LIVE Soda Kombucha announced Wednesday that it has reached a national distribution agreement with Target, which will begin carrying the brand’s six kombucha flavors in 1,500 stores in September.
The agreement appears to underscore Target’s growing commitment to healthier, functional beverages. The retailer has been immersed in a series of emerging beverage tests that have included brands such as Bai, Aloe Gloe, Oatworks and Just Chill. In April, Vita Coco announced that it landed a deal with Target as part of the retailer’s new program, “Made to Matter — Hand-picked by Target,” which includes a variety of products that are “cleaner, fresher, safer and smarter,” according to the retailer. Earlier this month, Cytosport, the parent company of recently-sold Muscle Milk, announced that it has launched Muscle Milk Organic exclusively in Target stores across the country.
While Target already sells GT’s Kombucha, the category does represent a more esoteric offering for a mainstream account. However, LIVE Soda’s compatibility with Target’s gradual plan can be linked to the brand’s intent of merging the offbeat with the familiar.
“If 5 percent of the people walking through a store’s front door are buying kombucha right now, we want to appeal to the other 95 percent,” said Joel Skurnik, LIVE Soda’s vice president of sales.
Skurnik realizes that the kombucha purists enjoy the tartness often found in kombucha products and therefore may not be as interested in a crossover product like LIVE Soda. However, the bigger piece of the pie, especially those who have already defected from carbonated soft drink consumption and gone to sparkling fruit drinks, might identify with LIVE Soda’s products, Skurnik said. He added that not too many people taste kombucha for the first time in its pure form, or even with fruit juice, and find it to be particularly refreshing. He wants to give consumers a different option, something they could have with a sandwich.
The brand uses six flavors that are familiar with carbonated soft drink consumers —Dreamy Orange, Sparkling Ginger, Culture Cola, Pure Doctor, Revive Rootbeer and Living Lemon — and modernizes them with “the healthy halo” of a kombucha that’s certified USDA organic, Fair Trade and non-GMO.
By balancing the traditional with the progressive, Skurnik said that LIVE Soda will appeal to Target’s wide range of consumers. While a significant chunk of Target shoppers remain interested in carbonated soft drinks, an increasing number of progressive shoppers could help LIVE Soda succeed in such a mainstream setting.
“Target’s really trying to enlighten their customers at the same time as appeal to the customer base that they already have,” he said. “They do have a mix of customers.”
In a few weeks, LIVE Soda will run a test in about 120 stores in the Central U.S. and the West, Skurnik said, before broadening distribution in September. The products will sit in the produce section of Target stores, alongside produce mainstays POM Wonderful, Naked, Odwalla and Bolthouse Farms.
“We’re going to have a lot of new eyes on our products,” he said. “Those sets haven’t changed over the last probably five years, so those sets must be very well shopped.”
The brand already sits in the produce and functional beverage sections of six Safeway divisions, and also has distribution in Whole Foods, H-E-B and three divisions of Kroger — Fred Meyer, Ralphs and, beginning next week, Kroger stores in Texas.