Sparkling water sales are soaring because of good branding from bubbles like La Croix, Perrier and Pellegrino.
We’ve reached peak La Croix.
The fuss over the fancy-named fizzy water that’s been around since the early 1980s is just now bubbling over as sales spike from people who are not only drinking it – but inserting the pretty pastel can into their bachelorette parties, pastries, picnics and even artwork.
The flashy neon cans are being paraded around the internet and office, on the commute home and on giant cakes at a Whole Foods in Brooklyn. The relatively inexpensive drink that costs $5.99 for a 12-pack at Walmart has even been dubbed Andy Warhol’s “soup cans for millennials” at a recent art exhibit in San Francisco called “9 Cans of La Croix.”
La Croix net sales rose from $646 million in 2015 to $827 million for the company’s most recent fiscal year, with profits rising from $49.3 million to $107 million over the same time frame, Fortune reports.
The zero calorie and no-sugar crispy sparkling waters come in a dozen different flavors, like Pamplemousse (French for grapefruit); Cran-Raspberry; and Tangerine.
But what makes this carbonated sip hip isn’t the bubbles, it’s the marketing. Apparently a little millennial pink, fluid script writing and bold print is all you need to take an otherwise unsexy seltzer product from Costco mom to life of the party, experts say.
“Seltzer doesn’t have an experience to it, but they’ve created one,” branding consultant Rana Good, who has worked on nightlife campaigns for Perrier, tells Moneyish. “It’s an unlikely product that people somehow can’t get enough of.”
Unlike some of its competitors like Vintage Seltzer or Polar, La Croix hasn’t done TV advertising and instead has a heavy focus on social media campaigns targeting millennials. Instead of paying celebrities, they’ll sponsor events at music festivals like Coachella where they popped up at Moschino designer Jeremy Scott’s party, and hire influencers to post photos nonchalantly featuring the product. It’s all helped them gain a whopping 102,000 followers they call their “Sparkle Squad.”
“Unlike wine or liquor there is no way to really taste test carbonated water so people’s only brand loyalty is to what they see showing up at parties or events,” says Michael Tommasiello, a New York City-based influencer with 14K followers.
“It’s not like a clothing brand that you can be like ‘oh the quality is bad’ or ‘the materials are cheap,’ water is water, and as long as they can get people to believe theirs is a luxury, people will pay.”
Tommasiello was hired by Perrier for years to post up to three times at parties and has done promotions for them on his personal Instagram page to get followers to sign up for more and was responsible for bringing in plenty of young newcomers.
Perrier has pushed heavy nightlife campaigns subtly promoting the sparkling water for bottle service because it doesn’t fall flat when left out, and can make a great vodka soda. And Pellegrino, the Italian mineral water, capitalizes on food pairings. Last month all star chefs April Bloomfield and Ludo Lefebvre were hired to make a whole tasting menu devoted to pairing with the bubbly.
In general, the sparkling water category has more than doubled growing from $961 million in 2013 to 1.8 billion in 2017, according to data from Nielsen, which tracks sales in convenience and grocery stores.
The recent hype could be because regular soda is falling flat as consumers quench their thirst with a healthier alternative to soda. In March, bottled water, including the sparkling category, trumped soda as the No. 1 drink sold in the U.S. last year. Americans drank an average of 39.3 gallons of bottled water in 2016 and 38.5 gallons of carbonated soft drinks, according to research firm Beverage Marketing Corp.
And this year people consumed $7.831 billion worth of sparkling bottled water, that’s more than twice as much since 2014.
Then there’s SodaStream, the DIY machine that turns flat water into sparkling, which has a market value of $1.3 billion, according to The Guardian. The brand has hired big name brand ambassadors like Scarlett Johansson.
“Sparkling water has been available in the United States for decades, but has mostly remained as a niche category until recent years,” says Beverage Marketing Corp Director of Research Gary Hemphill.
“Consumer demand for healthier refreshment is the primary driver behind the recent strong growth of the category,” he adds.
To turn water into fizz, carbon dioxide gas is forced to dissolve into water using low temperatures and high pressure. This creates carbonic acid, which gives most sparkling water an acidity level lower on the pH scale than normal tap water. The stuff can potentially erode your tooth enamel if you drink a ton of it, according to a recent study in the International Journal of Pediatric Dentistry, but nutritionists say it’s a perfectly fine alternative to water.
“I wouldn’t have 12 cans a day, but as far as beverages go, it beats soda or orange juice,” assures nutritionist, Dr. Lisa Young, who says to look out for additives like too much sugar, aspartame, Splenda or Stevia.
“Then it becomes as worse as a diet beverage,” she adds.
Other seltzer brands are gaining traction for using real ingredients, like Spindrift, which claims to be America’s first and only sparkling water made with squeezed fruit, like the sparkling Blackberry variety, which contains less than 15 calories and two grams of sugar. Others, like the cucumber, contain actual chunks of the veggie.
“Plain water is 100% the best for you,” says Young. “But seltzer is the next best thing before diet soda.”
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