It ain’t broke, but Zevia’s fixing it anyway.
Company CEO Paddy Spence revealed to BevNET yesterday that the brand was in the process of implementing a new sweetener mix – “Sweet Smart” – which deploys a purer form of Rebaudioside A (more commonly known as Stevia) mixed with Erythritol and Monkfruit extract.
Zevia Zealots: CEO Paddy Spence and Friend
Monkfruit, also known as Lo Han Guo, is, like Stevia is a naturally-occurring sweetener. In the past year it has been used on an increasing basis by CSD and non-carbonated companies as a complement to other sweeteners.
“It’s game-changingly different,” Spence told BevNET, lauding the high level of sweetness and reduced bitterness of the new all-natural mix.
The change comes at the end of what has been a massive year of sales increases for the stalwart Stevia-based soda brand. On the back of flavor extensions that increased it the Zevia line to 15 zero-calorie varieties, the company’s sales in the last twelve weeks are up nearly double over the same period for the previous year in the total U.S. Food retail channel, Spence said. Overall sales, including un-tracked natural and foodservice channels, have put the brand’s sales over $60 million, he added.
Zevia has become a top-20 brand in low-calorie CSDs in the past year, and is one of just two to increase sales this year. But despite the brand’s upward trajectory, the availability of 99 percent-pure Reb A was a logical next step, according to Spence.
The brand has gradually increased the purity of its Reb A – from 80 percent to 95 to 97 percent before its new mixture – while reducing overall Erythritol usage from 12-14 grams per can to 4. It also uses domestically-grown stevia.
Rather than trumpet the new system to consumers, however, the company plans to simply let it flow into the supply chain.
“Monkfruit will be on the ingredient panel but it’s not called out on the package,” Spence said.
Still, he said, the potential to improve the brand’s flavor is of great importance as Zevia attempts to take on bigger competition.
“If you have the chance to improve it, you should, just to grab the low-hanging fruit,” he said. “Big soda is still looking to reduce calories, but they keep doing it by creating artificial flavor enhancers or artificial sweeteners. We want to be the brand that doesn’t have artificial things fooling your taste buds.”
Also on tap for the brand are 10-packs of its soda, a value-oriented play that should better serve repeat customers.