What started as a playful moment between founder Heather McDowell and her son Jayger, turned into a new market category: unsweetened sparking water specifically for kids.
After spending a lot of time in Europe and South America where sparkling water was the norm, McDowell passed on her love for water with bubbles to her son. McDowell told him that the bubbly liquid would “tickle” his tongue and to her surprise he found the tickling sensation fun and enjoyable.
“I found my son reaching for my sparkling water more than he would for juice or milk,” McDowell told BeverageDaily.
All of Tickle Water products are free from sugar, gluten, GMOs, sodium, calories, and artificial sweeteners. McDowell’s goal was to not only appeal to kids as a fun way to hydrate but to put moms’ minds at ease by providing a natural, guilt-free product to add to their shopping list.
Tickle Water comes in eight-ounce clear BPA-free plastic cans topped with an aluminium pull tab opening, and can be purchased for a suggested retail price of $1.49 to $1.59 per can.
The company recently started distribution with Gourmet Guru in late May, and can be found in the New York metropolitan area at higher-end specialty food stores like Zabar's, Garden of Eden, and Westside Market.
Making water ‘fun’
The target audience for Tickle Water is anyone between the ages of four and 16, as well as their parents who are looking to incorporate healthier beverages into their kids’ diets, McDowell said. To her knowledge, the brand is the first unsweetened sparkling water in the market for kids.
“There’s nothing wrong with milk or a little juice, but ultimately the best way to hydrate is water,” McDowell said. “And we need to educate our children about how important it is.”
Along with its health priority, one of the goals for Tickle Water was to spread the message that water can be fun and delicious without artificial flavors or sugar, McDowell said.
“I think there’s going to be kids that disagree, but the majority of kids would say that water is boring, so we asked ourselves how do we make water fun?” McDowell said.
The company’s four flavors are original sparkling water, cola, green apple, and watermelon.
Premium packaging hits the right chord
To transcend the almost ten year age gap of its target audience, McDowell chose branding and packaging that strayed from juvenile but still conveyed a youthful vibe.
Each of Tickle Water’s four flavors are represented by illustrations of animals on its cans, a nod to an adolescent's love of animals and their quest for a “cool” product, McDowell said. A gold color scheme runs throughout the packaging and branding as well, making the product just a tad “fancy,” the company said.
“We wanted it to be for hip and cool kids, I wanted it stand out and look premium by not looking too childish and cheesy,” McDowell said.
McDowell sees the incorporation of bubbles into different types of drinks like tea and coconut water as a fundamental shift in the beverage industry.
“The trend is definitely bubbles,“ McDowell said. “I think we’re in the right place at the right time.”
Tickle Water’s current focus is on engaging the consumers through face-to-face marketing and by expanding its flavor offerings.