Pop ’til you drop

7 May 2020

The global beverage industry is increasingly focused on health and wellness, with sustainable and beautiful packaging supporting that trend. Emma-Jane Batey speaks to Dash Water co-founder Jack Scott to learn how his rapidly growing ‘infused British sparkling water’ brand is defining the category.

There’s always a contradiction. ‘A stitch in time saves nine’, yet also ‘look before you leap’. We want to be healthy in body and mind, yet also we want something delicious so it doesn’t feel like we’re going without. We want to be responsible and not contribute to plastic pollution, yet we also want a drink when we’re away from home, without having to lug a refillable bottle in our pockets.

That contradiction is being cleverly addressed by the global beverage industry in the dramatic recent upward trend for flavoured sparkling water. Not flavoured by sugar, sweeteners or chemical flavourings, but by delicious fruit, making it a refreshing option in more ways than one.

The so-called ‘smart soda’ category has grown considerably in the past three years, with cleverly designed brands popping up all over the show sporting enough USPs to appeal to everyone – whether that is new media hipsters, or busy mums that want to give their children a responsible treat. What is really great about this growing segment is that it seems relatively future-proof. Let’s accept that people love fizzy drinks, but they also, increasingly, love to be responsible to the planet and their bodies. So just drinking tap water isn’t enough of a draw, even though it’s free and fine.

But tap water isn’t that delicious, and it doesn’t allow image-conscious consumers to say something about themselves through their lunchtime choices. That’s where the smart soda comes in – the opportunities for branding, messaging and enjoyment are plentiful, as are the consumers that want to do the right thing and the nice thing.

Drive the brand

Dash Water has enjoyed an incredible success story since it launched in June 2017. Founded by two British entrepreneurs, Jack Scott and Alex Wright, Dash Water has helped to create the wave of popularity for delicious, dynamic, flavoured carbonated waters – and they’re riding that wave in style.

Jack Scott is vocal about how the packaging of Dash Water continues to help drive forward sales and brand awareness, with his total dedication to the Dash Water brand a masterclass in start-up passion, creating impressive results. Scott explains how his and Wright’s vision for Dash Water has propelled the brand to impressive recent investment and availability across Europe, through multiple sales channels.

With its ‘Sparkling water infused with British wonky fruit’ tag line, Dash Water has quickly created a splash in the healthy soda sector – perhaps even defining the sector. In a statement, Dash Water explained how its “intent to take the soft drinks market by storm” has resulted in a £1.6 million investment in its Series A funding. Dash Water uses “wonky fruit and veg that has been rejected by supermarkets to naturally infuse water with a ‘dash’ of flavour, free from sugar and zero calories”, with its first flavours of Sparkling Lemon and Sparkling Cucumber now joined by other refreshing options, like Sparkling Raspberry, and is available singly or as part of a multipack.

Scott says, “Design and branding is hugely important to us. We know our product is something truly fantastic, so we have worked hard to make sure the packaging reflects that. In the beginning, we saw a massive gap in the UK market for infused sparkling water: no sugar, no sweeteners and no calories. We wanted to change the way that people look at fizzy drinks and I’m delighted to say that we’re leading the pack, regarding size and distribution.”

Market appeal

The eye-catching style of Dash Water packaging has been curated to ‘premiumise’ the product, according to Scott. He explains, “Consumers are really buying into this category, there’s no downside for them. It’s delicious, healthy, desirable... so our packaging has to appeal to consumers who are likely to already be aware of the category, and are actively choosing which healthy flavoured water they want to buy. People feel good seeing Dash Water on their desk.”

The premium aspect of the healthy soda category is a key driver for Dash Water, targeting both the on-the-go demographic in London and major cities, and families who want to make healthy choices. “We’re having great success with city consumers buying from lunch retailers for single cans,” Scott says, “and from supermarkets and online retailers like Ocado, Whole Foods, Daylesford and John Lewis for our multipacks. Many people appreciate that Dash Water is a delicious alternative to alcohol, but still means they can enjoy something interesting.”

