Vita Coco has become well known for its coconut water packaged in a rectangular-shaped cardboard carton. But as consumers increasingly factor sustainability into their buying habits, the beverage maker is turning to the more recycle-friendly aluminum to launch its new premium water.
The idea for its new water brand, Ever & Ever, came after parent All Market partnered with Lonely Whale, an incubator focused on ocean health, to help the company rethink its environmental footprint. With 75% of aluminum ever produced in the U.S. still in use today, according to the Aluminum Association, it made sense for All Market to embrace the metal, especially for a beverage such as water where the popular plastic bottle is not frequently reused.
"We're trying to create intrigue with bottles. It definitely doesn't look like the other water brands in the category, and that is obviously intentional and our mission is to spike a curiosity with someone," Jane Prior, chief marketing officer at All Market, told Food Dive. "For consumers who are on the go, live on the go or travel, there is not really a great sustainable option and that was the impetus behind launching the Ever & Ever brand."
The name, which was chosen to reflect the principle of reusing aluminum over and over again, comes in a blue, white and silver bottle. It's covered with text talking about recycling and how the bottle could eventually become a hubcap, wind chimes, another bottle or even a pirate hook in a local production of Treasure Island. It's part of a broader push from All Market to position its portfolio on natural products as not only good for the consumer but the world.
While the packaged water space is "incredibility competitive," Prior said the company's sustainability message with Ever & Ever, the staffing it already has in place for its Vita Coco brand and its existing relationships with retailers allow them to more easily move into new product categories.
"This is one of the reasons we feel we can win and compete in the water space," she said.
Ever & Ever will be sold in New York City starting in June, and online through Amazon before branching into other stores in 2020 after retailers go through their annual reset where they determine which products they carry, Prior said. A 16-ounce bottle will sell for $1.99 each with a 12-pack going for $23.99.
Ever & Ever will be competing in a saturated water space where scores of mainstream and premium brands from big-name and smaller players are battling it out for market share.
Private label was far and away the biggest seller in 2018 with $2.8 billion in sales, followed by Coca-Cola's Dasani and PepsiCo's Aquafina at roughly $1.1 billion, with Nestlé Pure Life in fourth place with $860 million and Glaceau Smartwater at $840 million, according to data from Statista. Other waters on the market include Fiji, Evian, Perrier and CORE, which was purchased by Keurig Dr Pepper for $525 million last September.
With consumers looking to make better choices when it comes to packaging, and the public largely unaware of the near infinite recyclability of aluminum, Prior said the hope is the writing the company places on the bottle could grab the attention of an individual waiting for a subway or bus who starts reading it.
It will also allow All Market to offset the single-use containers of cardboard or plastic bottles used by the company for Vita Coco — coconut water is sensitive to packaging, which can affect the liquid inside, making aluminum an unfeasible option.
"We recognize that we are a single-use packaging business and it is our responsibility to have a point of view and to think about how we can really neutralize our impact," Prior said. "When you think about a category where there are multiple options for consumers to eliminate their plastic consumption, it's definitely the water category."
Bottled water is America's most popular beverage after dethroning soft drinks in 2016. According to Beverage Marketing Corp., U.S. consumption of bottled water skyrocketed 284% between 1994 and 2017, reaching nearly 42 gallons per person each year. Most of that growth comes from single-serve plastic bottles that make up about two-thirds of U.S. sales.
But such packaging comes with big sustainability problems. According to the Ocean Conservancy, plastic beverage bottles are the third most common item washing up on beaches, right after cigarette butts and food wrappers. In addition, producing plastic bottles takes three times the amount of water that's contained inside them, and only about 30% of plastic bottles are recycled.
Major bottled water manufacturers such as Danone, PepsiCo, Nestlé and Coca-Cola are investing in alternatives and pledging to increase the amount of recycled plastic in their bottles. There also are biodegradable bottles made from mushrooms and seaweed, as well as discarded cardboard and sawdust. Boxed water also has become popular, with JUST Water, Boxed Water is Better, Icebox Water and RETHINK Water all offering more environmentally friendly paper-based cartoons.