Object 9 Managing Partner Lends Expertise to Beverage World Magazine
Is it a toy, or is it a drink?
Well, it seems that at least in some cases, the lines are increasingly being blurred these days when it comes to beverages aimed at kids.
On the one hand, there are the more traditionally-packaged beverages for kids, your Capri Sun juice pouches, for instance, which still seems to be the gold standard for the genre. In fact, Capri Sun has proven so popular it has inspired many other brands to go with the drink pouch for their pre-teen offerings.
“Capri Sun is a killer in that category,” says Stuart Leslie, president, 4sight Inc. “They’ve done a tremendous job of just drawing all the cost out of pouch packaging and they’re able to offer it at a very good value. And so it’s very difficult for other packages to compete with that. The big challenge is you can create a lot of fun, you can add things to it that make it cooler and more fun, but it’s very, very difficult to achieve any kind of real world margins or certainly lasting profits.”
Honest Tea also chose the pouch when launching its Honest Kids line, but the company’s co-founder, Seth Goldman, says there were some other reasons. “It’s a lunch box design,” he says. “It is certainly convenient, it is portion appropriate and it is kid-friendly, too. It is funny because we do get comments from parents, ‘Oh, I can’t open it. I have trouble getting the straw in.’ But the kids seems to be able to handle it.” Goldman reports the line continues to do well, with sales growing more than 40 percent over the past year.
Jon Cato, a partner with the design firm Object 9, says beverage marketers in the kids’ space have to keep in mind that the segment is growing increasingly competitive and the packaging has become more important than ever. “You’ve got to make it fun and inviting so the kids will associate a fun experience with something that’s also healthy and good for them,” he says.
As an example of “inspired beverage packaging,” Ted Mininni, president/creative director of Design Force, Inc., points to the new brand, Y Water. “It is a totally ingenious departure,” he says. “These ‘Y Knots’ can be interconnected to create forms. Then digital pictures can be sent in to the company to be posted on its Y Knots Gallery. How cool is that? This is the future of kids’ beverage packaging.”
Thomas Arndt, Y Water’s CEO, says the bottle was actually designed by Yves Behar, the San Francisco-based designer, who also designed the famous inexpensive laptop computer for the One Laptop Per Child initiative. “He was attracted to this project because we gave him no boundaries,” says Arndt. “I told him it would be a low-calorie functional beverage, but I wanted to have this playful element to it.”
Arndt, who spent 15 years working for Red Bull, says he saw a need for a vitamin water for kids and a few years later introduced Y Water. The brand’s distribution is being significantly expanded in 2010 after being test marketed throughout 2009 in Whole Foods stores.
Y Water had to overcome some production hurdles—the unique shape meant a production line had to be customized just for the bottle. Also, the special bottle means Y Water has to be sold at a premium—around $1.99 for a 9-ounce bottle.
Another new kids brand gaining some attention is the rocket-ship shaped Zimbi, a juice whose bottle is meant to be thrown around by the kids after the drink is consumed.
Justin Yarro, president of Zimbi Aerodynamic Nutrition, is an industrial designer by trade who also happens to be a fan of comic books and other related science fiction. “It just kind of popped into my head,” he says, “why not make a rocket bottle? I’ve always hated the fact that when people use these beautiful looking packages like SmartWater and Voss that they end up just throwing them away. I started thinking, ‘I want a package that is functional.’”
Kids, he says, are just drawn to the bottle when they see it. “They immediately start making sounds with their mouths and fly it around in their hand like a toy rocket. And the older kids, once they realize it can be thrown it becomes ‘How far can I throw it? What target can I hit?’” A bottle of Zimbi retails for $1.89.
Only time will tell if these innovative beverages turn out to be hits with kids. Leslie, however, warns that many brands that have gone down this route before have not been successful. “There’s a novelty factor,” he says. “But when you make the compromise that’s necessary to merchandise something on-shelf cost effectively, you generally don’t end up with a very high level of play value.
So, it’s a nice novelty and I think a lot of people will purchase it once or so, but it doesn’t feel to us to be like a lasting marketing tool.”
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