Plant waters have been on the radar of market analysts and trend forecasters as a beverage category that could help to fill the void of declining soda sales. The category is expected to double sales by 2020 and hit $5.4bn, according to data from food and drink consultancy Zenith Global.
"In recent years, we’ve seen a significant movement away from high sugar, carbonated beverages,” Linda Barron, CEO of Steaz, told FoodNavigator-USA.
“Many organizations and even big brands themselves have invested in marketing efforts to educate consumers about the negative health effects of high sugar sodas and artificial beverages, paving the way for the growth of new beverages in the organic and health-oriented sectors that are being embraced beyond what had previously been seen as a niche consumer,” she added.
Coconut water—a tough predecessor to beat
The company’s line of cactus water blended with ready-to-drink tea was launched in March 2016, retailing at a suggested retail price of $2.49 per 12-oz can, sweetened with stevia and containing about 50 calories each.
Its cactus water comes from the juice of the fruit that grows on the prickly pear cactus—not a common fruit that has been grown in abundance. “One of the challenges Steaz faced when developing this new beverage platform was sourcing the ingredient from an organic farm and feeling confident that the organic supply chain could support the projected growth,” Barron said.
A sparse supply chain also means minimal visibility and consumer awareness. Analysis on Google Trends shows that there has been a steady increase of ‘cactus water’ searches, and an even more robust number of ‘prickly pear’ searches. But these all pale in comparison to ‘coconut water’—the poster child of plant water success, which skyrocketed in 2009 and peaks in search popularity every summer since then.
The chasm is also visible in terms of geography—cactus water searches are popular only in states with thriving metropolitan centers,mature natural channel market, or proximity to prickly pear’s natural habitat like California, Arizona, New York, and Florida. Coconut water, on the other hand, is popular everywhere from Alabama to Kentucky to Minnesota and Idaho.
Continue to cater to loyal fans
A strategy to increase prickly pear cactus water’s visibility is staying true to message and catering to loyal fans of Steaz, which was sold to a privately-held strategic buyer back in August 2016 for an undisclosed sum.
“In 2007, Steaz launched the first organic energy drink in the US. Steaz prides itself on bringing better-for-you beverages to market,” Barron said. The gamble it took back in 2007, before the organic energy drink category was as bustling as it is now, is one reason why Steaz is optimistic with niche offerings like cactus water.
“Cactus Water is just another example. Natural and organic products can be found on the shelves of just about every grocer in the U.S., signaling a clear change in what is important to consumers,” she added.
“It is what excited us about cactus water – the nutritional integrity of the prickly pear fruit, offering hydration, anti-oxidants, electrolytes and a great taste. Taste is important. Benefits are great but when coupled with great taste, it is simply a win-win for consumers.”