Video: Expo West 2014 Profile – The Essential Challenge

For Essentia Water, the challenge is clear: taking the same giant strides that have made it a natural and specialty channel leader and crossing the tracks into conventional channels.

The ways the company intends to do so are outlined in the following video, taken from Natural Products Expo West last week.

A pair of the brand’s new hires – marketing chief Paul Curhan and strategy chief Neil Kimberley – said they intend to downplay the same characteristic that made it Essentia resonant with natural products consumers — its high-alkaline pH, 9.5 – and instead broaden its marketing pitch to focus on superior hydration.

While there’s a lot more medical information about high-alkaline diets, Curhan, formerly of Starbucks and FRS, told BevNET’s Jeffrey Klineman, “We’re really trying to downplay that.”

At the end of the day, Curhan said, it’s about consumers feeling better and being better hydrated rather than any single characteristic on the label.

As if to probe the point, the brand’s booth featured a young trampoline jumper who was obviously in need of hydration, as his dreadlocks glistened from sweaty exertion. While it would be hard to merchandise him to every store, it’s clear that message for conventional channels will have to improve somehow. According to Kimberley, Essentia has 100 percent penetration in whole foods, and 70 percent in other natural retailers, but only 6 percent penetration in conventional grocery – a number that will have to change.

With $3.2 million in investment just brought in, the brand is “looking for some good growth rates throughout the summer, just for some of the incremental distribution we’re bringing in,” Kimberley said. The hope is to get big expansion through filling the pipeline before the company has to go back to the well.

Kimberley said 74 percent of the brand’s consumers are women – which is why he’s targeting the conventional grocery channel for expansion, rather than convenience.

“The challenge is taking the success… and moving it into the general market,” he said.
A sweaty business indeed.