AQUAhydrate targets 'everyday warriors' as premium pH segment continues to grow

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

AQUAhydrate is privately owned by a multinational group of investors including Ron Burkle, Mark Wahlberg, and Sean Combs. Picture: AQUAhydrate
AQUAhydrate is privately owned by a multinational group of investors including Ron Burkle, Mark Wahlberg, and Sean Combs. Picture: AQUAhydrate
Celebrity-backed AQUAhydrate has doubled its distribution over the past 18 months from around 30,000 to 60,000 outlets by appealing to a broad set of ‘everyday warriors’ it claims are seeking out more premium products and aspirational brands in the bottled water set.

A purified water filtered via reverse osmosis and UV light that is ionized to raise its pH to 9.5 and infused with a proprietary blend of electrolytes, AQUAhydrate is growing at 40% year-on-year and is now #2 in the premium pH category [behind Essentia], claimed chief marketing officer Ericka Pittman, who joined the brand in January.

 Just over the last few months we’ve noticed that a lot of the traditional grocery and mass channels are taking premium pH water out of their specialty sections and bringing them into the traditional sets, so everyday consumers are seeing these products.

The $1.3bn premium water category continues to be on fire and consumers are shifting towards more quality products, products that do more for you in a healthy and pure way, so we’re really excited about where the brand is headed.”

Our consumers are what we call ‘everyday warriors’

While cynics might raise an eyebrow at Pittman’s description of water as a ‘performance lifestyle beverage,’ premium bottled water has an aspirational quality, said Pittman.

Our brand speaks to a larger audience of consumers that are looking for quality products. It’s not about being an elite athlete. Mark Wahlberg ​[AQUAhydrate investor] and Jillian Michaels ​[chief wellness officer] are fitness enthusiasts, and Sean ​[‘Diddy’ Combs, also an investor] is always on the go, so they all build AQUAhydrate into their everyday lifestyle in an authentic way.

“But our consumers are what we call everyday warriors, people that are really pushing their lifestyles to the limit, whether it’s a soccer mom or a frequent traveler moving at a fast space professionally.

“We don’t think in terms of demographics, it’s more about psychographics, grouping people with a certain mindset or lifestyle ​[rather than age, gender, income or location], people that play hard, work hard, are aware of the importance of diet and hydration, that love to try new products, like premium products, and model their habits around influencers and celebrities.”

Pittman - who previously worked at Combs Enterprises (the business empire of Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs – an investor in AQUAhydrate) developing brands including CÎROC Ultra Premium Vodka, Sean John, and DeLeón Tequila – added: “We want to engage consumers that want to get more from their water, and we ae offering the functional benefits of a sports drink without the sugar, calories and flavoring.”

(The brand also claims to have twice the electrolytes of leading electrolyte enhanced waters such as SmartWater, a higher pH and a proprietary blend of 72+ electrolytes and trace minerals.)

Sean Combs with Aquahydrate - picture-Aquahydrate
AQUAhydrate investor Sean 'Diddy' Combs

AQUAhydrate – a purified water filtered via reverse osmosis and UV light that is ionized to raise its pH to 9.5 and infused with a proprietary blend of electrolytes – has been floating around for a few years.

However, it started taking off in 2012 after Mark Wahlberg, Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs and The Yucaipa Companies boss Rob Burkle invested in the brand, and has since attracted some seasoned CPG veterans such as former Coca-Cola executive Hal Kravitz (who joined in November 2014 as CEO).

We don’t make any scientific claims

But what are the benefits of this added functionality, and while replacing electrolytes lost during intense exercise is important to people engaged in intense or prolonged bouts of exercise, is it relevant to busy professionals or soccer moms?

Electrolyte depletion is associated with extreme athletic exertion​,” acknowledged Pittman. “But if you’re dehydrated there’s certainly a strong chance that your electrolytes could be depleted and we provide a solution for that.”

As for the heavily disputed claims about the benefits of alkaline water, she said: “Whether supplemental alkalinity supports pH balance in the human body is subject to debate. We don’t make any scientific claims, but we are a high pH performance water and if you believe that alkalinity supports your body, our product works for that claim.”

While the buzz around alkaline water appears to be a key selling point for AQUAhydrate, the product label does not make any specific claims about the benefits of a higher pH (‘9+’). The website, meanwhile, highlights its "elevated alkalinity to bring your body back to balance"​ and suggests high pH water is recommended by "many leading doctors and nutritionists,"​ but does not reference any peer reviewed data to support this claim.

RD: There is limited research to support the alkaline diet claim

Asked by FoodNavigator-USA in 2015 for her opinion about the claims made by AQUAhydrate, registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Joy Dubost RD, CSSD, told FoodNavigator-USA that the added electrolytes may benefit people engaged in prolonged bouts of physical activity.

As for the benefits of a higher pH, however, she was more skeptical: ​ “There is limited research to support the alkaline diet claim in athletes” ​she said, citing two studies (click HERE​ and HERE​), but added: “In general, the results have been mixed and not compelling enough to encourage athletes to begin following this type of diet or consuming products that support this dietary approach. Also one would have to follow this diet not just consume one product to make a shift in pH.”

Other have been less charitable, however, with gastroenterologist John Petrini telling the Wall Street Journal​ that our bodies have developed very effective mechanisms designed to keep our blood within a narrow pH range (between 7.35 and 7.45), and that regardless of the pH of the food or beverages you consume, they will exit your stomach the stomach at a pH of about 6.8.

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