Year In Review


Look all this data. And then look behind it.

We did. And although it reflects a 52-week period that ended about ¾ of the way through the year – so on Sept. 15 – in this, our last issue of 2015, we’re going to tell you what we found as we dug around.

We took a look at some of the most important entrepreneurial brands out there – whether independent, owned by a strategic, or publicly traded – to get a reading on how they were performing and, since so many of these brands are in the middle of crossing over into mainstream retailers, how they are doing in growing new or existing categories.

As is often the case with scanned data, the larger and more established the brand, the more dialed in the numbers seem to be: companies like Harmless Harvest or Suja, which have strong presence in natural and specialty stores, for example, are under-represented in the findings due to the concentration and regionality of their revenue base. But the simple fact that they make the rankings is also indicative of momentum: Suja, in particular, is an interesting case because its conventionally-focused “Essentials” line had garnered more than $17.5 million of its $19 million in revenue in less than 12 months. Harmless Harvest doubled to $2.7 million in the same period.

Each month from here on in, it’s likely that the picture will get bigger for both of those high pressure processed brands, as more of their sales become visible to the retailers who feed data to IRI.

So let’s take a look at some of the more talked-about brands for the year and try to find out where the heat is emanating from in a category and brand sense.

YinR_CoconutWaterIn the coconut water space, while Harmless Harvest’s revenue is based heavily in Natural/Specialty, rivals Vita Coco and Zico are largely rooted in conventional channels – and they continue to show steady, solid growth: Zico’s overall product suite is at $42 million in revenue in IRI, while Vita Coco’s products are at $186 million. Both have shown double-digit growth and largely outpace the multiple categories that IRI has them tracked into. Both will tell you they’re much bigger – foodservice! vending! coastal clientele! – they’ll cry, but it’s not a bad showing regardless.

Like stablemate Zico, Coke-owned Honest is also subject to the vagaries of multi-category classification due to its varied juice drinks, teas, even CSDs. Still, it had a good year, with its aseptic kids’ juices up 20 percent against a category that registered flat, while its core tea line was up 16 percent compared to the rest of the tea category, which nevertheless continued to be the fastest-growing ambient set at nearly 12 percent.

YinR_teaSpeaking of tea, longtime power player AriZona actually lagged the category, with its more than $1 billion in tea sales pretty much flat (even Arnold Palmer, that $220 million salute to Arnie’s Army, lost share overall) as PepsiCo’s rebranded Lipton and Coke’s increasingly influential Gold Peak brands grew it overall.

In the sparkling water category, two brands that have been on a tear continued to shred new space in the aisles: Sparkling Ice zoomed past $400 million in the sparkling segment, with growth of 12 percent roughly keeping pace with the overall category increase of 14 percent; meanwhile
La Croix, the unsweetened cousin to Sparkling Ice’s line, continued its torrid growth, showing a 44 percent increase to more than
$134 million.

YinR_waterIn the still category, Coke has unleashed Smartwater everywhere, to the tune of 21 percent growth (at $741 million, there’s also a lot more untracked out in the world), more than doubling the category. Meanwhile, a revitalized Fiji grew 13 percent, to $284 million.

Functional beverages of all kinds showed strong growth: Gatorade rebounded and was up 9 percent in revenue, ahead of the category; meanwhile Mark Repole’s current cause, Body Armor, doubled to $33 million.

The 200 percent growth shown by Body Armor was matched by fast-growing functional juice platform Bai; its non-carb style hit $77 million in revenue, while even Bai Bubbles was at $8 million in more limited distribution. Both seem to justify the investment DPS put into the company.

ProbioticProbiotics and other functional brands also continued to invade conventional channels; across tea and juice categories, GTs continued to show an expanding foothold, growing in the 55 to 65 percent range across all categories to reach a total of $105 million (and obviously leaving a lot of independent sales uncounted). Mamma Chia similarly grew to $16 million, while Kevita checked in at $14.9.

Across even more channels, Califia showed itself to be a $40 million platform in IRI; that’s rolling in $24 million in refrigerated almond milk sales along with juice, coffee, lemonade and more.

It’s growth that seems small and fragmented, like it does for most of the entrepreneurial brands. But being able to get counted is an influential position. The shadows of these brands are much longer than their stature when they present themselves for roll call.