Sometimes a small business needs to wait for a market to develop for its product.
This was the case for Ken Uptain, Founder & CEO, Essentia Water.
About to retire and enthralled with the benefits of an alkaline diet, he started his company when most consumers were not yet familiar with functional waters.
“Essentia is enhanced, purified water that many at the time perceived as niche or designer. The market wasn’t ready for bottled water with so much science behind it. But I was so passionate about how good the water had made me feel, I wanted to share these benefits with others.”
“Essentia Water is a “healthy, good for you product.” A lot of major bottled water brands are not. They are basically just bottled water. Because of Essentia’s unique process and benefits, we are able to fulfill this value proposition,” he adds.
According to Uptain, Essentia was the first bottled functional water mass produced for distribution in the United States. Introduced in 1998, the core technology responsible for creating Essentia’s hydrating alkaline water was originally developed in Japan in the 1930s and even approved for medical therapeutics by Japan’s Ministry of Health and Rehabilitation in the 1960s.
Essentia acquired the rights to this process and then refined it for mass production. Essentia’s process includes purifying municipally supplied water, infusing it with trace amounts of electrolytes and using ionic separation to remove the acidic water clusters.
He adds that the result is sweet-tasting, high-alkaline water that is easy to drink and” makes you feel better when you drink it because it easily hydrates you.”
It has been an almost decade long process for Uptain to wait for the market to develop for products such as his.
Today, consumers drink fewer carbonated soft drinks and more healthy beverages. There has been a steady climb in influencers, such as athletes and health professionals, recognizing and touting the benefits of alkaline diets and healthy functional beverages.
As Uptain reports, “We have been able to grow right along with this consumer embrace of healthy beverages and watch the functional beverage market industry explode with year-over-year sales increases in many retail categories.”
Many small companies do not have the resources to wait for the market as Uptain did.
His suggestions: “At end of day, people have to manage expectations. If the market isn’t ready for a product idea, you need to wait. So many beverage companies, and non-beverage brands as well, try to buy into the market and end up wasting millions of dollars trying. No matter how much money you spend, you can’t force a brand or product into a market that’s not ready for you.”
In a crowded market, Uptain talks about how his company competes.
“We know that trial works for us. Once consumers try the Essentia Water product, they become very loyal. We’re not spending marketing dollars to compete with big budgets; we are spending it on trial, sampling and building in essence building a team of disciples who share their positive stories about our brand with friends and family.,” he reports.
Social media is an important part of the company’s marketing effort.
“Just look on our social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Each and every day we have wonderful, feel good unsolicited testimonials about our brand.
Every small business has obstacles for growth.
“I feel the secret to finding and inking deal with strong distribution partners is having a brand that is genuine; distributors need to feel comfortable that any brand they choose to partner with can be widely accepted by consumers. If you have that you will attract the best distribution partners,” he adds.
Uptain advises others who have a product a little ahead of their times than it is important to follow the Essentia Water formula that is in essence “patience is a virtue.”
His advice to any small business starting out: “Manage expectations and do your research. You have to understand if your brand will be accepted by consumers and what needs to be done to educate consumers. A lot of people have great products and they want to get it out there in a big way. But in order to be successful you need to manage your expectations and be patient. If you have a product that offers something different. Something consumers will benefit from. Then when the time is right you’ll be ready to succeed.”