Cott Corp. earlier this month introduced Fortifido, described as the "first-ever fortified water for pets with real functional benefits." The brand comes in vitamin-enhanced formulas to promote healthy bones, healthy skin, fresh breath and healthy joints in flavors including spearmint, parsley and peanut butter. Meanwhile, Bot Beverages, which markets a line of kid-targeted waters in orange, grape and berry flavors that have no artificial sweeteners and preservatives, is looking to support its growing distribution with an inaugural marketing campaign.
"Because of the success of these products in this category, we're seeing more emulators but with a slightly different approach," said Gary Hemphill, managing director and chief operating officer of Beverage Marketing, a research and consulting firm. "When you get a category that's hot, the only way that latecomers can be successful is to have something targeting a specific demographic niche or with a different wrinkle. [Otherwise] you're going to have a hard time convincing retailers and distributors to take it."
In fact, Mr. Hemphill said he expects to see even more niche products hitting the market, especially in hot categories such as enhanced water, because that's where opportunities for growth lie.
The numbers back him up. According to Beverage Marketing, the value-added water category has grown to wholesale sales of $1.46 billion in 2006, the most recent full year for which figures are available, from $114 million in 2001. In the next five years, the category is expected to more than double. By comparison, tried-and-true categories such as carbonated soft drinks have been relatively stagnant in recent years.
Indeed, a desire to diversify its portfolio beyond carbonated soft drinks is the primary reason behind Cott's foray into the booming $40 billion pet industry. Charles Calise, Cott's director-innovation for North America, said Fortifido represents an important diversification move while still using the company's existing facilities and assets.
"As a company, we look to make sure we stay innovative and ahead of the curve," Mr. Calise said. "Consumers are moving toward what they perceive to be healthier, better-for-you-type solutions. ... We've been able to take advantage of that on the human side. And we know that trends in the pet category quickly follow trends in the human category."
For those who would snicker at the idea of a major beverage company moving into the pet category, Mr. Calise said it wasn't a hasty decision. The product-development phase took nearly 18 months, and the company poured $80,000 into research. Fortifido is expected to quickly become a significant contributor in terms of both volume and profit, he said. It will be sold in supermarkets, major pet chains and pet boutiques. Sampling, event sponsorship and in-store marketing will be handled in-house.
Cricket Allen, who founded Bot Beverages with her husband, David Allen, also cited the growing category, along with the need for more-healthful alternatives for children, as the reasons for Bot's being. "Niche products are doing really well these days," Ms. Allen said.
She added that while there are enhanced waters targeting the under-6 set -- most notably Wateroos, which is packaged like a traditional juice box -- there is nothing that easily spans from tots to tweens. Bot's 12-ounce bottle is intended to do that.
The brand's new marketing campaign, which was created by Boulder, Colo.-based TDA Advertising & Design, also is intended to appeal to kids of all ages, as well as their parents. Three commercials, which feature animated characters speaking in a made-up language, will be shown at independent theaters beginning this summer. And a print component, for which distribution has yet to be finalized, features the same characters, along with taglines including "Pet shark bad. Bot is good" and "Lawn darts bad. Bot is good."
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