Distribution Roundup: Kroger Not Done Yet

By Max Rothman

Another day, another brand for Kroger. If not literal, this at least seems to be the pace for the mega-sized retailer, which launched its Taste of Tomorrow program and hasn’t looked back.

On Wednesday, Just Chill, a canned relaxation drink, became the latest brand to secure distribution with Kroger. According to a company release, the beverage is the only relaxation drink in the Taste of Tomorrow program.

“This is a category with big potential,” Mathis Martines, Kroger’s senior category manager for innovation, said in the release. “Just Chill has a great message, packaging, and strong flavor profiles that our customers demand.”

Created with a chaotic day at Los Angeles International Airport in mind, Just Chill is packaged in a 12 oz. can and comes in three flavors: Tropical, Rio Berry and Jamaican Citrus. The product aims to ease stress without causing drowsiness through a combination of L-theanine (an amino acid found in green tea), lemongrass, vitamin C, vitamin B complex, magnesium and zinc.

On Monday, KonaRed, a Hawaiian antioxidant juice made with coffee fruit, also announced that it will enter Kroger stores as part of the same program. The brand will be introduced to the Kroger network via King Soopers, a supermarket chain in Colorado. KonaRed comes in a 16 oz. bottle and has two ready-to-drink offerings: Original and Lite, which contains 65 calories (half of the Original flavor).

“Coffee fruit is an untapped and powerful source of antioxidants,” Martines said in a release. “It’s one of the most potent sources that exist. We are pleased to be able to offer to our King Soopers’ shoppers the opportunity to try KonaRed, one of the pioneers in health and wellness beverages.”

Two waters with different target demographics will also enter Kroger: AquaBall, a naturally-flavored water for kids, and Fred Water, a spring water in a flask-shaped, pocket-friendly bottle. Both companies announced they’d gotten on shelves on Oct. 16.

AquaBall, made by True Drinks, Inc., designs its grenade-shaped bottles with characters from Disney movies and Marvel comics. The water has zero calories and aims to be a sugar-free alternative for kids who are more accustomed to drinking juice and soda.

“This is a very big day for AquaBall,” True Drinks CEO Lance Leonard said in a release. “This is validation from the world’s most renowned and respected grocery retailer that we deserve a place amongst the largest brands in the business.”

Like so many other companies from the hipper borough, Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Fred Water seems to be targeting the millennial crowd with its unique packaging and concept. At the NACS show in Atlanta, Adam Gayner, the company’s CEO, said that he actually encourages people to save the bottle and refill it with tap water. So long as people are drinking water, in his opinion, that’s a good thing. He also thinks this idea will keep consumers coming back to Fred. As part of its distribution partnership, Fred Water can now be found in an array of Kroger-family markets: King Soopers, City Market, QFC and Fred Meyer.

Yet even as Kroger continues to dominate the distribution headlines, smaller independent retailers are still making their dent.

On Tuesday, Red Jacket Juice, a premium line of cold-pressed fruit juices, announced distribution in all 41 Superior Grocers, an independent supermarket chain in southern California. This launch is Red Jacket’s first West Coast market. At Superior Grocers, Red Jacket will offer seven flavors: Fuji-Apple, Raspberry, Strawberry, Cranberry, Grape, Black Currant and Cider.

While Red Jacket has strengthened its presence on the West Coast, AMAZON Beverages, makers of coconut water and tea-based superfruit beverages, has beefed up its distribution on the East Coast. AMAZON announced on Oct. 16 that it has partnered with Preferred Beverage Distributors, which will bring the brand to all five boroughs of New York City. Already in more than 5,000 location across the U.S., AMAZON said in a release that this partnership is expected to bring the beverage to an additional 800 independent stores by the middle of 2014.

Source: Beverages