The U.S. sports drink category will have a dramatically different look early next year with the debut of Hydrade™ sports drinks in 500-mL (16.9-oz) stand-up pouches from Hydrade Beverage Co., Dallas, TX. The pouch structure is a four-layer barrier lamination.
The company’s management expects the pouched sports drinks to be on-shelf in four varieties by March 2001. Package manufacturing and filling will be done overseas.
The packaging will do a lot for consumers, according to Robert Quirk, president and chief executive officer, who details the benefits below. Hydrade hopes the new pack will help the young company capture sales space and perhaps even make a splash in the highly competitive sports drink segment dominated by familiar “ade” brands.
Next generation sports drink
“This is what we call the next generation of sports drinks,” says president and CEO Robert Quirk. “We have a product with different and superior benefits and taste and wanted to extend that concept into the packaging. Packaging is critical.” Hydrade has been working on the pouch development from the time the company was started 2½ years ago, Quirk notes.
“The beverage industry is packaging-initiative crazy, whether for new glass or plastic bottle designs,” declares Quirk, pointing to packaging-savvy marketers AriZona and SoBe as examples. “We needed to establish ourselves as a different and superior product, including with the packaging, which is a radical change in the way [sports drink] packaging is offered to U.S. consumers.”
The reaction from potential store outlets? “Incredibly positive,” asserts Quirk. “They love the fact that new packaging is on the horizon in this category and they love the uniqueness of it.”
Quirk highlights the required benefits that this package had to fulfill by being:
• An on-the-go package;
• Unbreakable, which eliminated simply using a new glass bottle design;
• Resealable via screw-on cap over the fitment;
• Environmentally friendly.
Quirk says that though the package is currently not recyclable, it can be easily compacted after use to take up little volume for disposal.
The package is also easily and dramatically merchandised. “It stands up and provides a nice clear picture of the graphics,” explains Quirk. Quirk says the pouch functionality is such that the entire contents can be drained with the pouch held in any orientation including upside down.
“Another advantage of this package is its great insulating ability compared to bottles,” claims Quirk. “It gets colder quicker and stays colder longer.”
This combination of attributes led Hydrade to what Quirk refers to as the “Mylar pouch.” Quirk points out that this type of polyester-based stand-up pouch is highly popular in Asia and elsewhere outside the United States. ”We believe this package [concept] will be increasingly important in the U.S. over the next decade,” he opines.
“The packaging had to be unique, advanced and high-tech, just like our product,” says Quirk. “We felt the Mylar pouch was a great ‘personality’ match to the product. It’s great packaging.”
According to Quirk, Hydrade spent a long time negotiating with a number of U.S. and non-U.S. suppliers before making a final choice, which Hydrade declines to identify. In fact, the only on-the-record indication of the supplier is that it is located outside the Americas. The pouches will initially be manufactured in one country as preformed pouches, shipped to another for contract filling, and then shipped to the U.S. for distribution.
Filling, done through the fitment, is a cold-fill process, explains Quirk, nonaseptic and similar to that used for soft drinks. The spout in combination with the pouch design allows the drink to be sipped or squeezed.
Hydrade is negotiating to bring high-speed filling on-shore, perhaps in spring 2001, Quirk says.
Quirk says this pouch is the supplier’s latest design, a new, sleeker version of a squatter design that has been used in Asian markets.
The Hydrade pouch measures just under 3’’ wide and stands 7 ½’’ high with 2’’ wide gussets. The 8.5-mm plastic fitment, which is color coordinated to the variety, extends about an inch above the pouch top. A small tamper-evident ring is at the base of the fitment. The pouch uses no innerseal.
Hydrade says the 4-layer laminated structure is 12-micron polyester/7-micron aluminum foil/12-micron polyester/100-micron polyethylene. The polyester is DuPont’s (Wilmington, DE) Mylar®, with an outer Mylar layer reverse-printed by rotogravure.
The buried aluminum foil layer gives the pouches a high-tech, silvery appearance. It also provides enough barrier--the resulting oxygen transmission rate is less than 0.15 cc/m²/atm--for an anticipated one-year shelf life, Hydrade says.
“We will be the first and only sports drink company allowed [by the vendor] to use this packaging in the U.S.,” explains Quirk. “For a small startup company, [the supplier] has given us a pretty good endorsement by allowing us to introduce it into the U.S. They know it represents a huge potential market for this pouch.”
Hydrade will be sold as single pouches selling for around $1.69 in outlets including convenience stores, Packworld.com is told. Quirk points out that the pouch has application for military use as well as other outlets that currently do not sell soft drinks such as sporting goods stores. Graphics design, which mimics that of Hydrade’s previously introduced 20-oz and 1-L PET bottles available in select markets, is through the assistance of Sibley Peteet Design (Austin, TX).
Hydrade will initially be available in four pouched flavors, each with color-coordinated graphics and a matched color fitment. The front panel’s black-and-white background visuals are keyed to the particular flavor: Basketball with grape, running with lemon-lime, biking with fruit punch, and orange with soccer.
Gussets gussied up
The company’s attention to merchandising details is also evident in the pouch’s 2’’-wide gussets, which will carry circular product icons along with copy such as text that declares, “That burst of bite is the revitalytes”. These black icons will be highlighted by a color-coded “glow” effect, again matched to the product variety.
Another well-executed detail is that the front-panel artwork is located on the top half of the pouch. Carolyn Koon, senior vice president of marketing, explains that when the product is merchandised in rows, product recognition is improved more in this manner than if full-panel art had been used: “This makes the strongest on-shelf impact as it’s not obscured by the pouch in front,” she says.
“Innovation is the real key in this category, and we believe the Mylar pouch will serve as a packaging innovation for the company,” Koon continues. “We also believe it will generate awareness and growth for the brand and our company.”