New Twist on Bottled Water
Forward-thinking beverage companies like Hint and O Beverages are bringing designer water to a store near you.
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By Mike Long
July 7, 2006
What if you could bottle a part of the spa experience and bring it with you every day? If by spa experience, you mean cucumber water, then you can.
A recently launched line of bottle waters flavored with natural essences called Hint boasts cucumber as one of its flavors. The flavor is delicate, with the nose doing almost as much for the drinking experience as the tongue.
Kara Goldin, CEO of Hint, Inc. commented that the company’s goal is to start a whole new class of beverages known as “essence waters,” which do not include sugar, artificial sweeteners or preservatives. “We created this water because there wasn’t anything like it on the market,” Goldin noted. “We create an extract from fruit and infuse it in the water. That’s it. Simple.”
While it may not be surprising to drink cucumber water without sugar, drinking the pear or berry water without any sweetener is different, new and exciting. Pear tastes like pear, not like sucrose or sweetener. Not surprisingly, Hint’s tagline is, “Drink water, not sugar.”
Goldin’s Hint and competitors, including O Beverages and Metromint are coming onto the scene at just the right time. This spring, the beverage industry trade publication Beverage Digest reported that soda sales had fallen for the first time in 20 years. Coca-Cola Classic and Pepsi, which account for almost a third of total soda sales, fell 2 and 3.2 percent respectively. Even diet soda sales are flat or slipping.
While consumers may be concerned about the high calories in soda, they are still drinking lots of sugar. Sales of the highly caloric Red Bull energy drink were up 41 percent in 2005. Sales of Powerade, which like Gatorade has about half as many calories as soda, were up 34 percent. Consumers may be ditching soda, but they are still happily drinking sugar in the form of juice and energy drinks.
For that reason, the story behind O Beverages’ O Water is most interesting for the combination of its founders’ past. Before entering the world of essence waters, Tom First was one of the founders of Nantucket Nectars, which drove the growth of high-end bottled juices as an alternative to soda in the late 1990’s. His counterpart, Ed Slade, is the former president of pricey FIJI Water. The juice guy and the high-style water guy get together to sell a hybrid of the two.
Different from Hint, O highlights the filtering and bottling process of their water, commenting that drinking O allows you to enjoy, “ . . . pure H20 without any organic or inorganic contaminants that are found in most spring waters.” According to the company, O’s water contains less than 3 Total Dissolved Solids (TDS), compared to the 100-300 TDS levels found in spring and municipal water. Also unlike HINT, O beverages include potassium sorbate as a preservative.
While some consumers may get hyped on the near-clinical focus on filtration (did we mention they add medicinal grade oxygen to the bottle to add “crispiness and snap” to the water?), we like the water for its flavors, especially the refreshing peach.
Whether it is about the water, the natural flavorings or the sexy bottle designs, essence waters are picking up steam. Maybe it has something to do with the continued popularity of infused vodkas. This way, you can drink your high-end martinis at night and cut back on calories while keeping the flavor going at the gym the next day.
Where to get them in New York:
Gourmet Garage, Food Liberation, Whole Foods Market, most Citerella locations, Fairway, and Forregers in Brooklyn
Bread Factory, Delmonico’s, Spring Street Deli, Westside Health Food
Whole Foods Market, Gourmet Garage, Amish Market, Westside Market, Grace’s