Start-up focus: Rethink Water revolutionizes sugar-free beverages for children

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23 Apr 2018 --- Plastic in our oceans has been a hot topic of conversation for a number of months and Rethink Brands is on a mission to help reduce the number of plastic bottles that end up in landfills and oceans each year. Just last year, it honed in on demand for sugar-free or low-sugar beverages for children, in a world where parents are looking for healthier beverage options.

Founded in 2016, food start-up company, Rethink Brands is a solution based beverage company focused on optimizing water, in everyday life. Rethink Brands has corporate headquarters in Columbia, Maryland, US and is available in more than 10,000 stores, including CVS, Wegmans and Target.

Back in February this year, the innovative packaged water company and creators of the sugar-free, flavored water for kids, announced the addition of new flavors to its Rethink Kids Water lineup, which launched in tandem with new packaging and branding.

Organic Fruit Punch, Organic Strawberry Lemon and Organic Mango joined existing flavors Purified Water, Organic Apple Water and Organic Berry Water, doubling the brand’s range while still promising zero sugar, zero sodium and zero calories. The new flavors will launch this month and will be available along with existing flavors, with prices ranging from US$2.99-3.69 for a pack of 8.

Rethink Brands originally wanted to disrupt the bottled water category with its initial introduction of Rethink Water, focused on eliminating some of the 40 billion plastic bottles that end up in landfills and oceans every year. In addition to this, and quickly realizing the demand from customers who want to make smarter and easier choices for their children, Rethink Kids Water is doubling its flavor offerings and increasing its retail footprint. Globally, juice sales and foot traffic to supermarket juice aisles are in decline, and soft drinks continuously come under fire in the industry for containing high levels of sugar. As of this month, the long-awaited sugar tax came into force in the UK as well, pushing up the price of sugar-sweetened soft drinks across Britain, as the government aims to curb the growing obesity epidemic and rising levels of diabetes in young people and globally the soft drink category is being persuaded to make changes that will have a big impact on health for future generations.
Rethink Kids Water’s new flavors, and new packaging which is colorful, bright and visually appealing, is in line with the company’s forecasted 2018 growth of 150 percent and mission to change the way consumers and families alike, consider water.
FoodIngredientsFirst caught up with Rethink Water founders Matthew Swanson and Christopher O'Donovan who discussed the company strategy and plans for the future.
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Matthew Swanson, Co-Founder

FoodIngredientsFirst: What is happening regarding bottled water that you were able to see an opportunity within?
Rethink: When we created Rethink back in 2015, our mission was to revolutionize the US$2 billion packaged water industry. Last year, we continued to innovate by introducing the first line of flavored boxed water for kids with zero sugar, zero calories, and zero sodium. Water in a juice box didn’t exist, but we soon realized there was an underserved market for children who want to drink water. Parents were either giving their children water from plastic bottles, or they were filling up sippy cups which can be difficult if you’re out and about. We think Rethink Kids Water solves all those problems.
FoodIngredientsFirst: What is currently happening in this space for children and how were you able to see opportunities on this?
Rethink: More and more, parents are increasingly conscious of what they feed their children. They want drinks with no sugar, and nothing artificial, especially since childhood obesity rates on the rise.  The Rethink Kids Water line also offers kids and parents a healthy alternative to juice, often filled with sweeteners and various additives. We saw the demand when we first launched Rethink Kids Water and this year we’re doubling our offerings, launching four new flavors – Fruit Punch, Strawberry Lemon, and Orange Mango – to our category-creating lineup.
FoodIngredientsFirst: What has the response been so far?
Rethink: We just launched our line of new flavors and the response has been fantastic. We’re looking forward to bringing Rethink Kids Water to more parents across the country.
FoodIngredientsFirst: Regarding innovation, what are you offering that hasn’t been done before?
Rethink: Water for kids in a juice box did not exist before Rethink Kids Water was born. Additionally, unlike plastic bottles, which are one of the world’s top pollutants, Rethink Kids Water cartons are eco-friendly from creation to disposal. Rethink’s containers are made from 70 percent paperboard, a renewable wood fiber sourced from responsibly managed forests, and are BPA-free.
FoodIngredientsFirst: How exactly do you innovate with this type of product?
Rethink: Early innovation will come in the form of flavors and different package sizes. However, over time we have designs on exploring the possibility of clean, functional enhancements. The sad reality of things is that the kid’s beverage space is completely underdeveloped. We will change that. 
FoodIngredientsFirst: What do you see a demand for in healthy beverages?
Rethink: Soda and juice consumption is down to a 30 year low. Parents want beverages that are zero calories, zero sodium, and zero sugar for their children, and that’s exactly what Rethink Kids Water offers.
FoodIngredientsFirst: What about opportunities within packaging?
Click to EnlargeRethink: In addition to changing the way parents and children thinking about healthy beverages, we also want them to rethink their environmental footprint. While Rethink Kids Water is made of recyclable materials, we’re still working on finding a solution to straws which can be an eco-problem.

FoodIngredientsFirst: As a start-up company, what have been some of the challenges you have faced?
Rethink: The greatest challenge we continue to face is simply the education of consumers, specifically parents, regarding the fact that firstly, we exist and that secondly, if given a chance we could reduce their child’s sugar intake by upwards of 20 percent without compromise. As parents ourselves we completely appreciate the fact that unfortunately not every decision can be made strictly on health alone, other considerations like price, value, convenience, and taste also come into play. We’ve done our best to address them all. Now we need her help to get it into children's hands everywhere.
FoodIngredientsFirst: And what are your hopes for the business in the coming years?
Rethink: We’re constantly looking at ways we can continue to innovate and improve the buying and decision-making experience for parents and change the way they think about water. With shrinking shelf space, it’s more important than ever for brands to stand out in stores and we want to become the go-to choice for parents and children alike.
FoodIngredientsFirst: Will you be shipping worldwide?
Rethink: Right now we’re focused on bringing Rethink Kids Water to over 10,000 national retailers including Walmart, Target, and Kroger, as well as e-commerce platforms like Amazon.  Global expansion is indeed on the agenda, but we want to be sure to we get it right here first.
FoodIngredientsFirst: Have you been approached by any bigger companies looking to invest in your business?
Rethink: We’ve been fortunate to have the support of many like-minded businesses who believe in what the brand stands for and are committed to our growth. We are always open to constructive dialogue. 
By Elizabeth Green

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