Back To School For Sparkling Drinks

Want to find out where all the growth in the sparkling juice category is? The answer is you’ve got to go back to school, where many of the most creative entries into the category are trying to find their feet and work the long-dreamed-of connection between the school vending operation, the local convenience and grocery chain, and a growing DSD operation.

As an example, the numbers at right show very few of the brands actually included in our Brand News section. Why? They’re not selling so little as to be not included in the IRI numbers. They’re just thriving in channels largely unchecked by the usual agencies. GuS, for example, has been a mainstay in the natural, gourmet, and on-premise channels for several years. The Switch has maintained steady growth in schools in New England and New York. Fizzy Lizzy has been both a recognized media phenomenon and a BevNET award winner. All three products are more likely to make a dent on a convenience store shelf than, say, Kedem.

Nevertheless, there is some crossover – Izze, Knudsen, Lorina and Orangina are all brands that have shown some mainstream growth out of their core natural and gourmet channels. And Reed’s has begun making private label versions of its recently-acquired Sonoma Sparklers on a contract basis for retailers, yet another way of increasing overall interest in these kinds of products. Even Ocean Spray has just jumped into the pool.

Meanwhile, there is also a bit of a rising tide behind this category: gourmet CSDs showed movement and innovation last year, and that interest in bubbles may continue to help entrants in this more natural group. With Vignette providing an innovative, natural functionality and Sparkling Ice providing a juice/nutrient blend, there’s some range beyond gourmet and on-premise in the category, but again, for a true national brand to emerge, it’s going to have to be an academic superstar.  •