Thinking Outside the Juice Box

 

Necessity may be the mother of invention, but sometimes being the mother of a small child is enough to inspire a great product. Several years ago, Roberta Greenspan noticed that her daughter loved juice boxes. Greenspan didn’t want her to load up on sweet drinks, however, and wondered if there were a way to create a similar product without the sugar and calories. Soon after, Maddie’s Beverage Co. (San Francisco) and the Wateroos drink box were born.

Wateroos resemble juice boxes, but they contain only filtered water
and natural flavors. Photo courtesy of Maddie's Beverage Co.

Each box of Wateroos contains 8 oz. of filtered water and natural flavors, but no juice. The boxes, which are manufactured and aseptically sealed by Tetra Pak Inc. (Vernon Hills, IL) co-packers, are decorated with water-themed puzzles and characters alluring to kids. Wateroos are available in three flavors: apple, berry, and grape, as well as “original,” an unflavored version with 100% purified water.

Greenspan says she founded Maddie’s in 2005 to make products she could give her daughter, but she also likes solving a problem faced by many parents. “Parents are looking for really healthy beverage options for their kids,” Greenspan says. “If you start kids on cola at age 2, that’s going to be their life. Part of our mission this year is to help educate parents on how to make those healthier beverage choices and to be able to see past the marketing and packaging. Parents need to look at a label and understand why a serving of fruit in a juice box does not equal an apple.”

To avoid confusion with juice, Maddie’s designed a package that drives home the concept of water. “It started with the name,” Greenspan explains. “We knew that there couldn’t be any moment in time that a parent could look at it and say, ‘Oh, another juice box.’ It needed to be all about water.” So the company put the word water in the brand name and animal characters featured on the packaging, named Wateroo-ligans. “We did it that way to give kids a way to associate with the brand,” Greenspan says. “But it’s all pure and honest. We’re not just a big corporation saying, ‘How do we get kids to buy our products?’”

ENHANCED BY ASEPTIC PACKAGING

While Greenspan started with a good idea, aseptic packaging may have turned it into an even better idea. According to Vanessa Solmaz, business development manager at Tetra Pak, juice boxes are an $8 billion market. Boxes manufactured using aseptic packaging are well suited for the category because they supply three key attributes desired by consumers: convenience, taste, and freshness.

The boxes are convenient because they are small enough to fit into a child’s tiny hands. “It’s perfect for kids,” says Solmaz. “It’s so easy for them to hold and drink from, and it has no sharp edges. Also, young kids can find it hard to open a screw cap, so the straw makes it easy for them.” Moreover, the aseptic packaging technology helps keep the drinks tasty and fresh without requiring preservatives.

To make the boxes, co-packers simply insert a roll of converted paper into a filler, which forms the roll into a tube and creates flaps at the top and bottom. Products are filled as the tube is formed, sterilized, and hermetically sealed using an induction-sealing process. Solmaz notes that while plastic containers usually need to be filled, capped, and sterilized in separate operations, aseptic packaging is relatively simple. “Everything is done in one chamber,” she says.

Earth-friendly packaging materials add to the appeal of the box’s clean label. “It’s a better package for the environment, especially when it comes to water,” says Solmaz. “With water consumption, it’s all about plastic bottles, and the waste when you are done with the product is tremendous.” By contrast, at 70–74% paper, Tetra Pak’s aseptic packaging is lighter and easier to ship than many other materials. The lightness is misleading, however. “If you look at the packaging material, you don’t think there are a lot of layers in there, but there are six layers, and all of them do a different job. There is an oxygen barrier in there, and there’s a light barrier in there, and because of those things, we can deliver better taste and freshness in a convenient format. It makes a big difference.”

A HEALTHY TRANSITION

Wateroos arrived at a time of change for the beverage industry, as consumers are transitioning away from still drinks like sodas and juice in search of something new. Water-based drinks could be poised to make a big splash. Greenspan says she has seen a great response from retailers since the product’s debut at Natural Products Expo West in 2006.

“When you look at the trends, 100% juice is really taking off, and still drinks are declining,” says Solmaz. “That’s mostly due to obesity trends in the United States and attempts by parents to limit their kids’ sugar intake.”

Solmaz notes that while 100% juice is popular because consumers see it as natural, that enthusiasm is tempered by demands for portion control. “Parents are looking for healthy options,” she says. “They know 100% juice is healthy, but they have to limit what they are giving their children.” Many of the consumers that are moving away from still drinks are exploring other categories, such as sports drinks and water, she adds. Wateroos seems to bridge the gap between juice and water. “It definitely aligns with what consumers are thinking,” she says.

Greenspan says she’s pleased with the way the containers worked out. “Tetra Pak brings an incredible amount of resources to a small startup company,” she says. “They are a great partner because there is a wealth of things they can do for us that we couldn’t do on our own. It brings you some kind of instant credibility and reliability too, and it’s a package that consumers are already familiar with.” She considers many of the other benefits of aseptic packaging to be an added bonus. “It wasn’t a tough decision,” she adds. “In the end, we ended up getting a lot more out of it than I ever would have thought. It’s been a good experience for us.”