Ocean Spray expands better-for-you offerings with new functional waters

Dive Brief:

  • Ocean Spray launched a line of functional water called B1U that is available in four different flavors with no sugar or artificial sweeteners: watermelon cucumber with 60 milligrams of black tea caffeine, strawberry basil with 8 grams of plant-based fiber, lemon chamomile with 22 milligrams of zinc and 128 milligrams of Vitamin C, and peach kiwi with 10 grams of protein. The four waters tout a specific benefit. They are: I need a boost, I need rhythm, I need immunity and I need power.
  • Each water is available in 16 ounce bottles at Target and Amazon. It will be available at Walmart in December.  
  • Functional beverages have soared in popularity as shoppers look for more benefits from the products they consume. Technavio predicts the global functional water market will experience an annual growth rate of nearly 9% between 2018 and 2022. Projections such as this have prompted companies like Ocean Spray to expand their portfolio to cater to consumers looking for health and wellness options. 

Dive Insight:

According to a 2019 Kerry Group study cited by Ocean Spray, 65% of consumers report wanting more functionality out of their food and beverage products. Trendy offerings featuring functional claims are a growing segment of the food and beverage space that have become more appealing to consumers during the pandemic. At the same time, people are turning away from sugary drinks, prompting beverage manufacturers to innovate and expand into other offerings such as tea and water. 

Ocean Spray is well positioned to take advantage of the surge in the popularity of functional beverages. The company’s Lighthouse Innovation Incubator already has released a line of CBD water called CarryOn as well as Atoka, a line of blended herbal beverages. B1U only serves to place Ocean Spray in the cross hairs of other major beverage manufacturers that also are looking to functional beverages as a source of growth and profit.

PepsiCo recently released a functional water called Driftwell aimed at combating stress and inducing relaxation, while Nestlé has its Nestlé Pure Life Plus line with three varieties: magnesium, zinc and potassium. Startups are also getting into the game with brands like Oxigen raising $15 million for its pH balanced water with electrolytes and boosted oxygen. In 2018 alone, venture capitalists put more than $170 million toward functional beverage companies — up from $111 million in 2017, according to Pitchbook data.

The continued interest in bottling health makes this new product launch a good bet for Ocean Spray as it looks to expand beyond its cranberry-centric roots. However, it is interesting to note that the well-known brand does not appear to feature its name on the B1U packaging. The simplistic labeling instead highlights the names of each functional blend, which are: I need a boost, I need rhythm, I need immunity and I need power.

While this approach does not permit the company to leverage its name recognition, it does allow the line to experiment with new products and innovation without risking damage to its core brand.

By bifurcating its audience, Ocean Spray also may be widening the pool of interested buyers. Those who are interested in nootropics, and more specifically science-based approaches to health and wellness, are apt to be interested in Ocean Spray’s new functional water. On the other hand, those that are keen on traditional medicinals or health derived from cranberries — which are known for their high antioxidant content linked to preventing certain types of cancer, increased immune functionality and decreased blood pressure — are likely to reach for Ocean Spray’s established brands like its sparkling water line.

Ocean Spray’s efforts to expand into better-for-you products is unlikely to end anytime soon. In July, the company brought on the former CEO of Tyson Foods, Tom Hayes, as its next president and CEO. With new leadership at the helm of the 90-year-old company, Hayes will lead a business that is aiming to prove it’s more than just a cranberry company. In the announcement for the new B1U brand, the company noted that it will be the “first product in its line to be followed by further beverage additions.”

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