Famous Soda Co made headlines last year after landing A$4mn (US$3.05mn) deals with local supermarket giants Coles and Woolworths for its sugar-free better-for-you sodas, and has since become the first brand locally to have national ranging of its products in all Coles and Woolworths outlets.
But this multimillion-dollar success has only driven the firm to look beyond its beverage confines, and it will soon be launching a new better-for-you confectionery range later this year.
“We’re currently a soda brand, but we want to lead in the over all sugar-free, natural and better-for-you FMCG space so in May 2021, we will be launching a new confectionery line comprising of sugar-free, all natural products,” Famous Soda Co CEO Michael Pillon told FoodNavigator-Asia.
“We’ve noticed a huge shift in consumers looking for candy and confectionery which is healthier and sugar-free, and we believe we can provide them with what they need.
“The big picture for us is really to look at traditionally sugary products and make these better-for-you, so confectionery is really a natural extension for us.”
As for the firm’s current sugar-free soda range, Pillon attributes its success to the development of products which look and taste similar to traditional sodas, but are healthier.
“To compete with traditional sugar-sweetened beverages, it is not only important to taste similar but also to be commercially attractive so as to be accessible to mainstream consumers,” he said.
“We want to be this option where consumers find us to be an easy choice to pick over traditional sodas, [which is why] we also place a lot of importance on protecting product pricing regardless of where we sell, from supermarkets to convenience stores to online.
“It’s also why we’ve opted to present ourselves as a full better-for-you brand, rather than a brand that just happens to have sugar-free options.”
Famous Soda Co drinks are priced at A$4 (US$3.05) per 330ml glass bottle and can be found in both major supermarkets and online in Australia.
The firm is also present in New Zealand and has made some forays into South East Asia – it is present in Scoop Whole Foods in Singapore – but Pillon said that there are much bigger plans on the way for expansion.
“We are currently fielding a lot of distributors as we’ve seen a lot of interest in our products, so we’ve been going through a heavy qualifying process in the past six months, i.e. deep diving into the various markets and determining which of these distributors might be a good long-term partner,” he said.
“A lot of interest has been forthcoming especially from APAC, the United States and the Middle East. The South East Asia region is the main one on our radar this year though, due to the emergence of sugar taxes and increased demand for better-for-you products.
“In particular, we have big plans for Singapore and are trying to expand distribution there now, as well as Malaysia which has some good grocery chains, Hong Kong, and Vietnam.”
Consumers getting smarter
Pillon also explained that the firm’s better-for-you concept is based on zero sugar, all natural and minimum calories (at just 8kcal per bottle) because consumers are getting more aware and simply reducing sugar in the same products isn’t going to cut it.
“There are many products on supermarket shelves that are marketed as ‘healthier’ based on reduced-sugar or 25% less sugar and so on – but consumers are getting sharper and smarter and we believe that in the next 12 to 24 months, this is not going to be enough,” he said.
“Consumers aren’t going to put up with such statements for longer as they are realising these don’t add a lot of value as there’s not much of a measuring stick – they’re going to want products that are essentially free of [all the nasties].
“We also believe it is our duty as manufacturers to do the right thing and not be misleading, and that consumers will be expecting and demanding for more brands like ours which can provide flavour and affordability while still being better-for-you.”