Yes, the rollout of Body Armor has featured some missteps; yes, people have noticed. But founder Lance Collins, as grizzled a beverage veteran as any, is determined to achieve success with his multi-function, “superdrink” brand. However, the current ultra-competitive pricing environment for beverages, in which new products face off against highly promoted brands made by bigger companies, has made that road tougher than ever, Collins said.
Having reached stratospheric levels of success in the beverage industry (the sale of his FUZE brand to the Coca-Cola Co. was reportedly worth upwards of $250 million) Collins knew that the high-profile launch of Body Armor would encounter significant scrutiny from day one. And despite launching with a seasoned executive team, and even after adding Vitaminwater co-founder Mike Repole — who joined the company in January 2012 as an investor and chairman — to the mix, Body Armor, much like many other entrepreneurial brands, saw its share of stumbles.
“We thought we wouldn’t make any mistakes out of the gate, but we made a lot of mistakes,” Collins said in an interview with BevNET CEO John Craven.
Among the missteps: full over-the-cap wrap packaging that proved to be a tedious chore for consumers (“You needed a Swiss Army knife to open the bottle,” Collins joked), and a line-up with varieties like Cherry Citrus and Pomegranate Acai Green Tea that Collins said veered too far from mainstream flavors and never clicked with its core consumer demographic.
To right the ship, Body Armor underwent a significant packaging and formulation revamp earlier this year, added a Fruit Punch variety, and relaunched some of its exotic-sounding products with more mainstream-friendly names (“Cherry Citrus” became “Orange Mango”).
Although Collins said he thought that the company is now on the right track, he nonetheless expressed concern about the tough pricing climate facing entrepreneurial brands looking to go for increased distribution.
“I personally feel the playing field has changed [since] Michael and I started our companies,” Collins said. “The pricing game has changed. You can’t walk into a supermarket without seeing Vitaminwater at $0.79, $0.89, $0.99. Same thing for FUZE. And it’s changed for a brand like us. We spend a lot of money for our ingredients and our nutrients. Can we sell for $0.99? No. Can we do 10-for-10s? Probably not. Are we going to retain our price point at $2.99, 2.69? I don’t think so. And even at $1.99 a bottle, we’re still a premium product compared to what’s out there.”
In this video interview filmed at his home (i.e. the Los Angeles headquarters for Body Armor) in Beverly Hills, Calif., Collins offers more on pricing challenges, particularly with regard to Body Armor’s positioning as a new “superdrink” beverage. Collins also discusses Repole’s role in managing the development and execution of Body Armor’s sales and marketing strategy, as well as why the company shuns the label of “sports drink” or “enhanced water,” both of which Collins regards as flawed propositions.
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