Last year marked a turning point for Sipp Sparkling Organics. In May, founder Beth Wilson-Parentice left the company after eight years, announcing her exit six months after regaining the chief executive position following the departure of CEO Brian Pear. The leadership shift came as the craft soda brand was in the midst of transitioning to adapt to a marketplace hostile to sugar. With sparkling water sales rising fast, the company has returned to the drawing board to plot a new strategy to reposition Sipp as a better-for-you beverage company.
Last month, Sipp announced a comprehensive rebrand, including a packaging redesign of the core line’s 10.5 oz slim cans and a reformulation to cut calories and sugar in half. Each 10.5 oz. slim can now contains 35 calories and 9 g of sugar, while the 12 oz. glass bottles has 40 calories and 10 g of sugar.
The rebrand announcement comes as Sipp rolls out its organic sparkling water line Sipp Infusions, which was announced at Natural Products Expo West 2018 in March and developed by Wilson-Parentice. The line contains 10 calories and 2 g of sugar per 10.5 oz can.
“Before the rebrand we were positioned a little bit as an alternative to a cocktail mixer; we didn’t really know exactly what we were but that’s what a lot of consumers were using our products for,” Sipp director of marketing Brenda Lubragge told BevNET in a phone call. “Now we have repositioned ourselves in the category of better-for-you beverages.”
According to Lubragge, the change comes as the company looks to grow its consumer base. As consumers embrace healthier lifestyles, she said the reformulated core line can still serve as a cocktail mixer but can also be “the drink you can have multiple times a day.” Lubragge noted that for the Infusions line, the company used a minimal amount of sugar to give the products a fuller flavor — a move aimed at differentiating it from competitors such as LaCroix.
In terms of management, Sipp is run by private equity firm Emil Capital Partners, which owns the company. SVP of finance and operations James Arsenault and VP of sales Chris Wilson manage the day-to-day with no immediate plans to fill a CEO or president role.
Speaking to BevNET, Wilson said Sipp is currently in about 5,000 doors nationwide, with retailers including Kroger, Safeway/Albertsons, H-E-B, and Fresh Market. The brand’s distributors include UNFI, KeHE, Super Value Market Center, DPI, and Gourmet Foods International, and it has partnered with broker National Sales Associates to increase its penetration throughout 2019. Wilson noted that while the core line makes up the bulk of Sipp’s retail presence, the company is in talks with multiple national retailers to expand the Infusions line.
“Our goal is to take these cans and be a little bit more aggressive in traditional retail and grocery, and to go after the more ‘casual organic consumer,’” Wilson said. “They’re the consumers who want natural and organic products, but they’re not going to Whole Foods. They’re shopping at their Publix, they’re shopping at their Kroger stores.”
After the rebrand, Wilson said he sees Sipp as occupying a white space for low-calorie organic sodas, and that he believes Infusions to be positioned well against competitors like Alta Palla, one of the few other organic sparkling waters currently in the marketplace. Sipp is targeting a lower price point, with both lines retailing for $1.19 per can. However, he noted that, while the company is hoping to develop a unique identity, retailers still place the brand alongside fuller calorie specialty sodas like San Pellegrino.
“Being at 35 calories, there’s really no one out there in that space,” he said. “We just did something where instead of being a ‘me too’ we really set ourselves apart from the rest of the beverage space right now. But the tricky part is always where do you go? Not really wanting to be called a soda so not really in the soda. Finding a home can be a little tricky.”
In addition to targeting the grocery channel in 2019, Sipp has also launched an ecommerce platform, selling its core line in 12-packs and 6-packs for Infusions.
Prior to the rebrand, Lubragge said Sipp was often unsure of who its core consumer was, but the change has clarified the company’s purpose and market strategy moving forward. Now, Sipp is now working to reach consumers by sponsoring health and wellness events, such as yoga. Millennials are a major target, and the company has put a focus on social media and is working with bloggers and influencers.
“We are still staying true to our core values as a company and as a brand,” Lubragge said. “We’ve always been focused on being natural, organic, and clean. But I think with the explosion of the sparkling water category, we’ve re-positioned ourselves to be able to grow even more and compete with the other big brands that are out there. We’re excited about the new direction that we’re headed…. We’re really focusing on the products and the success of the brand, innovate with new products, and really become a leader in the category.”
Correction: A previous version of this article misstated the timing of Beth Wilson-Parentice’s departure from the company.