Call it a cooler convergence of the trendiest kind.
Bone broth, cold soup, and HPP juices collided in the grab-and-go space today with the release of Bonafide Provisions’ “drinkable veggies” line, the first product to use bone broth as an ingredient in a cold, ready-to-drink beverage format.
2016 was a banner year for the frozen bone broth line. The company grew from roughly 400 stores to 1800, developed several new broth varieties, and picked up an investment from Boulder Investment Group Reprise (BIGR), an investment firm founded by the former managers of Boulder Brands’ venture capital group.
But co-founders Sharon Brown and Alexandra Rains weren’t content to slow down. The two launch today a line of “drinkable veggies” that combines chilled bone broth with pureed vegetables.
To support the launch, and other 2017 initiatives, BIGR also has invested a second round in the company. Details of the round were not disclosed, although a Form D investment record with the SEC indicates that the company completed a $2.5 million round in November 2016.
The five SKUs of drinkable veggies, which range from tomato beet to spring pea, will retail for $5.99 and be sold in the Southern Pacific region of Whole Foods. Each 12 oz bottle has at least 6 oz of bone broth and the entire line is high pressure processed (HPP) to allow for a longer shelf life. The vegetables are roasted and chilled, and added to the bottle along with chilled bone broth.
Brown admitted that when she initially approached her board with the idea, which includes executives from BIGR, Presence Marketing and formerly of Suja, they were reticent to add another item to the young company’s portfolio at this time.
“I think the hesitation came from they felt that since we were creating this whole new category of frozen bone broth, we needed to concentrate our efforts there,” Brown said. “We agreed with them, but we said ‘but we can do this as well.’”
Ultimately, Brown said, the taste won the board over. Board member and investor Duane Primozich of BIGR told NOSH that some of the risk is mitigated by launching the new line in a relatively small test market.
It won’t be easy for Bonafide to enter a new category, supply chain, and production method but Brown and Rains knew there was demand for the product. Both co-founders were former nutritionists by trade and saw their patients struggle with finding healthy beverage options. They also wanted to help consumers find more ways to fit bone broth into their daily lives.
“The company was never formed to make a buck, Brown said. “It was to provide a product to our clients.”
Although it may look like a cold soup and taste like a soup, Brown maintains it’s a “drinkable veggie” and not a soup. Primozich refers to it — while admitting the he didn’t coin the term — as “the evolution of elevated liquid nutrition.”
The use of the nomenclature “drinkable veggies” comes from patient feedback and consumer insights. Soup, Brown believes, evokes the image of many ingredients cooked together and doesn’t exactly describe the flavor profile of the drinkable veggies line.
Additionally, while cold soup may be a hot trend, Brown said she’d rather be thought of as an improvement on tried-and-true categories like V8.
“A hundred percent I think it’s more appealing to drink drinkable veggies then it is to drink cold soup,” Brown told NOSH. “I can tell you from… my clinical standpoint, if I tell my clients to drink cold soup I get that squinted nose look like ‘um no.’”
The brand also is not pushing the fact that they are championing the first ready-to-drink cold bone broth, but rather a drinkable product that has bone broth in it.
If they deem the test a success, Brown believes the line can spread across the country to other natural retailers within six months. Bonafide may also shift the trade dress, flavors and messaging as it gathers more feedback.
The line will be merchandised out of drink coolers, alongside other vegetable beverages, meal replacements and drinkable soups. Primozich told NOSH that success will be measured based on similar beverage turns.
“It will be merchandised in the beverage case, so that will be the context in which success is defined, Primozich said. “So if we can start off at half a dozen units per store per SKU per week and work our way up to a dozen within six to 12 months, I think everyone will be really happy with that.”