Steve Barton returns with coconut water
Steve Barton, former director of wine supplier Brand Phoenix, is targeting the off-trade with a new brand of coconut water.
Barton has set up Innovation Drinks, which is selling the Coco5 brand.
He told OLN: “The single fastest growing beverage category in the UK, the US and Australia is coconut water.
“It has the most effective hydration benefits of anything you can drink. In the east it’s called miracle water. The west is now catching up.
“In the US sales in 2011 were $200 million. In 2013 it was $1 billion. In the UK the current category in 2011 was £7 million. By the end of this year it will be £83 million, according to Nielsen predictions.
“There’s no category out there that’s booming like that.”
The drink is made up of 94% coconut water and then given fruit flavourings to make up the six variants – tropical passion, lemon, cherry crush, citrus splash, pineapple and natural coconut.
It contains five electrolytes – sodium, potassium, magnesium, chloride and calcium – and Barton said it is more effective than water for rehydration, and healthier than sugary sports drinks.
“Sports fraternities and governments are digging deeper into soft drinks,” he said. “There is a massive debate about sugar, dyes and chemicals. Childhood obesity has been linked to the sugar in the drinks people are guzzling. What we know from the wine trade is that if the government can tax something on a health basis they will not give up.
“But coconut water is a natural, wellbeing drink with great health benefits. Growth is fuelled by the global debate within government, education, sporting performance and consumer circles as to the content in products – especially sugar – within the soft drinks category.
“Coconut water will develop into one of the strongest soft drinks markets. There is a demand for easy-to-drink, wellbeing beverages which don’t have the sugar content of massive brands.”
The drinks have an rrp of £2, and may be promoted to £1.70.
“It does have a premium edge,” said Barton. “We are not looking to get into a whole price fight and sell a billion bottles. There will be very controlled grocery distribution. We are talking to a couple.”
But he urged convenience stores to back the brand before its popularity explodes.
“Eighty-five per cent of wine is sold in the big grocers, but there are 25,000 outlets outside the grocers that have done a brilliant job on soft drinks, where the split is more like 58-42,” he said.
“I have sat with convenience stores, people saying the wine trade is too reliant on the grocers as trade has consolidated. Convenience stores should get as big a slice of this as possible. It’s a massive opportunity for these guys.
“They should jump on it and steal that share from the grocers. The grocers don’t know what to do with it yet. The average grocer has six locations for it.
“We have a particularly strong proposition for the convenience market and have secured a high level of interest from buyers. From May 1, a number of national and regional convenience retailers will be stocking the brand and we look forward to seeing Coco5 build in terms of both value and volume across the UK off-trade.
“We see the huge growth in online as crucial in supporting the brand’s growth too. As such and with Amazon growing in the UK by 13% year on year, we will initially be launching the brand via Amazon.co.uk.”
It comes in a clear 50cl PET pack that shows off the vibrant colours of the drinks, and Barton said this vibrant proposal is crucial for standing out against competitors in tetrapacks.
An “aggressive” social media campaign and sampling at campuses, festivals and concerts will promote the brand.
It is also backed by former sports stars including Sir Ian McGeechan, Kenny Logan, Gary Gold and Neil Best.
Kenny Logan comments: “Coco5 is a fantastic solution for active people. As a former sports professional, I am more than aware of the importance of rehydrating during and after sport.
“Many of the drinks available on the market are full of sugar whereas Coco5 has a clean, refreshing taste that doesn’t make your mouth feel sticky. It has some naturally occurring sugars derived from the coconut water in order for the critical electrolytes to be absorbed by the body effectively and is far more palatable than some other sports and energy drinks. Being naturally low in calories is also another major bonus.”