Following the surge in popularity of brands like La Croix, it’s been difficult to escape the craze of flavored, sparkling waters. Apart from the category leader, brands like bubly (PepsiCo), Spindrift and Waterloo have built up large followings in the fizzy water game.
With the Strawberry and Grape launch, Waterloo now has 10 flavors, matching Spindrift (10) and catching up to bubly (12) and La Croix (21). Waterloo hopes the new flavors will be “a nod to Americana and beverage flavors that evoke childhood memories.”
Sean Cusack, co-founder of Waterloo, said “People have come to trust that we will always deliver on taste with every single launch thanks to the genius of our in-house innovation team who is truly driven by their passion for artisanal sparkling water.”
The Waterloo brand is less than two years old, but has already seen massive growth. They reported that by January 2019 more than 100 million Waterloo cans were sold in the US. But even with quick success, they acknowledge the tricky landscape of the flavored beverage industry.
Waterloo - 0 calories, 0g sugar, 0g protein, 0mg sodium, 0% juice, Carbonated Water and Natural Flavors
bubly - 0 calories, 0g sugar, 0g protein, 0mg sodium, 0% juice, Carbonated Water and Natural Flavors
Spindrift (Strawberry) - 9 calories, 1g sugar, 0g protein, 0mg sodium, 8% juice, Sparkling water, strawberry puree, fresh lime juice
La Croix - 0 calories, 0g sugar, 0g protein, 0mg sodium, 0% juice, Carbonated Water and Natural Flavors
Jason Shiver, CEO of Waterloo, told BeverageDaily “If you know something about the beverage category, you know it’s dominated by the major players in Pepsi, Coke and Nestle. Those guys are going to get their space, and it leaves very little space for people like us to try to participate.”
Addressing ‘natural flavors’ concerns
Beyond taste and flavor profile, Waterloo tries to differentiate itself from other sparkling water brands with its packaging. The cans break from modern designs by using traditional fonts and colors with fruit illustrations and details.
“When you look at the branding on our product, it’s almost instantly classic, like a brand that you already know. That’s always a first step to someone picking up your product, you have to be interesting,” Shiver said.
Waterloo saw concerns that consumers had with other sparkling waters, wanting to know more about what comprises the ‘natural flavors’ added to most drinks. Waterloo, bubly and La Croix, for example, all use ‘natural flavors’ in their formulas. Spindrift opts for real fruit juice, emphasizing the difference on its website and packaging.
“Spindrift is all about what we put into our sparkling water – not what we remove. Spindrift is the first sparkling water made with only real squeezed fruit. So, when you pour Spindrift, you’ll see it is colorful because real fruit has color,” they said.
Boiling down to taste
Waterloo is in the ‘natural flavors’ camp, but did decide to add ‘attributes’ like non-GMO and vegan certifications to “try to take that concern away from [consumers].” Shiver said they are the first sparkling water brand to his knowledge to achieve the certifications, noting that it wasn’t the cheap way to go, but “is a way for us to give consumers some sort of confidence in our product.”
He said that for any beverage brand, flavor development is very transactional. When working with flavor house, they give you a vial of ingredients for each flavor. It’s a fruit essence that everyone uses, and mixing it with carbonated water usually gives a subtle fruit flavor.
Shiver said that Waterloo has taken it step further, piecing together a lot of different components for atypical interpretations of the flavors. He shared that the vision for the new Grape flavor was for it to be reminiscent of sugary grape soda enjoyed by kids. The team also spent four months testing hundreds of iterations before settling on the final Strawberry formula.
In the end, Shiver believes that it all comes down to taste, and that Waterloo has the superior product. The drive toward more health and wellness-focused products has been all about low calorie, low sugar and clean labels, but today’s consumers aren’t willing to compromise on taste.
“When you think about what happened with sparkling water, all these people made a life decision to move away from sugary soft drinks and juices. We believe that they felt like there was some sacrifice in the midst of all that. So we wanted to take that feeling of sacrifice away,” Shiver said.