Smoove's prebiotic beverages place African culture in the spotlight

By Deniz Ataman

- Last updated on GMT

Source: Getty/Holly Wilmeth
Source: Getty/Holly Wilmeth

Related tags Prebiotics functional beverages Inulin Natural flavors

Tapping into the multi-billion dollar functional beverage market, Smoove’s RTD prebiotic juice is a cultural nod to African representation through indigenous and traditional ingredients, like tropical almond, tamarind and African cherry, while responding to consumers’ growing interest in international flavors.

“On a more macro level, there has been a real surge of interest in African pop culture in the US with the rise in popularity of Afrobeats and Nollywood [or Nigerian film industry] movies. Smoove was created … as a way to bridge the cultural gaps between the US and Africa in a flavorful, yet better-for-you drink,” Aiden Okosun, founder, Smoove, explained to FoodNavigator-USA.

Okosun explained that within the competitive and functional beverage space, he saw a gap in cultural representation and flavors that reflected African culture, “despite trends showing increased interest in exotic flavors among American consumers,” which according to Innova Market Insights’ data​, at least one third of consumers say they are looking for new and unique flavors, and a quarter are seeking exotic flavors.

“The Smoove brand … is really anchored on representation and celebration of Black ancestry, whether African American, diaspora, or Caribbean,” Okosun emphasized.

Okosun credits the health and wellness movement around prebiotic beverages as opening the door for Smoove. Early movers, including Olipop and Poppi also paved the way for Smoove’s prebiotic beverage to enter the market, but Smoove set itself apart by incorporating African flavors, offering consumers a taste of African culture alongside the health benefits of prebiotic beverages.

Each beverage contains 5 grams of dietary fiber (via inulin) and sweetened with stevia. The brand currently has four SKUs using natural flavors and extracts that reflect traditional African tastes: Roselle Hibiscus (inspired by the Nigerian zobo drink made from hibiscus flowers), African Cherry (also known as udara in Igbo or agbalumo in Yoruba), Tropical Almond (unrelated to the edible almond and exhibits a slightly acidic flavor) and Velvet Tamarind (inspired by black velvet tamarind, a fruit with sweet and sour notes).

The next flavor, baobab (a fruit that exhibits sweet, citrusy notes), will launch later this year, which Okosun says has a “refreshing and exciting taste,” and “is a great complement to the other four flavors.”

Funding and distribution

Building Smoove required “an army of investor advisors” to support the brand’s self-funding, Okosun said. He explained that most funds last year went to creating formulations “that resonated well with consumers in terms of taste and health benefits,” testing the brand messaging and identity “to ensure it conveyed the essence of Smoove,” through digital and physical mailers, as well as setting up e-commerce shops across Shopify and Amazon.

“The novelty and uniqueness of both the product and brand has meant that we have had to be intentional about the way consumers experience Smoove, whether through the product packaging, messaging about the flavors in a way that excites and inspires or [through] experiential activations. Significant control of consumer touchpoints at launch is required for this and informed our decision to double down on e-commerce channels like the DTC store and on Amazon,” Okosun elaborated.

Okosun added that in addition to the brand’s communications and distribution, Smoove plans to announce in Q2 two influencers “who see Smoove as an extension of their respective brands,” as well as ongoing discussions with national retailers to launch on shelves.




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