One of Kraft's biggest-ever product rollouts may seem like a whole lot of nothing — flavor drops for water. Yet MiO is Kraft's newest attempt to grab its share of flavored water, a category that accounts for about $1 billion in sales.
It's a flavoring drop for water that has no calories and is packaged in slick squeeze bottles that look like over-sized water droplets. Each bottle sells for $3.99 and can flavor about 24 servings of water.
MiO will be available in six flavors: Berry Pomegranate, Fruit Punch, Mango Peach, Peach Tea, Sweet Tea, and Strawberry Watermelon. It's certainly eye-catching in a lava lamp-like way — but does it taste good? And why is Kraft using Sassy Gay Friend to market it?
MiO officially hits stores on March 7, but it already has a Facebook page so Kraft can whet appetites with an exclusive offer: free samples to the first 100,000 Facebook users who "Like" it (and then click on "Meet MiO" to request a sample).
The response has been so overwhelming — more than 21,000 consumers have already taken advantage of the offer — the brand today asked customers to be patient as its servers work overtime to catch up.
The trigger: an interview with Roxanne Bernstein, MiO brand director, in USA Today, where she comments that, for Kraft, "This is the next big thing."
Apparently the idea emerged at an employee brainstorming session during an "innovation day" held by Kraft's beverage unit last year. It may be the next big thing for Kraft, but it isn't the next new thing.
Capella has been offering Flavlets for six years, while Yum Drops are another competitor in the category. Both companies are small, however, and cannot compete with Kraft's marketing clout or distribution channels.
Kraft makes the Country Time, Crystal Light, Kool-Aid, and Tang brands, and its experience in beverage drink mixes will be critical in launching and marketing MiO.
It's a big moment for Kraft, as its first new food or beverage category launch in more than fifteen years, with DiGiorno rising-crust pizza's 1995 debut the company's last major new category launch.
Water has been a remarkably resilient product category despite a tough economy. The bottled water category has continued to grow, but the "Value Added Water" category — waters with vitamin and hydration additives — has been particularly robust.
Compared with sales of average bottled water, value added water grew from about 2% share of single serve water dollars in 2000 to over 20% in 2010, according to data from Beverage Marketing Corporation. While flavor drops merely enhance water's taste, they represent a way for consumers to customize water.
In the meantime, Kraft is trying to shake up consumers' perceptions of the flavored water category.
One tactic: an overly long video with Sassy Gay Friend, aka comedian Brian Gallivan, the Second City alum who's featured below in what Kraft hopes will become a viral video to keep building buzz for the launch.
It's, well, colorful and a different marketing move for Kraft — just like MiO.