A former executive at Proctor & Gamble and mother of four, Christine Wheeler pinpointed a void in the kids’ beverage marketplace for a naturally healthy, reduced-sugar ready-to-drink beverage line as US consumers started falling out of love with 100% juice.
“I’ve always been a huge tea drinker, and having lived in Japan and Poland, I’ve been exposed to cultures that place huge cultural emphasis on tea. There’s a huge need for healthy beverages that actually appeal to kids, so I thought, why not tea?”
100% juice losing its luster amid growing concerns about sugar
Influenced by her big brand experience, Wheeler opted for a measured approach, beginning with extensive market research.
"I’ve been studying the kids’ beverage market for eight years,” she said. “And for much of those eight years, 100% juice has been the gold standard among health-conscious parents. What’s interesting now is how much that has changed in the past few years; 100% juice certainly won’t go away, but it is softening.”
The long-touted “naturalness” of the sugar found in 100% juice simply couldn’t stand up to growing concerns about the role of excessive sugar consumption in rising childhood obesity rates, leaving many parents seeking less sugary alternatives. Beverage companies answered with juice concentrates diluted with additional water, such as Honest Kids Fruit Quenchers and Juicy Juice Fruitfuls, though Wheeler says such kid-targeted enhanced waters haven’t performed well.
So she began testing 100% juice infused with naturally caffeine-free herbal tea instead of water—with the goal of cutting down on sugar without compromising flavor or losing too many nutrients. The product underwent several iterations and nearly three years of testing before it launched in 2013.
“We did a tremendous amount of blind product taste testing. And consumers kept telling me how much they loved herbal tea for kids, but they wanted less sugar,” she said.