Two years after its acquisition, organic green tea-based beverage brand Steaz has found the internal stability to support a revamp of its Cactus Water line and an expansion of its natural energy drink offerings.
Visiting the BevNET offices in February, Steaz CEO Linda Barron discussed the company’s plans for 2018, beginning with the debut of the rebranded Cactus Water line this week at Natural Products Expo West 2018.
The three-SKU line will be relaunched as Prickly Pear Water, a move that CEO Linda Barron said would better highlight organic prickly pear juice as the drink’s primary functional ingredient. The juice is blended with organic and Fair Trade green tea, natural flavors, 9 g of organic cane sugar and stevia. All three flavors— Original, Cucumber and Starfruit— will be available starting in early March at Kroger, Ahold and Jewel locations for a suggested retail price of $2.39 for a 12 oz. can.
Barron said the name change was partly based on feedback from the brand’s extensive “Mind.Body.Soul” consumer campaign last year, in which it sampled over one million consumers through activations at events around the country.
“One of the first questions that we got from most people was, ‘What is cactus water?’ And we always explain that it comes from the fruit of the prickly pear,” she said. “For us, to basically rename the product as Prickly Pear Water, we felt like that most closely identified for our consumer what the product is.”
Steaz has brought on holistic nutritionist Peggy Kotsopoulos to promote the functional and health benefits of prickly pear water. In a press release, Kotsopoulos noted benefits such as “Improved post-workout muscle recovery; slower aging of the body and mind”; “illness prevention”; and “reduced puffiness of the skin and under-eye circles.’’
At Expo West, Steaz will also debut three new flavors in its natural energy drink line: Yumberry, Super Fruit and Pear & Pomegranate. The latter two will be part of the zero calorie subline. Each SKU, available in 12 oz. slim cans, contains 100 mg of natural caffeine from green tea, yerba mate and guarana.
Though the line launched a decade ago, natural energy as a category has enjoyed a resurgence of momentum as part of consumers’ overall interest in clean ingredient label products. And while iced tea continues to be the primary driver of Steaz’s business, Barron noted that the differentiated flavor profile for the energy line, as well as the balance of full and zero-calorie options, will help it find space to grow at retail.
The recent activity at Steaz comes as the company continues a pivot that began in 2016 when it was acquired by a privately held strategic buyer which was later revealed to be El Paso, Tex.-based NovaMex. The years since have been a transitional period for the company; along with the departure of co-founder Steven Kessler, the brand shed some SKUs from its portfolio and honed in on serving consumers who had been following the brand for years. Barron said that the stability provided by the group has allowed Steaz the peace of mind to move forward strategically in ways that it previously could not.
That includes building its internal sales team, starting with the August appointment of vice president Peter Wilson, a former national director of beverage sales at Bolthouse Farms and executive VP at natural energy brand Sambazon. Along with Wilson, Steaz has added four regional sales managers and is currently expanding its marketing team.
“The acquisition allowed us to really make a change to what had been the company’s business model for 15 years,” Barron said, calling the change “comprehensive” for the company. “It’s allowed us to add depth to our internal sales team, as well as really push the pedal on the marketing front which previously we had not really done.”
The brand’s marketing efforts in 2018 will center around a new partnership with live event promotion company Live Nation, which produces over 29,500 events worldwide every year. Under a three-year agreement as a national media partner, Steaz will be the exclusive organic iced tea offering for Live Nation venues in five major markets, including New York City, Philadelphia and Dallas. The brand has plans to execute over 150 on-site sampling activations, but can also leverage the partnership in different ways, such as hosting a special event, running a contest or bringing brokers to a show.
“We will be looking to increase brand awareness, plus adding some new regions,” Barron said. “The great thing is, while we’ll be sold at Live Nation shows, additionally we’ll be doing sampling events, and we can pick and choose which concerts [will have activations] so we make sure that those events line up with our consumer demographic.”