The growing health and well-being trend reflects this demand, with non-drinkers evolving for various reasons – from pregnancy to dry January to avoiding sugar, consumers don’t want to choose sugar-filled or diet sodas, or sugar-laden juices... and bars are not very keen to sell soda water with slices of lemon because the mark-up is not sustainable. Yet the contradiction continues as people still want to socialise –just without an alcoholic or sugary drink in their hand.

Whether its standing in a bar with a desirable soft drink, or sharing a sociable evening at home with friends or family, the opportunities for sharing ‘smart soda’ continue to grow rapidly. Well-being promotes the shared time with people you love, so the ‘good for you’ element is as appealing as the product itself. Scott highlights how this particular category has driven its latest launch of 750ml glass bottles, in addition to its standard ‘squat’ 330ml aluminium cans. “Our glass bottles are for the trade and retail markets,” he says. “With the value of the UK bottled water industry sitting at £2.4 billion, and the no or low-added sugar sparkling water category being the fastest-growing subcategory, we have seen a demand from existing customers and on-trade partners to launch our unique product in a new format.

“The 750ml glass bottles will allow consumers to enjoy Dash Water as a shared experience, perfect for entertaining. Our ethos and focus on sustainability remains the same, with all packaging and contents being made with the least environmental impact possible.”

The sustainability characteristics of Dash Water is well-considered in both its aluminium can and glass bottle offerings. Scott is clear that the Dash customer is just as concerned with the health of the planet as they are with their own well-being. “We want to hydrate the nation while simultaneously reducing food waste, thanks to using the rejected ‘wonky’ fruit and veg,” he explains, “with the easy recyclability of aluminium widely appreciated by consumers.

is just as concerned with the health of the planet as they are with their own well-being. “We want to hydrate the nation while simultaneously reducing food waste, thanks to using the rejected ‘wonky’ fruit and veg,” he explains, “with the easy recyclability of aluminium widely appreciated by consumers.

Can you believe it?

“Aluminium is currently considered the most efficient and recyclable format for drinks, so we’re fortunate that it matches our own values. We’re aware that glass has some restrictions, such as weight and breakability, but it is valued as a responsible, premium packaging format, particularly in the sharing category.

Scott puts a lot of faith in aluminium. “We’re excited to think that aluminium cans can be considered more premium in the infused carbonated water category, as we’ve seen it with craft beer and carbonated water brands like San Pellegrino. That’s why we’ve put so much love into creating beautiful packaging.”

The design of the Dash Water packaging has a symmetrical appeal, with the ‘dash’ of flavour used as a style motif and to illustrate the flavour of the drink. Scott continues, “The ‘dash’ mark is a descriptive way to show our brand, and is repeated across our packaging. As a ‘fizzy drink without sugar’, our products need to be visible on the shelf and clearly differentiated.

“Many multinational ‘traditional’ fizzy drinks brands are having to look at their ingredients due to the so-called sugar tax, but basically chemical sweeteners are just playing with your body. Aspartame is the devil, and Stevia is too risky. Big brands can only go on so long replacing sugar with sweeteners and having public support.” Scott is excited to declaim how the sustainability edge to his company’s pitch is always front and centre. “Dash Water has always been all natural; we’re an authentic brand, and our product and our packaging supports that.”

Dash Water is available in many countries for trade and retail, as well as from Amazon and on British Airways flights. Proud of its Britishness, the company highlights its use of British fruit and vegetables, as well as its British supply chain.

“We’re really proud of our supply chain,” Scott admits. “Our fruit and vegetables are responsibly sourced, and our aluminium cans are produced in the UK. We knew we wanted Dash to be a brand that we are proud of at every step of our supply chain, and we are. We wanted to be sure that, as this category grows, Dash Water is ready to grow with it in a scaleable way.” That is an aspect of the business that could well cement Dash’s continued relevance in the near and medium future.

Dash Water’s sharp can design has helped make it a market leader in the ‘smart soda’ segment.
Dash Water’s sharp can design has helped make it a market leader in the ‘smart soda’ segment.

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