Since its inception in 1987, Talking Rain had embraced beverage innovation as a way to drive sales of its sparkling and flavored waters, and for the most part, the company found consistent success in the strategy. In recent years, however, the company made a decision to refocus its efforts and promote greater attention toward sales and marketing, and as part of its new strategy, Talking Rain executives felt its Sparkling ICE line – which has for years been a successful one in the Northwestern U.S. – could become a flagship national brand for the company. They felt that the line of zero-calorie, flavored carbonated waters offered widespread appeal across a range of demographics, and while their instincts were spot on, it’s unlikely that anyone could have envisioned just how big of a success the brand would become.
Sparkling ICE is now the fastest growing non-alcoholic beverage in the U.S. with more than $56 million in annual sales for the period ending on May 13, 2012, according to Symphony IRI. And although Klock noted that the brand’s rapid ascent has been “accelerated” by the overall growth of better-for-you and zero-calorie beverages, its 2,000 percent growth rate goes far above and beyond shifting health trends.
In an interview filmed at Talking Rain headquarters in Preston, Wash., BevNET CEO John Craven spoke with Kevin Klock, the CEO of Talking Rain, about how the success of Sparkling ICE is rooted in the company’s transition from one engrossed in beverage innovation to a more traditional beverage manufacturer focused on sales and marketing.
“For many years [we] had been focused on trying to be innovative, which is good, and we continue to try and be that,” Klock said. “But from a business aspect, we never sat down and focused on our brands and marketed them. And so [we] really went out and tried to be a solid beverage company versus being more focused on being an innovative beverage company.”
Despite the runaway success of Sparkling ICE, Klock said that Talking Rain is remaining cautious about the future. He noted that the company will diversify its brand portfolio in the coming years, while furthering brand awareness of Sparkling ICE, a key driver in reaching new consumers.
“Our goal is to be a multi-beverage brand company,” Klock said. “We’re not [planning] to ride Sparkling ICE to the sunset – that’s a real dangerous position to be in. And as the years go by, we’re going to add more beverage lines. But right now, there’s a lot of runway left for Sparkling ICE, and we need to continue to push to effectively fill that and create share of mind with the consumer.”
Watch this video in which Klock talks more about the rapid ascent of Sparkling ICE as a national brand, and how the proposed sugary drink ban in New York offers great opportunity for the zero-calorie beverage. Klock also explains how owning its own production facility gives the company flexibility for product testing and a high level of technical expertise – an advantage that many competitors lack when working with co-packers – and how thinking about potential exit strategies can be a hindrance to success.