Since March 2013, when Kroger announced the formation of its Taste of Tomorrow program, the supermarket giant has kept its word. Nearly every week, emerging brands from a variety of beverage categories land shelf placements at stores under the Kroger umbrella. There’s Just Chill and HiBall. There’s Whey Coco and Cow Wow Cereal Milk. The list goes on and on. It’s a period of testing consumer behaviors. It’s a strange new frontier and the higher-ups are still feeling their way around.
The list got longer this week as Kroger added a few other emerging brands: Balance Water and Cheribundi. Bruce Trent, the new VP of sales for Balance Water, sees the distribution deal with such a major retail player as a sign of the times.
“The decision by industry leader Kroger to range Balance in so many of their stores speaks volumes as to the direction the beverage industry is heading,” Trent said in a company release. “All natural, basic, genuine products that are healthy and refreshing are increasing in popularity. The growing feedback we are receiving is that consumers are becoming increasingly wary of sweeteners, preservatives and flavors regardless of whether they are natural or artificial.”
The Balance deal, which begins in October, will showcase Balance Cleanse, a non-flavored spring water infused with Australian botanicals that impart a gentle diuretic benefit, according to the company. The product was launched in April. The agreement with Kroger will include more than 1,500 stores, including Ralphs, Fred Meyer, Dillons, King Soopers and Fry’s.
The Cheribundi deal brings the 32 oz. bottles of tart cherry juice to the premium juice coolers in the produce section of approximately 2,100 Kroger stores across the country. Worth noting: Cheribundi recently brought on Steve Pear, the former president and general manager of Odwalla, as its new CEO. Pear replaced natural foods veteran Brian Ross, who trained his successor and remains an investor in the brand.
On the distributions news, Pear said in a release: “We are excited about building out our national distribution with Kroger and that they are bringing in our most popular product that provides tremendous health benefits to consumers.”
Other distribution news follows chronologically:
TracHealth, makers of Chia Drink Mix Packets and Pouches, announced that it has partnered with United Natural Foods Inc., which will distribute the products to additional Whole Foods regions, among other retailers. The chia products are available in four flavors: Chia + Strawberry Lemonade, Chia + Coconut Water, Chia + Hibiscus Blackberry Green Tea and Chia + Superfoods. They can also be found at King Soopers, Earth Fare, Akin’s Natural Foods and Chamberlin’s Natural Foods across the U.S. and Canada.
Humm Kombucha announced on Thursday that it has expanded into the greater Seattle area by partnering with Quality Food Centers (QFC). After 30 days, the kombucha will be available at other retailers in the area, according to a company release. QFC is a supermarket chain with 64 stores in the Puget Sound region.
Reed’s, Inc. announced on Thursday that Hy-Vee has begun carrying its Culture Club Kombucha in more than 125 stores in the Midwest. Featured flavors include Lemon Ginger Raspberry, Hibiscus Ginger Grapefruit, Goji Ginger, Cabernet Grape, Passion Mango Ginger and Coconut Water Lime Kombucha.
The Pulse Beverage Corporation, makers of Natural Cabana Lemonade, Limeade and Coconut Water, announced that Unique Foods Inc. will distribute its coconut water throughout Canada. “This is a foundational step for us as Unique Foods is well-established in Canada with a successful track record of distributing premium beverage brands throughout all major Canadian cities,” Pulse CEO Bob Yates said in a company release.
FitPro Protein announced Wednesday that it has landed shelf placements at all 170 Fresh & Easy stores in California, Arizona and Nevada. The brand will sell chocolate and vanilla flavors with two protein levels: 26 grams in FitPro Daily, 40 in FitPro Pro. FitPro can also be found in Whole Foods, 24 Hour Fitness and Life Time Fitness locations.
Lumi Juice is breaking new ground. On Wednesday, the company announced that it has become the first cold-pressed juice brand to receive shelf placement in The Fresh Market. The distribution deal will include 160 locations in 25 states across the U.S.
Epicurex, the makers of Cocozia, seemingly find their way in the distribution roundup every week. This time around, the brand announced that its coconut water is now available in Chamberlin’s Natural Foods stores in Florida and Akin’s Natural Food Markets in Oklahoma, Nebraska, Kansas, Arkansas and Missouri.