“Turmeric is a super-hot ingredient right now; I get Google alerts about new products, clinical data [on its active ingredient curcumin] and articles daily now, although we’ve still got a huge amount of work to do to educate people about turmeric,” he told FoodNavigator-USA.
“But conversations with retailers are getting a lot easier than they used to be because we’ve got a tried and tested product in the marketplace and buyers can see the velocity and the consumer loyalty, which has also made them more receptive to taking new products, even off cycle.”
A good example is the new Super Blends line, a more decadent line combining plant-based milks and superfoods with the firm’s signature Hawaiian Oana turmeric, that launched in January and has proved it can generate incremental growth, rather than cannibalizing sales of the original ‘elixirs’, he said.
“We’re one of the fastest growing brands in SPINS [which monitors sales of natural and organic products in the natural and conventional grocery retail channel]; we doubled revenues last year and expect to do the same this year, so retailers are calling me now, whereas 4-5 years ago it was really hard to get a meeting.”
Retailers are devoting more chiller space to functional beverages, HPP products
While it’s not always easy to cross over to the conventional channel if you have a premium priced product, mainstream grocers are hungry for more natural and organic products, and many are devoting more chiller space to functional beverages, and HPP (high pressure processed) products in particular, he added.
“The great thing about these coolers is that they are front and center, so they are often the first thing you see when you walk into a store.”
As for making a premium brand accessible to the mass market, there are a range of options, from creating exclusives for certain retailers, to creating different pack sizes or formulations that enable you to be more aggressive on price without alienating your core fan base or compromising your brand, he said.
Cold pressed juice maker Suja, for example, has a three-tiered strategy, offering its Suja Classic 16oz bottles for $7.99; its 12oz Suja Elements line exclusive to Whole Foods at $4.99; and the 12oz Suja Essentials line at $3.99.
Temple Turmeric, meanwhile, offers its original 12oz 50-80-calorie elixirs with 13g Hawaiian turmeric at an MSRP of $5.99, its more satiating 270-calorie 12oz Super Blends line (which also has 13g turmeric) at $6.99 and a brand new 40-calorie Super Lights range with 7g Hawaiian turmeric in a slimmer 12oz bottle, at $3.99.
The latter is already available in the West Coast at Ralphs [Kroger] and Fred Meyer divisions as well as in natural & specialty food stores along the East Coast, he said.
‘We’re the originators and experts in drinkable turmeric’
A recent cash injection from Boulder Brands Investment Group (BIG), the venture capital arm of Boulder Brands (which took a minority stake in Temple Turmeric last November) has also given the New York-based company the opportunity to expand distribution, implement a new digital marketing campaign and hire more staff, he said.
“We’ve got some very exciting things in the pipeline for that [conventional] channel. But education is so important.”
While the company is somewhat constrained about what it can say about turmeric on pack, messages such as ‘supports a positive inflammation response’ are resonating with consumers, who are also seeing this messaging in the supplements market, where curcumin (the active ingredient in turmeric) is doing a roaring trade, he said.
“You can’t associate product with specific diseases or make health claims, it’s just not worth the aggravation and immediately raises legal red flags, but there is now a growing number of clinical studies showing the positive benefits of curcumin on supporting a healthy inflammatory response, boosting your body’s natural defenses, supporting flexibility and clearing brain fog.
While turmeric – a vibrant orange root related to ginger - has been a mainstay of both cooking and the Ayurvedic medical tradition for centuries in the Indian subcontinent, it has only started to gain traction in the US foods and supplements industry more recently. However, interest has grown significantly in the past five years, in part because of the growing body of clinical research on curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, which is best-known for its ability to tackle the low-grade inflammation believed to be at the root of multiple chronic diseases.
“I also believe that we are offering the highest quality turmeric on the planet with four times the level of curcumin and 20 times the beta carotene [as the turmeric being supplied out of SE Asia]. We also add adaptogens to our formulations to boost the bioavailability of curcumin (black pepper, ginger, cayenne pepper).”
The rebrand: ‘We just believed it was the right thing to do and we went with our gut’
As for the recent decision to rebrand the company as Temple Turmeric (it was formerly TumericALIVE), the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, as the spelling makes more sense (Tumeric is now Turmeric) and people instantly get the ‘My Body is a Temple’ concept.
“Some people might say why change something that’s working? But we just believed it was the right thing to do and we went with our gut,” said Sullivan.
But does having turmeric in the brand name potentially limit where the company can go much further down the line?
It’s not something Sullivan is losing sleep over, he said. “We’re the originators and experts in drinkable turmeric and this just solidifies our commitment to the ingredient.”
As for taking the brand beyond beverages, he said, it’s something the company may well explore in future, but right now, it has its hands full: “There is so much low-hanging fruit in beverages to go after first.”