PepsiCo has denied having any nefarious intent in the way it designed and launched its enhanced water brand SoBe Life Water.
The company’s response came quick on the heels of a complaint filed yesterday by Energy Brands, the parent company of the Glaceau vitaminwater line, which is one of the leaders in the enhanced water beverage category.
“This is just an overreaction by Glaceau to competition in the marketplace,” said Pepsi North America spokesperson Michelle Naughton. “Consumers have told us they clearly see the difference between SoBe Life Water and Glaceau Vitaminwater. We believe there is no merit to their claims of infringement and we intend to vigorously defend this action.”
The enhanced water wars have moved off the shelves and into the courts.
Energy Brands has complained that SoBe Life Water is a copycat brand that is being pushed onto shelves – including Glaceau’s own product racks — in an attempt to steal and disrupt Glaceau’s business.
Privately-held Glaceau has carved out an important stake in the enhanced water business through vitaminwater, claiming to have sold nearly $600 million worth of the product last year alone. Health-conscious consumers have made bottled water the second-best selling beverage category, behind the rapidly-shrinking carbonated soft drink business. The development of a flavored and possibly nutrient-enhanced segment of bottled water that can offer consumers variety in the category is big business, and one that Glaceau and its founder, Darius Bikoff, have energetically pursued over the past decade.
But in an attempt to take over or disrupt Glaceau’s growth, SoBe Lifewater “copied the formula, the colors, the flavors, the ingredients, the sweetener type (one never before used by PepsiCo, and the key aspects of the trade dress,” according to the initial complaint filed by Glaceau’s attorneys.
The attempt to “cause serious and irreparable harm to Glaceau” took place after PepsiCo had been rebuffed in an attempt to acquire the vitaminwater brand earlier this year, according to the suit.
PepsiCo’s representative would not comment on any perceived similarities between the brands.