Bai Quietly Discontinues Original Line in Favor of Bai5

Sharpening its focus on growing trends of health and wellness, Bai Brands has quietly phased out its original line of coffee fruit-infused drinks in favor of its five-calorie Bai5 line. According to Bai Brands founder Ben Weiss, the company ceased production of the original line “about three months ago,” and has set sights on careful expansion of the Bai5 brand with a goal of national distribution by the first quarter of 2014.

“Bai5 and its positioning are so on-trend right now, it made the other line obsolete,” said Weiss.

Weiss said that “the writing was on the wall” in June when the company launched new distribution in New York City and completed its roll-out of all original Bai flavors to Bai5. At that point, Weiss felt that the company would be challenged to find shelf space for both lines, particularly in the grocery channel where the brand has its deepest presence. Weiss said that Bai’s distributors were enthusiastic about the decision to discontinue the full calorie line and that the transition has been an easy one for the company. However, he noted that while Bai enjoyed “tremendous VPO” in grocery stores, the company was attempting to figure out a effective convenience store strategy for the brand.

Since June, Bai has racked up some key wins with new retail authorizations in Gelson’s, which operates 17 supermarkets in Southern California and Stew Leonard’s, a family-owned chain of supermarkets with locations in Connecticut and New York. Bai has also recently made a deeper push into California having signed a deal with Santa Barbara-based Pacific Beverage Company earlier this month. The company is also represented throughout Southern California by Haralambos Beverage Co. as well as Dr Pepper Snapple Group in metro New York and New Jersey and counts premium grocer Wegman’s and Ralph’s as its top retailers. Bai also launched a new Limu Lemonade flavor at the recently held Natural Products Expo East show, its eighth SKU for the five-calorie line and one that Weiss believes can be a top-seller for the brand.

To buffer its expansion, Weiss said that Bai would begin to lean heavily on former Vitaminwater marketing chief Rohan Oza, who is an investor and advisor in the company. Oza is “really getting involved” with new marketing initiatives and will attempt to draft a team of key influencers to engage new consumers.