When Sambazon devoted its entire booth at the 2014 Natural Products Expo East to the launch of a new “Reduced Sugar” juice line, it did so in hopes of finding some white space (and new consumers) in a super-premium juice category increasingly riddled with high-sugar formulations. Made with a sweetener blend that included stevia and erythritol, the three-SKU, acai-based products were packaged in 11 oz. slim, contoured bottles, and promised up to “85 percent less sugar than other premium juices.”
The introduction also featured a evolved logo design for Sambazon, which markets a range of acai-based beverages and a snacks. At the time, the new products appeared to represent a significant shift for the company, both in style and substance.
Fast-forward to now, and the “Reduced Sugar” line has but one SKU: a 1L Tetra Pak that comes in Sambazon’s classic Acai Berry flavor. The product is sold exclusively at Costco locations in California and the Southeastern U.S., with Sambazon adding the juice to the club chain’s stores in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Pacific Northwest this month.
The rest of the “Reduced Sugar” line has been rebranded as a sub-line called “Sambazon 100 Juices,” a group of products that Sambazon promotes as “the first 100 percent juice line with 100 calories or less per bottle and 70 percent less sugar than other premium juices.” The beverages are packaged in Sambazon’s familiar 10.5 oz. bottle, with white-heavy label intended to offer a clear point of differentiation from its primary line.
Sambazon co-founder Jeremy Black said that the company made the decision to revamp the design and branding of the “Reduced Sugar” line prior to going into production, noting that both naming aesthetics and regulatory guidelines regarding labeling played roles in the process.
“As we came down to the wire, we’d been racking our brains on a better way to communicate the proposition to the consumer,” Black said. “It’s really difficult with all of the rules around low-sugar-type of products. We wanted to call it something in the realm of ‘low sugar,’ but you can’t say that unless it has a specific amount of calories.”
He noted that while acai berries contain almost no naturally-occurring sugar, they are rich in omega fats and have a higher caloric content as compared to other ingredients. As a result, Sambazon scrapped the word sugar entirely from the name. Black said that the wording of “Sambazon 100 Juices” comes from the products’ content of 100 calories or less per bottle and a formulation that includes the use of at least 100 acai berries in each package.
Along with the rebrand came the return of Sambazon’s squat bottles and original; the revised logo has which has been put on the shelf, Black said.
“We’ve been in that 10.5 oz. bottle since we launched our juice smoothie line 2006, and feel like we’ve some solid equity in that shape,” Black said. “We decided it made a lot more sense to keep it closer to home.”
The roll-out of the “100 Juices” line is taking place now, with distribution in natural and conventional grocers across the country. The products come in Açaí Berry, Strawberry + Lemon + Açaí Berry and Pineapple + Coconut + Açaí Berry varieties, each boasting a USDA organic formulation and Non-GMO Project verification. The beverages will have a suggested retail price of $3.49.
While Sambazon has long coveted a low-sugar line to complement its flagship products (Black pointed to stevia’s long road to FDA approval for use in food and beverages and a shortage of organic erythritol as two significant roadblocks), the company will let consumer demand dictate the development of the line and whether Sambazon would consider updating its other beverage varieties to be formulated with 100 calories or less.
“There’s definitely people looking for lower calories and lower sugar,” Black said. “This is going to go out there, and we’re going to see how people respond.”