With the fast-growing sparkling water segment outpacing bottled water, Albertsons Companies Soleil by Signature SELECT™ sparkling water launched in the summer of 2016 and quickly became a multimillion-dollar brand and a customer favorite. Earlier this year Albertsons Cos. Own Brands team took a closer look at the sparkling water category. The team examined the current Soleil flavors, reviewed competitor flavors, and evaluated industry trends. Their work resulted in some big changes for Soleil: four delicious new flavors, brand new packaging with world-class artwork, and a fun #siptothebeat summer promotion with Spotify.
According to Shea Friesen, Own Brands Senior Marketing Manager, “Shoppers are gravitating toward drinks that have functional elements, like a jolt of caffeine. They also want healthy, low-sugar or sugar-free offerings. Sparkling water ticks a lot of those boxes, and shoppers are buying more of it.”
“The interesting thing with the beverage category is that it is always changing,” said Debbie Lohmeyer, Own Brands Senior Product Development Manager. “It’s a category where consumers are always interested in trying something new so there is always a lot of beverage innovation happening.”
Debbie, who has a background in food and sensory science, played a key role in helping the team map out what the new Soleil flavors should be.
Four delicious new flavors
“We looked at a lot of different flavors and narrowed it down to the four flavors we think will perform the best in the market and consumers will be most excited about,” said Sarah Herguth, Own Brands Assistant Product Manager.
The team selected mango, raspberry lime, tangerine, and watermelon, bringing the total number of Soleil flavors to 20. Existing flavors include original, berry, lemon, lime, grapefruit, peach, blood orange, cucumber melon, black cherry, cranberry raspberry, strawberry, pineapple, and apple. The lime, blood orange, and grapefruit flavors are also available with caffeine sourced from green coffee beans.
“Our Soleil items tend to be truer to the fruit flavor than some other sparkling waters so when you open the can you get that nice fruit aroma that you can recognize,” Debbie said.
Food scientists like Debbie are key to ensuring all the sensory elements of a product including look, feel, taste, and even how the product behaves, meet the company’s high quality standards. As Sarah said, “It’s not just water with bubbles. The carbonation levels of sparkling waters can vary and the way the bubbles feel can be different.”
World-class artwork on the packaging
With the new flavors selected, the team moved on to the packaging. Bianca Villar, Senior Brand Design and Packaging Operations Manager was one of the point people on the brand redesign.
“There are so many brands of sparkling water and we wanted to carve out a space for Soleil that is unique and brings the flavors to life,” Bianca said.
To achieve this goal, they identified talented artists from around the world to design the packaging.
“Each box design is uniquely different from the others. They are dynamic and bring such a fun energy to the package that feels very different for the category, and they really bring the flavors to life,” Bianca said.
The team had originally planned to use new packaging designs only for the new flavors and a few of the most popular existing flavors, but after seeing the quality of the artwork, they expanded the packaging redesign to all the Soleil flavors.
“It was a huge team effort to get all 20 new designs created and set up to print but they came out so good!” The new packaging is amazing, and they really pop on the shelf with beautiful colors and a fun energy,” Sarah said.
With delicious new flavors to feature and bold new packaging, the team was ready to tackle marketing for the Soleil relaunch.
Exclusive Spotify Playlists
Shea, the marketing lead of the campaign, said the team was looking for a way to break through the routine of the pandemic and strengthen shopper loyalty in a way that was functional, emotional, and socially engaging. The team partnered with Spotify to provide customers who purchased Soleil with access to three curated Spotify music playlists and the #siptothebeat campaign was born.
“With three Spotify playlists, we could express the brand experience and personality across all consumer touchpoints; and with warmer weather approaching it was the perfect time to offer a value-add to our shoppers,” Shea said. “The campaign was supported with special offers on For U™ and influencer activation to reach a wider audience in each of Albertsons Companies' markets across the US.”
The #siptothebeat playlists are:
- Amped Beats which can be found on the Soleil + caffeine flavors and features music from Harry Styles and the Black Eyed Peas
- Good Times includes artists like Sam Smith and The Beach Boys with songs that set the flavor tones for the popular blood orange, lemon, and grapefruit flavors
- Chill Vibes soft tunes from Bebe Rexha to Fleetwood Mac pairs with mellow strawberry, peach and mango flavors
The integrated marketing approach consisted of driving buzz on social channels including Pinterest and Facebook, as well as exclusive content with Buzzfeed, and in partnership with Spotify for the company’s first audio companion campaign.
The team’s hard work on the relaunch is paying off, delivering a stellar increase in sales, while acquiring new households into the category. Soleil was recently named a Game Changer by Store Brands.
Check out the team’s favorite thing about working for Own Brands and favorite Soleil flavors:
Assistant Product Manager Sarah’s favorite Soleil flavors are the new mango and watermelon flavors. Not only are the flavors refreshing and delicious, but Sarah explains “the new Soleil flavors were some of the first items I helped develop as a product manager on the Own Brands team, from the category review and flavor ideation to development and launch. I feel fortunate to work in such a collaborative environment and be part of such a passionate team to bring these products to life.”
Senior Product Development Manager Debbie, whose favorite Soleil flavor is the new tangerine flavor, said her favorite thing about working for Own Brands is her colleagues. “For me it’s about the people, “Debbie said. “There is a lot of collaboration and trust that make it a great team to be a part of.”
Senior Brand Design and Packaging Operations Manager Bianca loves pineapple Soleil which she said is great on its own and fantastic in a cocktail or mocktail. Her summer entertaining tip is to set up a fun drink station where guests can mix and match their own unique beverage using different Soleil mixers and fruit accents. She enjoys pineapple Soleil with vodka and lime for a delicious, low calorie, refreshing beverage.
“I feel so fortunate to be able to say I absolutely love my job, but my favorite thing is the people. We have a fantastic group of people,” Bianca said. “Seeing something go from design to on-the-shelf or being in line at the grocery store and seeing products in someone’s cart. It’s so rewarding.”
Senior Marketing Manager Shea’s favorite Soleil flavors are a tie between strawberry and the new watermelon. “I am so proud of the collaborative teamwork to revitalize this amazing brand,” Shea said. “I love brand building and connecting with our shoppers in exciting and engaging ways. The #siptothebeat campaign was the perfect kick off for summer.”