L.A. Libations Goes for Mainstream with Aloe Gloe

They’ve spent the past few years helping brands like ZICO, Neuro, and CasCal land key retailers, but now beverage incubator L.A. Libations is hoping that its brand-building know-how will help it grow a new brand of its own.

“We’ve worked with other people’s brands, and it seemed like it was time for us to become a brand creator,” said Danny Stepper, one of the founding partners of the company.

The drink that Stepper and his partners hope will get the register ringing is Aloe Gloe, which they are calling the first mainstream-focused “aloe water.”

Aloe vera-based products have been on the rise in recent months – the product carries a healthy “halo” and is associated with skin and digestive health — but existing brands have largely been shuffled into ethnic marketing segments; many have foreign languages on the front or are packaged in rectangular bottles consumers tend to associate with Asian teas. Despite the slow build of attention aloe has been getting from retailers and marketers, it’s still on the margins.

To move the category forward, Aloe Gloe’s varieties will be largely free of the aloe vera pulp typical of other aloe drinks, and come in an opaque green-on-white 15.2 oz. PET bottle.

“Our thesis was that no one has gone head-on into aloe,” Stepper said. “We think it’s about to take off, that it’s tomorrow’s drink. First it was vitaminwater, right now it’s coconut water, next comes aloe water.”

But before the aloe category gains momentum, according to Stepper, it needs a mainstream glide path. And that’s where the L.A. Libations team, which has placed previously exotic products like ZICO or Illy Issimo into places like Walgreen’s, Target and Costco, plans to leverage its channel strategy expertise. The idea is to build the brand based on the blocks of skin health, immunity and healthy digestion, while showing the California Republic bear label to indicate local sourcing – a key to helping get it into L.A.-area Whole Foods stores.

“Our idea is to sell it everywhere our wives shop,” Stepper said. “Target, Trader Joe’s, Costco, Whole Foods, Fresh & Easy and other supermarkets.”

But the product will be radically Americanized, with much of the sugar stripped out and stevia introduced to create a 35-calorie bottle in flavors like White Grape, Tangerine and (yes…) Coconut. Only one SKU will come with pulp.

The new brand launched last week with Southern California powerhouse Haralambos Distributing, and has received approval at 170 Fresh & Easy markets — along with 10 Costco stores (All within shopping range of the team’s wives, natch!).

Carrying an MSRP of $1.99 to $2.49, the brand is designed to undercut the price of most other aloe vera brands, taking advantage of a supply of aloe vera from nearby Mexico to help reduce costs and, again, make for a closer-to-mainstream price point.

From that mainstream approach, Stepper says, some high-flying products have already been built.

“I equate it to where coconut water was about 5 or 6 years ago,” Stepper said. “It was small, everyone knew it had potential, but there was no one defining it. It didn’t really happen until some folks did the branding right, until they really had some muscle to get it out there and available.”

“Aloe is in the same boat,” he added. “I think it’s small, but I think it’s poised to explode. I know a lot of guys think that this thing could be big, but the problem is that no one has done it right.”