Brand/company: Integrated Beverage Group
Headquarters: Farmingdale, N.Y.
Products: Power Ice, Children’s Throat Cooler, Skinny Dippers, Jakemans lozenges
Launch date: 2007
Sales: 2007: $300,000; 2008: $2,100,000. Sales growth: 690 percent
Target demo: Varies by product
Competition: For Power Ice: Gatorade, Powerade, other sports drinks. Any and all frozen ice popsicles.
Distribution: CVS, Rite Aide, Duane Reade, Ralph’s, Kroger’s, SaveMart, Walgreens, Shop Rite, Safeway
Claims: Develop unique, first-to-market health and wellness products
Secret weapon: Product Innovation
New product: Zap Cap
Throat coolers, electrolyte replenishers, guilt-free diet treats. And in rare circumstances, improvisational anelgicsics and swelling treatments for middle fingers that have been accidentally slammed in car trunks by their boneheaded significant others. (But we won’t go into that right now.) The brands Integrated Beverage Group distributes are varied, but they can all pretty much, be summed up as a neutraceutical dessert.
What’s unique is the delivery system of freezable pouches. IBG’s Children’s Throat Cooler, for instance, tastes like a Popsicle but doubles as a soother of sore throats. It’s Power Ice is pitched as the “Enhanced Frozen Hydrator” that cools off overheated athletes while restoring their electrolytes. And Skinny Dippers’ value equation: Dessert with no just desserts. They have zero calories, zero net carbs and zero sugar.
IBG wasn’t always on the side of the nutritional angels. The company originally marketing a frozen alcoholic beverage called Freaky Ice. Then in in 2007, CEO Dominic Maggiore, a chemical engineer and family man with four kids, began brainstorming about non-medicinal OTC remedies for kids two and older. He came up with Children’s Throat Cooler, a frozen supplement that contains Vitamin C, honey and other soothing ingredients. “Children are accidentally overdosed by their parents because they’re given too much medicine or it’s mixed with others,” said Michael Densmore, IBG’s CMO. “Throat Coolers [is safe for kids because] it has no medicine in it. It doesn’t cure a sore throat, it soothes and hydrates it.”
Next came Power Ice, a frozen tube pitched as a healthy alternative to sports/energy drinks like Gatorade and Powerade, only sans caffeine or high-fructose corn syrup. The idea? “Cool down and power up at the same time.” Skinny Dippers, pre-portioned ices in flavors such as Tangy Tangerine and Frosty Lemon, were added to the portfolio and became the first zero-calorie frozen dessert on the U.S. market.
The company’s sales hovered around $300,000 in that first year, but thanks to expanded distribution and increased exposure through grass roots marketing, that shot up to $2.1 million in 2008. For 2009, sales are again expected to grow further thanks to a novel yet-to-be-launched product Zap Cap (more on that later) and an increased focus on Power Ice this summer.
Densmore is a recent addition to IBG, and he comes with 18 years of experience at advertising agencies, from Wieden + Kennedy to Fallon to Modernista! to JWT to Arnold, the Boston shop where he most recently served as chief talent officer.
“My strategy for all the products is to [get the most out of our limited] marketing dollars,” Densmore said, and this entails redoing the Web sites, adding store locators, dangling coupons/bundled offers and building out the brands’ presence at social networking pages. He cites statistics from a Colloquy word-of-mouth study that support the social media platforms he embraces: Almost one in five moms (18 percent) in the U.S. are on Facebook an average of 37 minutes a day, he noted. Also, that 70 percent of consumers who are part of a brand loyalty program say they are likely to pass along a brand name to a friend. This compares with 45 percent of consumers who are not involved in a program who report that they do.
So far, the strategy seems to be working. A “freebate” promo for Children’s Throat Cooler was a very trackable success at a time when the economy is driving online coupon usage. The program with retailer CVS allowed those who printed the coupon at the brand’s Web site or coupons.com to buy one get one buy one pack of coolers free. The deal was promoted at the sites, via mom bloggers, paid search words and e-mail blasts to 65,000 people in the brand’s database. The response rate to the blast was a respectable 6 percent; overall, about 20,000 coupons were redeemed.
Next on the market is Zap Cap, powder-filled disks can be swapped for the plastic tops on individual water bottles. A foil is pressed to releases the powder, which comes in four flavors—Goji Berry, Watermelon, Citrus and Acai Berry—that boast caffeine, vitamins and minerals and claim to boost energy, immune support and fat burning. There’s even a built-in straw. “It’s Red Bull meets Propel,” is Densmore’s pitch. “The nice thing is that water drinkers are really loyal to their brand, so by adding this on, you’re still ingesting what you’re familiar with.”