Miller Aboard, VBlast Looks to Blast Off

Perhaps not by choice but more by dint of the connections inherent in the veteran crews that have been at the tiller, the cap-infused mix-to-drink line VBlast has always had less of a buzz about it than the rest of the brands trying to haul the category into the mainstream. But a high-profile hire and the gradual working out of supply chain kinks has created what VP of Operations Luke Zakka is calling “unprecedented opportunity” on the VBlast front.

If he’s right, the addition of VP of Sales Bob Miller – a well-known and well-traveled commodity who has just landed with the company – will help VBlast capitalize on its vertical efficiencies and lend some density to an already wide-ranging geographic footprint.

“Our family at New York Spring Water is an amazing group of individuals,” said Luke Zakka, the company’s president. “We have so many gifted dedicated people. With Bob Miller joining us, we believe our team is complete. “

Miller, who has worked for both SoBe and Function, among many other companies, is expected to lend some veteran sales heft to a company that already has one obvious point of differentiation from competitors 939, Activate, and Karma: a liquid vitamin mixture in its dosing cap, in place of the usual powder mix.

But that’s not the only difference that Zakka likes to point out about VBlast. The company has been able to consistently price its product lower than its competitors, he says, because VBlast has built its own capping facility, further integrating production into an existing bottled water concern that is also owned by his family, New York Spring Water.

“We’re able to supply consumers with a value proposition,” he said, adding that he believes a $1.49 – $1.79 liquid-containing cap has “more excitement, more value, and a smoother texture” than the powder-based caps.

Indeed, one of the key educational points for consumers with the powder reservoirs – used, like the liquids, as a way of keeping the vitamin dosage fresh and undiluted while they are stored on shelves – remains an understanding of how to get the product mixed into the drink, and at a reasonable price point.

“People want convenience, and the effect, but they don’t like feeling they’re being put to the test,” Zakka said. “They are with the powders.”

Last year, VBlast sales increased by more than 50 percent, to over $1.5 million, Zakka recently told BevNET, with new distribution expected to come on board in the next year as well. Zakka said that distribution should cover the Eastern Seaboard by the end of the year, and that he expects more western expansion next year.

The brand is already present in at least one set of accounts across the country, a set of Travel Centers of America that provide rest stops in many states.

“Our momentum has been extremely positive,” he said.

That’s not the direction of the company’s momentum last year, however, Zakka admits. There were problems with the caps, which leaked, and had too many pieces – a problem that has since been solved, allowing for new distribution to come aboard. The company is installing a second capping line, to better meet demand in its 7-Eleven and Travel Center accounts, and the hope is that the year to come will be a big one.

Big, that is, if consumers decide to take on the liquid mix rather than the powder.

“This should be fun,” Zakka said, “We’re trying to introduce something you can you just try and love. We had to simplify things.”