“Reinventing flavored water”: SZENT secures an additional US$2.2m in funding
19 Feb 2019 --- US-based beverage start-up SZENT has secured an additional US$2.2 million round of financing as the brand enters its first full year in the drinks market. The company is hoping to reinvent the bottled water category, by ramping up product transparency through its line of flavored water beverages.
The popularity of flavored waters is rising as a share of soft drink launches due to their light fresh and healthy image. Innova Market Insights reported a 25.3 percent CAGR in plant-based waters between 2012 and 2017, compared with a 6.6 percent CAGR for the soft drinks category as a whole. However, as plant-based waters are one of the smallest subcategories, accounting for 2 percent share of global soft drinks NPD, with around 2.8 percent of the total, this is up dramatically from 1.1 percent in 2012.
Free from claims are also popular within this space, with allergy and gluten-free taking second and third places, and non-GMO seeing good growth from a smaller base.
In October 2018, SZENT announced the launch of its initial product lineup. With nothing more than water in the bottle, the brand’s proprietary scent ring, infused with all-natural oils, channels the flavor experience through your sense of smell, avoiding the need for artificial sweeteners or additives.
“The market for flavored beverages is in need of meaningful innovation,” said SZENT CEO Shawn Griffis at the time.
For the consumer who's looking for a healthier beverage but finds water uninspiring, the options are few. By utilizing the power of the olfactory, SZENT can indeed offer hydration and flavor without compromise.
“We saw an opportunity to bring some much-needed change to a routine category,” he explained.
“It’s our opinion that no one’s solved for a drink promising equal parts health and satisfaction,” notes SZENT Chief Creative Officer Maddie Grandbois. “We’ve reached the limits of what today's flavored beverages can offer. So we started thinking outside the bottle, and in the process, realized how important your sense of smell is to the flavor experience. From that simple insight, SZENT was born.”
Speaking to FoodIngredientsFirst, Grandbois says: “This new influx of capital will allow us to expand our footprint into traditional retail, continue to bring awareness to the brand and invest in the next generation of SZENT products.”
“We plan to introduce a sparkling line later this year. For the second year running Americans are drinking more bottled water than any other beverage product. We don’t see that trend slowing anytime soon. Consumers want more transparency in their diets. And as a brand we're embracing that reality by reinventing the flavor experience,” she explains.
“There’s little to distinguish a wide array of bottled waters, making for a crowded category. The traditionally flavored equivalents are equally pervasive, each pushing an array of additives. Fortunately, we’re able to invite consumers from both sides of the spectrum through an entirely unique beverage experience that doesn’t compromise on health or satisfaction,” she adds.
Innova Market Insights has noted that the need for sensory experiences is uncovering more exotic food and beverage options. There is a focus on heightened sensory delivery, often combined with an element of the unexpected.
The food industry is entering an “age of the explorer,” where an adventurous consumer is coming to the fore and demanding new flavorful experiences with a true story behind them. Globalization is sparking the consumer’s curiosity to discover flavors and experiences in new food and drinks. This is supported by Innova Market Insights top trend for 2019, “The Adventurous Consumer.”
Heightened sensory delivery, storytelling and novelty are providing ways for brands to engage with more adventurous, enjoyment-seeking consumers.
In 2017, SZENT raised US$1.5 million in seed financing with the support of a syndicate of independent investors, led by former FirstMark Capital co-chairman, Gerald Poch. In this latest development, which was revealed last month, that same investor group reaffirmed their commitment to SZENT, contributing an additional US$2.2 million.
“Given the brand’s significant progress in launching its initial line of products and strong market response, we’re pleased to provide additional capital to support the company’s growth,” says Poch.
“We’ve invented a beverage experience like no other. And this new influx of capital will allow us to expand our footprint into traditional retail, continue to bring awareness to the brand and invest in the next generation of SZENT products,” adds Griffis.
Bottled by Unix Packaging in Los Angeles, SZENT uses a reverse osmosis purification process. The brand's core still flavors include Passionfruit, Tangerine, Tropical, Pineapple and Mint, with plans to introduce a sparkling line later this year.
Currently available only on Amazon, a forthcoming national retail presence will debut individual bottles priced at US$2.25 each, says the company.
By Elizabeth Green
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