“Clutter-cutting in the functional drink case”
As retailers try to determine which functional brands to carry, and consumers stand in front of beverage cases trying to figure out which drink is just right for them/the occasion, we at Beverage Marketing Association are finding that it’s tougher than ever to cut through the functional clutter and find, reach, and empower your fans (something we regularly talk about doing).
Today we’ll be interviewing Rusty Jones, co-founder and EVP Sales & Marketing at Hello Beverages LLC. Their brand, hellowater (which is infused with natural flavors and 5 grams of fiber), has quickly found a following with consumers looking for healthier options and true efficacy.
Rusty, thanks so much for joining us today!
Thanks for having me Seth!
Rusty, like many of us (and many of your consumers), at Hello Beverages you’re passionate about your families’ wellness. Can you tell us more about your flagship product, hellowater, and why this journey of bringing it to the people is so personally important to you?
This journey has been important in so many ways. It’s two stories combined into one vision. My business partner Tom Bushkie is a long-time nutritionist who’s passion has been to inspire health. He’s created products and services to help people live a healthy lifestyle but it’s hellowater that has brought our passions together. I’ve been a creative marketing mind for as long as I could remember. I’ve made imprints on many successful CPG brands but it wasn’t until Tom and I collaborated on hellowater that I’ve seen a creative vision come to complete fruition. Tom created an amazing product in hellowater that is fiber infused with 0g sugar and 5g fiber. Fiber is a vital function in our daily lives and we discovered that over 90% of American’s do not get their daily recommended fiber intake. When I learned that I knew immediately we needed to create a fun and fresh delivery system for fiber that we could bring to life and out of the depths of the pharmacy isle. As families have become more educated on nutrition and the negatives of sugar we believe hellowater can become a household brand.
So, you set out to make a meaningful contribution to the global “better for you” movement, and eventually landed on a product that has the potential to really do just that. Next, you had to get it into people’s hands (and mouths) – which in a crowded and dynamic marketplace, is a tall order. For all the aspiring folks also working hard to provide better options for consumers…what was/is the next step on the roadmap?
Tom and I will always say it starts with a world class team . We’ve built the foundation in hellowater but he success that comes next is built from developing strong partnerships to connect with consumers. By pioneering a category in RTD fiber infused beverage it takes passion that Tom and I share with our team to turn around and share with others. Future entrepreneurs we have one simple message. This world is a 24/7 grind. Show up and celebrate every little win!
I see that you are simultaneously building out your retail and DTC footprint. Which would you say gained the most traction first – and did you note any difference in terms of where you were finding and winning some of your earliest, most passionate fans? Basically – are you finding more or less clutter when battling for digital eyeballs/conversion or IRL conversion, and is there a difference in the type/rate of fans you’re winning on each front?
We had a simple goal in mind when we started. Find our first 100 advocates who loved the brand so much that they shared a SMILE with their friends and family and in turn that 100 would lead to our next 1000, 10,000 and so on. We knew that when we connected to our first 100 customers on a more personal level we’d create a genuine story for them to share. This happened in all mediums. Our initial focus was retail but as our fan base grows we have e-commerce as a trial point so that we don’t miss our on a potential consumer. The response is very positive in both avenues of retail and e-commerce. The clutter is easily cut if you share a genuine story.
Looking ahead, it seems like you’ve got a lot of plans on the consumer marketing side. Can you tell us about the Fiber Challenge program and what you’re planning with the fan videos you’re capturing through Gather Voices? And what else is in the works/what were some of the first marketing investments that proved fruitful?
The fun part of building hellowater is that it was designed to be a lifestyle brand that promotes health and wellness along with positivity. Our #NotYourGrandmasFiberChallenge was to be playful with our fans and provide more in depth education on the needs and benefits of fiber. Our Marketing Director Jax has some exciting plans in place with the consumer videos with the fiber challenge to share their genuine testimonies of not only hellowater but their lives! We will continue to focus on grassroots marketing to build brand awareness. We’ll launch our influencer program in 2019 along with our Team hellowater campaign by sharing the personal messages of positivity in our local influencers.
Finally, I’d like to ask you to evaluate the landscape before you. Can you give us 3 predictions for the future of health-first functional beverages and where you see the market heading?
We see the “better for you” business only getting stronger. Our vision is to see the functional beverage isles become bigger that the soda isle. We are passionate about creating a total beverage brand for families to have a healthy option without sacrificing taste. Our predictions are
1. Sugar will continue to be public enemy #1 and any product that focuses on low sugar options are going to be successful.
2. Kids products need special attention. Future generations need a new Kool Aid to grow up with. (wink wink… hellowater mini)
3. Brands that continue to educate consumers on nutrition will find longtime loyal fans.
I love the hellowater mini idea 🙂 Rusty, thank you so much for joining us today and sharing your story. Hopefully folks will be able to get to try hellowater at eBev later this year!
hellowater mini launches in WalMart in April 2019. Check us out if you get a chance. Thanks again for having me Seth. All the best!
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