How a Sparkling Water Upstart Is Dominating the Market

In developing sparkling water into a half-billion-dollar brand in the space of just a few years, Talking Rain CEO Kevin Klock has shown up all of the titans of the beverage business.

Neither Coca-Cola nor PepsiCo nor Nestlé nor any other beverage behemoth recognized the potential in flavored, zero-calorie carbonated waters—so Klock clocked them.

“No one is a solid threat” yet to the first-mover dominance of Sparkling Ice.”

Competitors are reacting now, introducing their own versions into the category. But Klock told CEO Briefing that “no one is a solid threat” yet to the first-mover dominance of Sparkling Ice.

Sparkling Ice wasn’t an overnight success story, exactly; but founded about 25 years ago in Seattle by a couple of natural-food suppliers to restaurants. Talking Rain didn’t start growing much until they promoted Klock from within four years ago. And since then, he has helped Sparkling Ice take advantage of a number of trends in the U.S. beverage business to create a brand that is on the way to about $500 million in sales this year compared with only about $25 million in 2010.

The company seems to be taking most of its business directly away from traditional carbonated soft drinks, whose consumption is sliding both in full-sugar and diet forms.

“The consumer, for a long time, drank carbonated soft drinks for two purposes: one was as a pick-me-up, the other was for refreshment,” Klock said. “Energy drinks are capturing those who are looking for alternatives for a pick-me-up, and coffee too. And we’re capturing those looking for refreshment.”


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