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Why do we increasingly hear about “water enhancers” when we already have “cordials” and “concentrates”? Well, while the product content is almost the same, it is actually more to do with the packaging. Brand owners have been revamping liquid concentrates, and almost created the category entirely in the case of the US, by introducing reduced-sugar versions of their products in small other plastic bottles with dispensing closures – breaking the pack type and size codes in the category. As is customary when a concept takes off, a new term, like “water enhancers”, is used when referring to it. After the brand Mio laid the groundwork for the pack format in the US in 2011, the format has indeed taken off, and it also boasts interesting growth potential to 2019, both within and beyond liquid concentrates.
Mio’s challenge in 2011 was sizeable – to create consumer interest in a product that barely existed in the US and, with no brand identity to leverage, by offering a novel, on-the-go soft drink concept. Liquid concentrates in the US had not only needed for a long time packaging innovation that would boost the category’s appeal, but it had also been crucially missing out on the on-the-go trend. The US represented fertile ground for Mio water enhancers to be presented in a 48ml other plastic bottle with plastic dispensing closure developed by Aptar Group. American consumers were looking to buy products perceived as healthier than carbonates as well as being easy to carry around. This innovation was also largely facilitated by the development of plastic dispensing closures that contain an inner valve for more precise dosing. Liquid concentrates in squeezy bottles quickly expanded in North America over 2012 and 2013 with the notable release of Coca-Cola’s 56ml Dasani Drops, Kraft Foods’ Crystal Light and Kool-Aid products, and Wal-Mart’s private label Drink Enhancer, all in 48ml size. The result is rather telling: in constant value terms, the category saw its sales rise from US$49 million in 2010 to US$560 million in 2014.
In the UK too, liquid concentrates were in need of revitalisation. In 2014, leading soft drinks manufacturer Britvic launched Robinsons Squash’d super concentrate formula in British stores in 66ml portable size. The brand owner is even leveraging the still strong growth potential for this on-the-go pack solution in North America, given liquid concentrates is still relatively small there, to expand in this region. In 2015, Britvic released premium product Teisseire Gourmet Drops in the same packaging. Water enhancers is developing rather fast as an area of liquid concentrates, with a range of formulas and flavours that now include tea and energy drinks. Not only will these small other plastic bottles make headway against the more standard pack formats, in particular 1-litre PET bottles in the UK, they also have the potential to attract sales that would otherwise go to certain ready-to-drink categories, such as RTD tea or energy drinks.
Over 2014-2019, liquid concentrates holds more positive growth prospects for the squeezy plastic bottles within Western Europe, such as in France, the Netherlands and Sweden, where the combination of reduced-sugar formulas, novelty pack and suitability for on-the-go consumption will likely go down well. Per capita value sales are also expected to rise dynamically in South Africa. There is untapped opportunity beyond soft drinks too, such as in foods – with Nestlé’s CoffeeMate 2Go cream, a pocket size version of the brand’s coffee flavouring product, produced by Global Closure Systems and launched in the US in 2015, paving the way.