VALUE-ADDED BRANDS IRRIGATE WATER CATEGORY

Marketers -- thirsty to profit from the popularity of bottled water -- are flooding the market with new brands featuring vitamins, antioxidants and other added ingredients."I think we're definitely poised for an explosion in value-added bottled water," Valerie Skala, vice president, analytic product management, Information Resources Inc., Chicago, said in a presentation at the Food Marketing Institute's

Marketers -- thirsty to profit from the popularity of bottled water -- are flooding the market with new brands featuring vitamins, antioxidants and other added ingredients.

"I think we're definitely poised for an explosion in value-added bottled water," Valerie Skala, vice president, analytic product management, Information Resources Inc., Chicago, said in a presentation at the Food Marketing Institute's 2002 supermarket convention in Chicago last month.

Purchase, N.Y-based PepsiCo's Aquafina Essentials is the latest competitor in the enhanced, or value-added, bottled water segment. Slated to launch this month, it will be available in four varieties: Multi-V, containing six vitamins, in watermelon flavor; Daily C, 100% vitamin C, citrus flavor; Calcium +, calcium and folic acid, tangerine-pineapple flavor; and B-Power, four B vitamins, wild berry.

Essentials joins a PepsiCo/Quaker brand, market-leader Propel Fitness Water from Gatorade. Propel is a lightly flavored, non-carbonated water and is available in four flavors: black cherry, lemon, orange and berry. Made from purified water, Propel contains B vitamins (niacin, B6 and pantothenic acid) and two antioxidants.

Propel is designed for active people who typically drink water when they work out or are active. Propel brand managers say the light flavor encourages active people to drink more than they would of plain water. This, in turn, will improve their hydration and lead to a better workout, they say.

Atlanta-based Coca-Cola Co.'s Dasani brand reportedly is considering to introduce an enhanced water, possibly named Dasani Nutriwater, with added calcium, magnesium and B and other vitamins. Coca-Cola declined comment.

Other brands include Veryfine Fruit20, from Veryfine Products, Littleton, Mass., a zero-calorie pure spring water sweetened with Splenda and containing herbs; Dannon Fluoride to Go, Danone Waters of North America, Pasadena, Calif. ; and Glaceau Fruit/Vitamin Water, Energy Brands, Whitestone, N.Y.

There's also Reebok Fitness Water, from Clearly Canadian, an enhanced water with vitamins, minerals and electrolytes; and Pulse, a water and nutrients "supplement" from Baxter Healthcare Corp., a Deerfield, Ill., health care company. The line is being sold in Chicago and Phoenix in three formulas: Heart Health, Women's Health and Men's Health. Pulse is Baxter's first direct-to consumer nutritional supplement.

Propel currently leads the market, with almost $18.6 million in sales in 2001, with 21% distribution according to IRI. After Propel comes Veryfine Fruit20, with $17.9 million in sales and just 11% distribution; followed by Dannon Fluoride to Go, $8.6 million, 35% distribution; and Glaceau, $4.2 million, 13%.

Skala of IRI said brands will compete in terms of calorie content.

"A woman is not going to keep drinking bottled water that has 120 calories," Skala said. "That's not water anymore; it's a juice or full-calorie beverage."

While Aquafina Essentials has 40 calories per 8 ounces, Pepsi officials said the brand contains only natural flavorings.

"We wanted to retain the purity theme of the regular Aquafina product," Bart Casabona, a company spokesman, told Brand Marketing.

Skala said the biggest challenge is where retailers will merchandise all the emerging brands. Considering that about 32,000 new stockkeeping units were introduced into the consumer packaged goods arena last year, she said shelf space will be tight. And while the regular bottled water -- a strong category -- shouldn't be neglected, Skala said retailers should make room for the value-added brands.