforms for the company,” Klavsons says. “Limeades are distinct from lemonades in terms of flavor profile and have the potential to appeal more strongly to the Hispanic consumer. Tea and lemonades allow us to participate in the $4 billion tea category.”

Having such a large portfolio has proven to work in the Calypso brand’s favor. Klavsons explains that though it might vary by class of trade, the brand averages eight flavors in-store.

Given this strong showing, the company works closely with its retail partners to drive performance of established SKUs as well as when it looks to introduce a new entry.

“Like us, retailers are data driven and want to make their shelves as productive as possible. That’s why sales velocity is so important; this works in our favor since we are the fast turning brand in the category.  In fact, eight of our SKUs are in the Top 20 highest velocity items,” Klavsons says, citing IRI four-week MULO+C IRI data ending May 17. “So, we know that a good share of our core items deserve placement.  When we launch a new flavor like Island Wave, we want it to earn its way on the shelf by being as, or even more, productive. If so, that can come at the expense of a competitive item or a lower performing Calypso item.”

Given this enthusiasm, it suggests that there will much more to come from Calypso. “I’m happy to say that our innovation funnel is pretty full with initiatives at various stages of development,” Klavsons says.