Sunniva Rebrands As Kitu Life, Adds Creamer

Seeking to broaden its appeal, Sunniva Super Coffee has rebranded as Kitu Life, bringing with it new packaging and a new formulation for its line of organic RTD “super coffees” made with protein and medium chain triglyceride (MCT) oil. The company will premiere its new identity at Natural Products Expo East 2018 in Baltimore next week.

Speaking with BevNET, Kitu Life CEO Jim DeCicco said there were several reasons for the rebrand. He noted that the company wants to fine tune its messaging while distribution is mostly centered in the New York metro area before launching a larger national rollout. As well, the name “Sunniva” was already in use by a Canadian cannabis corporation, which also owned the web domain.

“From the earliest days we knew this was a brand that wanted to inspire healthy energy, positive energy for positive change, productivity and empower you to do more and be more,” DeCicco said. “But it wasn’t tight enough, it was sort of all over the place. It was a little confusing to consumers, so the initial impetus for the brand change was let’s evolve what we have, tighten it up, and really create this nice succinct look and feel for a national rollout.”

The new name, Kitu Life, is a play on the phrase “the key to life,” while it also uses spelling that draws similarities to the trendy ketogenic diet. According to DeCicco, all of the brand’s products are keto friendly and contain no sugar. Kitu has also been reformulated as the products are now only sweetened with monk fruit rather than stevia. While the brand does not want to tie itself squarely into the keto space, DeCicco said, connecting with the diet’s followers presents a large growth opportunity.

“Kitu to us is like what Glaceau is to Smart Water,” he said. “You don’t need to know what the keto diet is to vibe with our products.”

The rebranded products will be rolling out throughout September, and will be available in a number of new locations, DeCicco said. New accounts for the brand stretch throughout the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Midwest regions, including Stop & Shop, Giant, H-E-B, Costco, and Duane Reade. The brand has also received authorizations with Whole Foods’ Southwest and Florida regions. DeCicco said he anticipates doubling the brand’s store count to more than 4,000 by the end of the year.

Marketing efforts around the rebrand will continue to follow the same strategy that Kitu Life has followed previously, with a focus on social media and in-store sampling, displays, and driving trial.

The rebrand is also timed with the launch of a new three-SKU creamer line, available in Original, Hazelnut, and Vanilla varieties. The creamers are dairy-based and include protein and MCT oil and are packaged in 25.4 oz aseptic cartons. The line will retail for $5.49 per unit. According to DeCicco, the company will focus on both consumer sales in grocery and on-premise accounts. The creamer line will launch in Wegmans and Fresh Thyme stores this month, as well as online at the brand’s website.

As beverages that contain MCT oil continue to appear on the market, DeCicco said he sees Kitu Life’s creamers as a more affordable alternative to premium butter coffee products by brands like Bulletproof, noting that the creamers are priced competitively with many non-functional creamer brands.

“Creamer is our ability to bring that super coffee, or that better-for-you experience to cafes, to offices, to college campuses, and to anywhere where coffee is served on-premise,” DeCicco said. “It’s a $4 billion market, where bottled coffee is only $2.5 billion. It’s a much bigger market, there’s far less players, so there is a ton of room for innovation and a ton of room for disruption, and for us we’re taking the same approach that we took to super coffee. We are the mainstream functional energy brand.”