It was feedback time when Kelly Marlowe, a judge for New Beverage Showdown 5 from the online grocer Fresh Direct, noticed an oddity on Motto’s bottle: shake well. To Marlowe, this seemed out of place for a carbonated beverage like Motto, a matcha green tea. She didn’t want to do it at the judges table, so she asked Motto co-founders Henry Crosby and Tom Olcott to shake the bottle onstage. Before they could respond, their time was up. Saved by the gong.
They not only survived Marlowe’s tough question; they braved the field of 21 and won the showdown’s first place, granting them a $5,000 jumbo check (game show style), an automatic entry into select Kroger retail locations, and the less tangible rewards of this competition: exposure and pride.
How did Motto top the other brands that participated?
“That’s something that Tom and I are in the process of discussing,” Crosby said. “The victory is still very fresh.”
The judges evaluated the brands on concept, taste, packaging, function, market readiness, innovation and the “it” factor.
Crosby and Olcott said that they’ve always favored simplicity in packaging. As is the case with most young brands with minimal funds, the packaging serves as the primary marketing tool. It delivers the message of the brand and the beverage. They continue to discuss how they can remove unnecessary details from the packaging, which still drew some criticism from the judges, as evidenced by Marlowe’s reaction.
“Healthy things are simple things,” Olcott said. “When you overcomplicate something, you start to move away from your original goal of health and wellness.”
Motto claims to be the first bottled beverage that delivers the health benefits of matcha green tea, a potent source of antioxidants. It also uses apple cider vinegar for its cleansing properties, honey and organic agave as a sweetener and lemon juice to brighten the beverage and contribute to the flavor.
Koa, an organic water that blends nine juices and goes for a suggested retail price of $3.99, came in second place. The judges liked Koa’s taste and packaging, but didn’t know how to categorize it and also disapproved of the price point. Green Mustache, a beverage marketed toward kids about 2 to 5 years old with a $4.99 suggested retail price, came in third place. The judges thought that while this product has some tasty flavors, it could suffer from its consumers quickly growing out of its appeal.
“The sophistication level and the maturity of people’s thinking has really come a long way,” said Matthew Mitchell, another judge and the director of strategic initiatives for Venturing & Emerging Brands Group, Coca-Cola, Co.
Soon Motto will be tested by Kroger’s expansive footprint and its desire to expand its natural beverage options to meet demand.
“It’s hard to process right away actually,” Olcott said.