Liberty Beverages, the parent company of Hank’s Craft Soda, is set to diversify its beverage interests with the launch of Aqwi Organics, a new line of low calorie flavored water infused with sea salt and antioxidants sourced from kelp.
The Philadelphia-area company is set to be introduced in 16 oz. glass bottles in five flavors: Guanabana Passion Fruit, Blood Orange Pineapple, Cucumber Watermelon Lime, Mango Peach and Coconut Lime. The brand, which will operate as an independent subdivision of Liberty, will launch at retailers along the East Coast in July.
Bill Dunman, chief operations officer and lead product developer at Aqwi Organics, told BevNET that the new company is the result of a multi-year process in which members of the team at Hank’s evaluated a range of better-for-you beverage trends before focusing in on developing a clean label option.
“When I looked at a lot of the products, I saw a lot of arbitrary ingredients in a lot of brands,” he said. “Not that there’s anything wrong with that but I was just trying to come up with a concept that was a little more authentic and simple, because I really feel like that’s where consumers are going.”
Dunman eventually found inspiration in sea water, which he said contains a micronutrient and mineral profile that is nearly identical to blood plasma. Using sea water was logistically unfeasible, so the company turned to sea salt to provide the same nutrients, minerals and electrolytes. Taking the oceanic concept further, Dunman decided to integrate seaweed into the drink.
His search brought him to a Quebec-based supplier who created a seaweed extract that retains the plant’s high antioxidant content and can be used in beverages. As Dunman described, that extraction process was a delicate but essential procedure to how the company plans to present the product.
“We’re not trying to give anybody a dose of anything, we’re not trying to cure anything,” he said. “In the process of making the extract we strip out some of the minerals so as not to disrupt the balance with the sea salt. The balance is so critical.”
While sea vegetables may still be an emerging beverage trend, Aqwi also hit several other more established consumer need states. The product contains 6-10 calories per 16 oz. bottle, depending on the SKU, and zero sugar. The choice to package the product in recyclable glass, rather than PET bottles, connects back to the brand’s commitment to supporting aquatic ecosystems and, Dunman said, Aqwi has plans to extend its charitable efforts by partnering with aquariums and other institutions with similar environmental goals in the future.
Despite differentiating itself with its ingredients, Dunman said Aqwi’s product proposition — low calorie, better-for-you functional refreshment — is easily understood by consumers. The brand also plans to explore using the extract in other products in the future.
“It only takes a couple seconds to explain the idea,” he said. “We are going to try to guide people through social media, and through there we’ll get to where the consumers are researching products. We’re just going to be very simple with our marketing.”