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Big Geyser’s Jerry Reda On Purity

BevNET.com:

Having helped grow brands like Vitaminwater, Honest Tea and Zico – and before that products like Nantucket Nectars, among others – Big Geyser has deservedly earned a reputation as one of the best distribution partners for emerging brands in New York City. The company has also leveraged its skill at growing new products into a brand development laboratory, or sorts, for Coca-Cola’s emerging brands group, giving test runs in the city to products like Illy Issimo.

But Big Geyser’s 2012 new product launch checklist hasn’t involved Coke products, but instead new, independent attempts from veteran entrepreneurs trying to carve out a second win in the big city.

In November, Big Geyser started to distribute Body Armor, Fuze founder Lance Collins’ “super-drink” brand, on Long Island and in Westchester County; in January, the product launched New York City proper. Meanwhile, in March, Big Geyser took over the distribution responsibilities for the revitalized Purity Organic line of juices, which was recently purchased by investor Bill Anderson’s First Beverage Group.

Because of their pedigrees and financial backing, both products have received significant industry attention, but the New York market is often the key proving ground for new introductions. For insight into those introductions, BevNET recently caught up with Big Geyser COO Jerry Reda to discuss how the company was approaching the launch process for both products.

Purity’s Play

For Purity Organic, the key marching order for the Big Geyser sales team can be summed up in one word, according to Reda: “Quality.”

“It’s an organic premium juice, and in our portfolio, we felt like there was a void there,” Reda said. “Look, we’ve had an opportunity to sell three coconut waters, five enhanced waters, all at one time, but it’s our policy to pick one brand and really get behind that brand. Apple and Eve is our conventional Juice Brand, and Purity is our organic juice brand – and we think there’s enough room in the marketplace for both of them to coexist and for us to support them.”

Reda said that the company’s approach to the brand has been informed by its longstanding relationship with Tom First, the Nantucket Nectars co-founder who joined Anderson’s First Beverage Group last year and began helping to run Purity soon after.

“You like doing business with people you trust, and who we don’t have to reinvent the wheel or educate on the DSD beverage,” he said.

Speaking of not reinventing the wheel, Reda notes, one of the highlights of the Purity line has been a new Orange Mango flavor – a variety that was long a standout for Nantucket Nectars, as well.

Going into the company’s second month with Purity, Big Geyser is getting support from the six Purity employees that are devoted to the New York market. That helps provide sales and marketing support in an area that commands it. Meanwhile, as far as retail accounts, Reda said Big Geyser has been targeting higher-end delis and gourmet food stores, as well as natural and organic accounts. In conventional accounts, he said, there’s a desire to get into organics – and at between about $2.50 and $2.99 at retail (although New York can vary widely when it comes to pricing, even on a block-by-block basis), the brand seems to be finding a pricing niche between products like Tropicana and other pure juices and higher-priced Odwalla and Naked offerings.

“We’re looking at retailers who are influencer accounts,” he said, but also ones that are “looking to advance their juice business, to raise the bar by going into organic.”

Helping the brand win accounts is recognition of the Purity line of organic fruits, according to Reda, who called the equity in the name “a great collateral benefit.” He compared it to the echo effect that helped assist Sunkist drinks early on. “I’ve been very impressed,” he said.

Still, the Big Geyser method is one that also revolves around feedback and insights. One of those insights came in the form of advice to Purity to change the label and bottle for the product; the company reduced its “fruit grid” from three rows to two across the line before the Big Geyser launch.

“We had been talking to them for some time, but basically waited for the packaging and label refresh,” Reda said.