Pepsico Brings Art to Premium Water With LIFEWTR

PepsiCo on Friday announced a major new brand launching in 2017: LIFEWTR, a new premium bottled-water brand that “fuses creativity and design to serve as a source of inspiration, as well as hydration, to usher in a new era of thirst quenchers,” as PepsiCo noted in a press release.

Available across the US (to start) in February, LIFEWTR is a purified water that is pH-balanced with electrolytes added for taste. But just as important as what’s on the inside will be the exterior: LIFEWTR will “fuse creativity and design to serve as a source of inspiration and hydration.

To that end, its visual identity will serve “as a canvas” for a variety of labels designed by “emerging and developing artists to be seen and discovered on a broad scale,” PepsiCo said.

Released in a series of three label designs at a time throughout the year, LIFEWTR will provide exposure for artists and creatives from the worlds of graphic design, fashion, fine arts, photography and more.

The trio of artists at launch: MOMO, a “post-graffiti” street artist (above) known for his public murals; Brooklyn artist Jason Woodside; and Craig & Karl, a transatlantic duo who create “bold work which communicates simple messages in a thoughtful and humorous way,” PepsiCo said.

“LIFEWTR is a huge priority for us and an exciting global big bet,” said Brad Jakeman, president of PepsiCo’s global beverage group. “We’ve worked hard to make a premium bottled water experience that combines the right mix of a clean, pure taste with eye-catching packaging and an authentic connection to the consumer.”

“Our LIFEWTR artists will turn the traditional bottle label into a unique masterpiece that speaks to the creativity – and source of creation – linked to the brand’s core,” he added.

“We created LIFEWTR to be as inspirational as it is functional and we’re thrilled to introduce the brand into our growing and diverse beverage portfolio,” stated Seth Kaufman, Chief Marketing Officer – PepsiCo North America Beverages.

“We recently announced our renewed Performance with Purpose goals and this is a prime example of this vision coming to life as we continue to transform our portfolio to offer top-selling beverage choices for every consumer lifestyle and occasion.”

As Jakeman also told Fortune, “We are starting to see water play a greater role in the repertoire of a consumer’s beverage consumption. I think we are seeing a secular and irreversible trend toward healthier beverages.”

Fortune also noted the biggest trend impacting the beverage industry—that “consumers have been consuming less soda in favor of bottled water, flavored waters, and other beverages that are seen as healthier and have fewer artificial ingredients. As sales of core soda brands like Pepsi, Coke and Dr Pepper decline, beverage companies are pivoting.”

That’s why on November 28th, PepsiCo and Dr Pepper Snapple Group both announced they had acquired startup beverage brands, with the sparkling probiotic KeVita now owned by PepsiCo and antioxidant and kombucha beverage-maker Bai Brands now owned by Dr Pepper Snapple.

PepsiCo, of course, already owns a global bottled water brand in Aquafina, one of the company’s 22 “billion-dollar brands” — one that dominates the $185 billion global bottled water market, as Fortunenotes, and which PepsiCo doesn’t wish to take upmarket or premium.

The origins of LIFEWTR also have a corporate sibling thanks to PepsiCo’s acquisition of SoBe (an acronym for the South Beach Beverage Company), a Connecticut-based brand of enhanced water beverages, teas and fruit juice blends that it bought in 2000.

In 2008, PepsiCo introduced the SoBe Lifewater line of zero-calorie, naturally-sweetened flavors featuring “the groundbreaking, all natural zero calorie sweetener, PureVia™, made from a highly pure extract of the Stevia plant leaf.” (That launch was also memorable for a provocative ad campaign starring model Kate Upton and the Super Bowl XLII ad starring Naomi Campbell.)

Now SoBe focuses on its Elixir and tea products, although SoBe Life Water is still available online, while PepsiCo is launching LIFEWTR as a new, standalone premium water brand in a bid to gain more of a market estimated to be worth about $2.8 billion—just in the US.

That market is dominated by Coca-Cola’s Glacéau smartwater, which is known for an ad campaign starring actress Jennifer Aniston promoting its vapor-distilled water (with electrolytes).

PepsiCo announced its launch plans for LIFEWTR (which also taps into the vowel-dropping beverage naming trend) on Friday at the annual Beverage Digest Future Smarts Conference in New York. “Smartwater has done a good job in the premium water space,” commented Duane Stanford, editor of Beverage Digest, to Fortune. “It makes sense [PepsiCo] would want to be a player in that category.”

LIFEWTR will be available in two sizes at launch: 700mL for a suggested retail price of US$2.06 and 1L for a suggested retail price of $2.70. The 700ml bottle also comes with a sports cap, but that’s not the biggest selling point. “We believe the biggest equity of this brand is the label,” Kaufman told Fortune, adding that creative labels produced by artists will play well on highly-visual social media channels.

The Instagram-ready LIFEWTR, he added, “has a beautiful piece of art on it. We think it’ll connect with consumers on a more inspirational way.”

It has worked for alcohol, with Absolut hiring artists for visually stunning labels, and wine, which has long served as a platform for artists. So why not premium water?

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