Beverage Startups

Bringing The Benefits Of Prickly Pear To The Market

Bringing The Benefits Of Prickly Pear To The MarketLast April we reviewed Water Works brand based in The United Kingdom. This is a perfect beverage brand for hot summer days. It’s time to look at the changes company had since then. Today, I have the pleasure of talking with Ashil Vaghela, Co-Founder at Water Works.

1. Water Works is a tasty brand which we really enjoyed. When and how did the whole story of Water Works start?

Thank you very much! Hearing people say that they like our drinks has so far been the best part of this brand-new venture for me.

Prior to this I was working for an investment bank. After 5 years I was unfulfilled so decided to quit. Around the same time, my childhood friend Khaled, who co-founded Water Works with me, was attending the 2015 Expo-West trade show in Anaheim California and invited me to come along.

Khaled is the founder of another drinks brand – The Berry Company. He was visiting his distributor who had ambitions to roll out his range of berry infused juices and teas in the US. Since I had no other plans and had since developed an interest and understanding of the industry thanks to Khaled, I decided to tag along.

At Expo West we really got a sense of how the market for better-4-you beverages was growing. I remember seeing many emerging coconut water brands and asking myself how is it that they could all happily co-exist?! And even beyond coconut water, we were starting to see new alternatives in healthy hydration as discerning consumers increasingly shied away from sugar sweetened CSDs.

We recognized that this was a growing segment of the beverage market with huge potential and we wanted to be part of it. That is how we came up with Water Works – Hydration with Purpose.

2. Water works has only two flavors: cactus and watermelon. Can you tell us more about each? Which one is your favorite?

I prefer to call them products since they are both very different. Our vision is to have a complete range of alternative waters, since no one brand had really done this yet, however launching several products when you are an unknown brand with no distribution in place isn’t realistic. We therefore started with two that we feel have the best potential to become genuine alternatives to coconut water.

Our Cactus and Watermelon waters are genuinely healthy with similar functional benefits to coconut water and most importantly, we believe they taste good enough to encourage repeat purchase. We’ve seen a lot of brands that focus so much on the novelty that they lose sight of what’s most important, taste. You can have the best branded product in the most innovative packaging, boasting all kinds of benefits, but if it tastes like crap nobody is going to buy it more than once.

As we were updating our packaging, we experimented with some minor tweaks to the recipes and these have resulted in improvements to our cost price, sugar levels and taste. We hope you agree.

In terms of what I like personally? Cactus water is great to sip throughout the day, guilt free knowing that it only has 15 calories and 3g of natural sugars per 100ml. I also like to mix it into my morning alkaline smoothie OR with my favourite premium gin on the weekends

Watermelon is my go to drink after a workout, or at intervals when I’m playing football. Because there is slightly more natural sugar content than in the cactus, I find it more effective at replenishing energy and electrolytes in the body. It tastes so good when served cold. Drink it by itself or mix it into a tasty watermelon martini.

We are currently working on adding a coconut water and an Aloe water to the range too, so we hope to have something for everyone soon.

3. I have noticed you still haven’t released fully-functioning website and social media channels. What are the main reasons? Aren’t you afraid of losing high portions of potential clients?

For new beverage and snacking brands, I believe that Instagram is by far the most effective tool for raising your profile, so that’s the only platform we have paid attention to since launching. Year one was always going to be our proof of concept phase and we expected to make some amendments. We now have an improved recipe in better branded packaging which we are confident we will be sticking with for the foreseeable future., so we can now confidently moved forward with our activation plans.

4. Beverage industry is full of difficulties and challenges. What are the biggest you have faced?

That’s right. Being a beverage entrepreneur has no shortage of challenges, but it keeps things exciting and it is extremely rewarding when you can successfully navigate through them. So far, ensuring reliable quality supply of ingredients has been a challenge.

When you are starting off you can’t accurately forecast your productions or know how much raw materials you will need for the year ahead.

If you can’t commit to a fixed amount, supplier won’t guarantee you raw materials as and when you need to produce. If the ingredients in question are quite scarce or crops are infrequent, you might find yourself unable to produce, therefore being in constant communication with several suppliers is important.

Other than that, ensuring that you sell through your stock can be stressful depending on the shelf life of your product and the minimum production quantity enforced by your co-packer. 100% natural beverages like ours have a shelf life of 12 months, which is relatively low when compared to traditional CSDs and juice drinks that contain sugar and preservatives. Be aware that buyers won’t accept product with less that 50% shelf life remaining, so you basically have 6 months to sell all your stock (less if exporting and factoring freight time)  or risk having to sell it to a discounter or worst yet, throw it away. Both options can be quite demoralizing, especially at the beginning when it is vital to record small victories, not failures.

5. In your opinion, what makes Water Works products stand out in the market?

Right now, we are one of just a few brands that is bringing the functional benefits of prickly pear and watermelon to the mass market. We have managed to do this after many months of R&D, experimenting with several different ingredients and recipes, so that we can use the gentlest pasteurization parameters and offer best taste and nutrient retention. We could have gone one better and HPP’d the products, but that would have resulted in a beverage that’s twice the price and that needs to be kept chilled at all times to achieve its maximum 60-day shelf life.

There are no other cactus waters on the market like ours. It has a unique and very pleasant flavour because of where our prickly pears are sourced, and we use always use NFC (not from concentrate). For those that love watermelon juice/water, but typically only find it seasonally, you can now enjoy ours all year round, in this convenient and relatively affordable new format.

We really take pride in crafting the healthiest and best tasting beverages and customers can soon expect to see exciting new additions of similar quality.

6. Where can consumers buy your products? Are you planning to enter new markets?

In year one we tested the concept and products through the wholesale channels here in the UK, so our drinks are popping up on the shelves of independent grocery stores and trendy delis/cafes all the time. You can also buy online via Aqua Amore, Yumbles, Tabl and Amazon.

Our export story has been more impressive still. We are pleasantly surprised by the number of enquiries we keep receiving and that is despite keeping a relatively low profile up until now. As of today, we have shipped orders to specialty beverage importers from over 15 different countries. Some of them are now ordering monthly which is so encouraging. We expect to receive initial orders from 5 new territories very soon. To be honest it was always our intention to test several markets from the start. Previous experience has taught us that you only need for your product to really take off in one market and all of a sudden you have a sustainable little business, that’s generating income. I give you the example of The Berry Company, who’s Goji Berry Juice is the second most purchased drink after Pepsi in…. Iceland. Who would have thought!

So, although the focus for Water Works will be to activate the brand in the UK, we know that there is merit in widening the net where possible.

7. Where do you see Water Works in a year from now?

A year from now I think that we will be available in some of the more mainstream channels here in the UK including Grocery, Food Service and Quick Service Retail. We will also spend time developing our ecommerce platform and developing 2 new SKUs, all whilst continuing to grow our export market foot print.

8. What is your advice to other beverage startups?

For those contemplating launching a beverage concept I would recommend something called “reverse engineering” or starting at the end. By starting at the end, by having a clear vision of you product, your market and your goals, you reduce the risk of creating an excellent product that is improperly packaged and poorly marketed. Don’t make the mistake of developing your product first, and thinking about who will buy it and where, second.

For early stage startups that have received encouraging feedback (sort of where we are with WW), get a good business plan together ASAP. Investment purposes aside, this will serve as your road map for the proper launch of your product, which will undoubtably require an effective marketing plan and adequate funding.

For more information visit Water Works website.

About Ugne Butkute

Ugnė Butkutė is a project manager at DrinkPreneur. Ugnė is responsible for attracting contributors, maintaining quality of content and keeping readers satisfied with DrinkPreneur

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