PLANO, Texas -- Beverage maker Dr Pepper Snapple Group has been a perennial also-ran in the bottled-water category. Its budget-priced, purified Deja Blue goes back to 1997; with limited distribution, it ranks 18th among bottled-water brands in convenience stores behind Aquafina, smartwater, Dasani, Nestle Waters' regional brands and several other familiar names, according to IRI data.
But the company's Allied Brands strategy—investing in independent beverage companies and, through licensing agreements, providing marketing and distribution assistance—is poised to place DPSG among leading-edge bottled-water companies with recent rollouts and new products to come in early 2018.
Here's a look at how the also-ran is quietly becoming a premium-water incubator with four distinct brands ...
DPSG's licensing relationship with Fiji Natural Artesian Water goes back nearly a decade. By expanding its reach across the United States, Fiji has become the No. 1 premium bottled water in the United States, according to DPSG. By repositioning the brand as "nature's gift," DPSG grew Fiji's volume sales 10% in c-stores during the 52-week period ending Nov. 5, 2017, according to scan data from Chicago-based IRI. In 2018, the brand will seek to grow again by offering a sports cap that should increase use opportunities for the water.
Body Armor joined DPSG as an allied brand in 2015 and has since grown to the No. 3 brand in the sports-drink category. With total brand sales up 65% in c-stores in the first half of 2017, the brand started by beverage-industry legends Mike Repole (glaceau) and Lance Collins (Fuze) saw good reason to expand its offer and launched its SuperWater in November. Carrying over the "superior hydration" mantra of the original Body Armor, the new drink boasts a balanced pH and added electrolytes to speed hydration. The water comes in 1-liter and 20-ounce bottles.
DPSG added Core Hydration, "the perfect pH water," to its Allied Brand portfolio in May 2016, significantly expanding the brand's distribution and, over the past year and a half, gaining shelf space and sales across the United States. During the first half of 2017, the high-profile brand saw volume sales in c-stores grow 54% to become the 16th-best-selling water brand in convenience retail, according to IRI. On the heels of that success, Core will take its Core Organic line of flavored antioxidant waters national. Following a soft launch in late 2016, the drinks will expand their footprint nationally in the first quarter of 2018 in six flavors.
DPSG added Bai Brands as an allied brand in 2013 and took complete ownership in November 2016. The company has since expanded the line of "antioxidant infusions"—read: enhanced flavored waters—to include Bai Bubbles and Bai Black to steal even more share from carbonated soft drinks. In 2018, Bai will tackle the bottled-water category with the launch of Bai Antioxidant Water in 1-liter bottles. The enhanced drink is infused with the antioxidant selenium. The drink will launch during the first quarter of 2018. Also coming in early 2018: Bai Supertea, slightly sweet brewed drinks available in four flavors that maintain Bai's 5-calorie commitment.