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‘No better than the average sports drink’: Rival INVO justifies Vita Coco coconut water attack

22-May-2014
Last updated the 28-May-2014 at 13:58 GMT - By Ben Bouckley+
‘No better than average sports drinks’: INVO explains Vita Coco attack
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Premium coconut water brand INVO has justified its ‘slight attack’ on UK market leader Vita Coco and other rivals' nutritional and health benefits, insisting it needs to educate people on its own uniqueness.

A release introducing the brand – made using high pressure processing (HPP) – to the UK press, claims that it is the UK’s only 100% raw, ‘never frozen’ coconut water that uses cold pressure to inactivate micro-organisms.

The drink is bottled at source in Thailand prior to shipping, and INVO claims that using HPP leaves its natural vitamin, mineral, antioxidant and enzyme content intact, while the beverage – sold in 300ml Pure, Thai Lime and Pineapple incarnations – has no added sugar, colors or preservatives.

Vita Coco and its “copycat brands” have helped grow the UK market, INVO admits in its release, but the brand alleges that, “while these companies are touting the amazing health benefits of pure coconut water…they neglect to mention that their heat pasteurization methods in fact strip their products of all these nutritional benefits, rendering their coconut water no better than the average sports drink”.

‘Misleading nature of these repetitive brands’

“People have finally begun to pick up on the misleading nature of these repetitive brands, with Vita Coco being forced to settle a $10m lawsuit in America over false health claims,” INVO adds, insisting that it stands alone in the UK market by offering the antioxidants and health benefits naturally found in coconuts.

(For reference, we've included UK nutrition facts labels for non-flavored varieties of INVO and Vita Coco in this article - the latter's is in blue.)

However, we put it to marketing and product development company Brand Relations – which is managing INVO in the UK – that Vita Coco never admitted liability for allegedly misleading nutritional claims in the US courts, despite paying $10m to settle Fishbein v. All Market Inc. in February 2012.

Indeed Vita Coco said then that it stood by its claims – phrases under fire included ‘super-hydrating’, ‘nutrient packed’, mega-electrolyte’ and ‘super water’ – and only settled out of court to resolve the case more quickly.

Explaining INVO’s comments, Timothea Horwell, key account manager at Brand Relations, tells BeverageDaily.com that INVO is “at the top of the market” and keen to differentiate itself from other coconut waters in a saturated category.

“You really need to separate yourself from the others,” she says apropos the release. “It is a slight attack on Vita Coco, but it brings other coconut waters and heat pasteurized juices into it too.”

‘INVO is quite a London product’

INVO has listings with Harrods, Harris+Hoole coffee shops and Crussh Fit Food & Juice Bar, and is going into Whole Foods Market as well as 250 stores owned by in a major, as yet unnamed, UK grocery chain.

“We’re at the top of the market, but we do hope to expand in the higher end of the market, going into multiples as well as premium stores in central London. It’s quite a ‘London product’, there’s more understanding there of our product and message,” Horwell says.

lNVO has a RRP of £2.99 ($5) for a 300ml bottle, representing a circa. 50% price premium over market leader Vita Coco, and Horwell says the brand will never be a mass market product because of its price point.

“Our market is a much more educated market where people understand the benefits of raw produce, raw juice, raw products in general,” Horwell says.

‘Our flavors are subtle, neither too sickly nor too sweet’

Discussing the success of Coldpress HPP juices, now stocked in Tesco, Horwell adds that consumers are paying more attention to labelling and the process – detailed on the INVO website – used to produce such drinks.

“Raw juice is not necessarily a mass market thing yet. But it’s certainly big in the US and I think we’re following suit here,” she says.

Horwell says she thinks that lots of consumers who are turned off by the taste of heat-treated coconut waters and coconut milks would be pleasantly surprised by INVO.

“People say it’s quite nutty… people who’ve lived in Thailand and been to beaches there say it’s just like cracking open a coconut and drinking the water,” she adds.

“Our flavors are subtle, so you could drink our product in one go – it’s not too sickly or too sweet,” Horwell says.

Click here to read a response to INVO from Vita Coco's UK CEO Giles Brook.

Related topics: Health and Wellness , Functional Beverages, Future Flavors, Premium Indulgence, Markets, Soft Drinks & Water, Energy & Sports, Juice Drinks