Spindrift Eliminates Natural Flavors, Plans to Discontinue Soda Line

In a major step intended to further its commitment toward simple ingredients and transparency, carbonated natural beverage brand Spindrift has removed all natural flavors and essences from its sparkling waters and will discontinue its soda line.

Spindrift founder and CEO Bill Creelman called the moves “belief decisions” that address growing consumer concerns about added flavors and sugar.

“It’s removed the last caveat,” added Spindrift CMO Strick Walker. “It’s real fruit and water and bubbles. That’s it.”

Launched in 2010 as a craft soda brand differentiated by the use of real fruit, Spindrift has since become best known for its fast-growing line of unsweetened sparkling waters. Although the company had selectively used natural flavors in some of the waters, Spindrift gradually began removing the ingredients amid an evolution in its messaging that emphasized “real” and “simple” as the pillars of its brand.

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Creelman noted that a surge in consumer queries about natural flavors and how they are created also contributed to Spindrift’s decision to completely eliminate them.

“When we started to get all these write-ins, we began to look closer,” he said. “We started calling our flavor suppliers, we began calling the food scientists that we have known and worked with for a long time. And we weren’t satisfied with the answers we were getting.”

It’s a decision that affects the company’s revenues: while Creelman described the soda line as “growing like crazy,” particularly in the foodservice channel, he views the sugar-sweetened drinks as “there almost to supplement the bigger proposition, the sparkling and the real.”

“We don’t think think of them being distinct; we think the sparkling water is achieving what the soda was originally intended to achieve,” he said. “We reached a point where we were so proud of the sparkling water product [and] were delivering so much flavor without any of the sweeteners.”

Walker stated that the decision to discontinue soda was also tied to some consumer confusion between Spindrift’s two product lines.

“We didn’t want, ultimately, someone to pick up a bottle and think it was unsweetened and be surprised by cane sugar or vice versa,” Walker said. “As much as we can drive toward real fruit and water and simplifying and making [that] very clear for people, it’s important for them and it’s important for us.”

The removal of natural flavors and colors will mean greater variability in the look and taste of some products, particularly those made with seasonal ingredients. But that’s okay with Spindrift.

“We’re going to have to live with some level of variability,” Creelman said. “I think that’s where the transparency with our consumers becomes so important.”