Bai Gets Fizzy with New “Bubbles” Line

Continuing upon a quest to answer what it terms as “the diet dilemma,” Bai today unveiled a new carbonated line, its first brand extension since launching Bai5. Like its flagship five-calorie drinks (which eventually replaced Bai’s full-calorie line), Bai Bubbles are all-natural, infused with antioxidant-rich coffeefruit extract and sweetened with a blend of organic stevia and erythritol. The beverages are packaged in 11.5 oz. slim cans that are fully wrapped with a white label.

In a release announcing the launch of Bai Bubbles, Bai founder and CEO Ben Weiss asserts that “it’s in Bai’s DNA to disrupt the marketplace and move it in a healthier direction.” For Bai, it’s the diet CSD category that is most in need of a shake-up, and the company sees a big opportunity to offer consumers a healthier option with its sparkling line.

“I think that category is dying on the vine and… needs true variety,” Weiss said. “It needs something that consumers are looking for [and] is not out there. We’re really confident that our brand will crossover, and there’s not many brands that have a still and a carbonated side by side.”

Bai Bubbles

The description of a tandem line of drinks will be a literal one for Bai, which is aiming to place the new carbonated products on the shelf next to its flagship beverages. The positioning has been the subject of some internal debate within the company, Weiss said, but for the initial roll-out, Bai Bubbles will benefit from built-up brand awareness of Bai5. Subsequent to the launch in New York, Bai will place greater focus on specific channels, depending on “the retailer that runs hard behind the brand,” Weiss said.

“If it’s mass, club, convenience, grocery, I don’t think it really matters,” he noted. “The brand has extraordinary performance across all channels. And we have great options there.”

As to why Bai chose cans for the carbonated line (its primary line uses 18 oz. PET bottles), Weiss said that the company wanted to offer consumers a package that they were accustomed to when drinking a sparkling beverage, noting that the design is intended to portray a premium feel and look.

“Putting it in a can served a purpose in that it harks back to your traditional soda drinker as well as your energy drink consumer,” he said.

Bai Bubbles will launch in October beginning with distribution in metro New York via its partnership with Dr Pepper Snapple, which Weiss described as “really stepping up” with the debut of the new line. Weiss noted the importance of New York as a launching pad for Bai Bubbles, with the market representing a developed region for Bai5 from the standpoint of brand awareness and sales. However, the sparkling drinks are set for a national roll-out in the first quarter of 2015 with a retailer that Weiss declined to name.

The line will debut with seven varieties, which, like Bai5, are named to pay homage to a coffee-growing region: Bolivia Black Cherry, Peru Pineapple, Gimbi Pink Grapefruit, Waikiki Coconut, Jamaica Blood Orange, Indonesia Nashi Pear and Guatemala Guava. Though the naming convention is a playful one, Bai’s focus on reaching consumers that are increasingly disillusioned with artificial ingredients and high sugar drinks is critical to its sales strategy, and, for Weiss, an issue that extends to beyond carbonation.

“We’re not trying to answer a sparkling dilemma; that is not the problem we’re out there to solve,” Weiss said. “The problem we’re after is a much bigger issue, [one] that the industry as a whole is burdened with: beverages, for the most part, have been exposed for their lack of functionality, and quite frankly, the empty calories that a lot of them provide. We’re an answer to that.”

To that end, Weiss promised more new products that will “extend to different parts of the marketplace,” though did not offer any specific details.