The most “dramatic paradigm shift” came when the company switched packaging for its sparkling water from tall glass bottles to cans, said Creelman.
“What we discovered was people identify that long, nine-inch glass bottle closely with soda – especially when they saw the liquid,” which is brightly colored from the squeezed fruit and vegetable juice that the company blends with natural flavor to create the unsweetened beverage, he said.
As a result, consumers who were intentionally looking for a healthier alternative to soda or a hydrating beverage dismissed the brand’s fizzy water without taking a closer look, he added.
“In the can, that went away and it allows us to better communicate who are. We talk about being unsweetened, fresh squeezed juice and sparkling water. So we are able to walk the consumer through the experience in a little more measured way instead of having someone come up and say, ‘Oh, a glass bottle with colored liquid. Not for me,’” Creelman said.
“It was virtually the same liquid in a different format and it was really the most incredible example of how packaging communicates to the consumer, and how you can have the right product in the wrong vessel and it is a disaster,” he added.
Creelman acknowledged that cans also “mean different things to different people,” but he noted “they were neutral enough for our consumer as long as it was in something that was startlingly different from other canned beverages.”
Spindrift checked that box by painting its cans multiple times to create a bright, super-saturated color block that coordinates to the different flavors in the line, such as a creamy green and white for the watermelon flavor and a deep pink and lime green with white for the raspberry lime.
The extra effort results in a distinct and elevated can that better represents the brand’s efforts to elevate sparkling water, Creelman said.
Real fruit, real flavors
Spindrift also sets its sparkling water apart from competitors in the increasingly crowded category by adding 5%-10% of real fruit juice to each beverage for an added dimension of flavor that goes beyond the added flavoring in other brands’ offerings, Creelman said.
The fruit juice creates “a much, much rounder flavor,” than flavoring alone and a touch of sweetness that saves the company from having to add sugar that can add calories or another natural or artificial sweetener to the beverage, Creelman said, adding that the Spindrift sparkling waters have no more than 15 calories per serving.
By using real fruit juice, Creelman says consumers can experience “whole, real fruit flavors” instead of the chemical counterparts that some consumers may more closely associate with the fruit in packaged products than the fruit’s natural flavor.
For example, when many consumers think of raspberry in packaged beverages or candy they likely imagine the sticky sweet “blue raspberry” flavor used in candies and frozen drinks targeted at children. But Creelman says Spindrift’s raspberry lime tastes like real raspberry – which is to say a delicate balance of sweet and tart with a hit of bright citrus from the lime.
Recognizing that the brand needs to “reverse all these habits round soda, the expectations around sparkling water” and the associations of fruit flavors with overly sweet products, Spindrift invests heavily in educating the consumer about the clean taste of natural fruit.
On the package, for example, “we tried to make it as simple as possible for people to understand by clearly stating sparkling water and real squeezed fruit” front and center on the can as well as multiple mentions to how the beverage is unsweetened, he said.
Despite the clear messaging, Creelman said many consumers are still surprised by the flavors, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. He added, “Every can is a brand new moment and we love that. We love delighting and amazing people!”