Sparkling water brands are enjoying such a boost in popularity that some companies are trying to differentiate their products by adding caffeine. According to BevNET, the rise of sparkling beverages parallels the decline of sugary sodas and other carbonated soft drinks spurred by consumer demand for healthier beverages.
Limitless Coffee & Tea, a coffee roaster and retailer in Chicago, has introduced Lightly Caffeinated Sparkling Water, which is created by infusing caffeine removed when roasting the company's decaf coffees into carbonated water. The company brought the lineup's six flavors to Expo West in March, with each offering 35 milligrams of caffeine per 12-ounce can. Other sparkling caffeinated water brands include Phocus, Wave Soda and a caffeinated variety of Sparkling Ice, which is scheduled to roll out in June.
"Our brand promise is powering productivity through clean caffeine,” Matt Matros, co-founder and brand director for Limitless, told BevNET. “Sparkling water just so happens to be the conduit."
The sparkling trend has made a splash in the canned and bottled water space with a swath of companies — Nestlé's regional sparkling spring waters, National Beverage's LaCroix, PepsiCo's Aquafina and Bubly, Coca-Cola's Dasani and Glaceau's Smartwater and Ciel products among them — and consumer demand is going nowhere but up.
The trend is permeating beverage categories beyond water as well. Hard sparkling waters and seltzers are now a trending category, with Boston Beer's Truly Spiked & Sparkling, Wachusett Brewing's Nauti Seltzer and Boathouse Beverage's Spiked Seltzer showing up on store shelves.
Like boozy sparkling water products, caffeinated sparkling water seems to step beyond the healthy profile of the category, which bases its reputation on having no or low calories, no or low sugar and no artificial colors or flavors. Soft drinks typically contain caffeine, so it's an interesting move to differentiate sparkling waters from sugary sodas yet add back the stimulating ingredient that many sodas are known for.
According to the International Bottled Water Association, nearly two-thirds of adults in a recent poll said still or sparkling bottled water is one of their preferred beverages, followed by coffee at 62% and regular or diet soft drinks at 58%.
It remains to be seen whether customers looking for an energy boost will seek out caffeinated sparkling water because of its healthier halo, or instead in a soft drink or coffee. Since coffee packs a lot more caffeine than soda, that may be the deciding factor for some drinkers — although bubbles from carbonation seem to have unlimited appeal. Caffeinated waters also aren't a new product concept — BevNet reported that other caffeinated water brands such as 3 Water, Water Joe and Avitae have been around for years, but consumer interest in the premium water category could bring more buzz to this segment.
Some consumers may find water an unusual vehicle for caffeine, but many shoppers have come to expect nutritional infusions and other value-adds in their water products. This trend has resulted in products like unfiltered "raw" water for which consumers have reportedly paid $37 for a 2.5-gallon jug, while other manufacturers are trying to woo consumers by claiming that adding molecular hydrogen gas to water provides antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.
Sparkling products have their own functional claims — among them improved digestion and hydrating minerals and electrolytes — and research findings suggest that drinking them could improve swallowing function. It's too early to tell if caffeinated water will break into the mainstream, but consumer demand for new and functional water varieties seems far from a saturation point.