Grassroots Marketing - Energizes an Upstart Brand

Package structure and graphics support the ’cooling & fueling’ benefits and stress the fruity flavor of a new line of functional foods.

by Bob Swientek

Profiling The Endurance Athlete
As part of its event marketing, Ascendia is sponsoring teams of 300 endurance athletes who will compete in more than 1,800 regional and national events.
These athletes will wear the bright blue Energice racing gear and hand out product samples, brochures and apparel. But who are these extreme athletes?
They’re marathon runners, triathletes, long-distance cyclists, Ironman competitors and multi-sport participants.
Endurance athletes are goal-driven professionals in their mid-to-late 30s. They’re college educated and married with median household incomes above $90,000. Half have household incomes above $100,000.
Endurance athletes and their loyal fans number in the millions. These multi-sport competitors influence product trends in all fitness and endurance sports.
How do you target a consumer who is literally running, bicycling, swimming or doing some other strenuous exercise? That was the challenge faced by Ascendia Functional Foods with its upstart Energice brand.

Its answer: Market products in portable packaging to these “extreme” athletes on their own turf, such as triathlons, marathons and other endurance sports events.

Ascendia is using a three-pronged marketing strategy, says Dale Hastert, Director of Functional and Nutritional Foods.

This includes:
- Sampling and coupons.
- Educating consumers and “dealers” to the product’s “cooling & fueling” benefits. These dealers distribute sports-related products to schools, universities and organized athletics.
- Event marketing. “We’re building the Energice brand from the bottom up,” - Hastert says. At this “feet on the street” level, Ascendia is handing out complimentary Energice Freezer Bars, Go Gel packets and Endurance Fuel drinks to participants and fans at national and regional endurance events.

The company is also distributing coupons to encourage consumers to purchase the products at various retail outlets. One major retailer carrying the Energice brand is General Nutrition Corp. (GNC). Ascendia is conducting a market test at 600 GNC stores in 33 states and Puerto Rico.

Convienent and portable packaging facilitates product sampling. It also fits the activity requirements of endurance athletes.

The Energice Freezer Bars come in 3.5-ounce flexible tubes. Alcan Packaging (formerly Pechiney Plastic Packaging) supplies the printed film material—a polyester foil laminate.
Tube Combines Barrier And Beauty
“We chose the film for its barrier properties and aesthetics,” Hastert says. The flexible tube preserves the product’s nutrients and fruit-flavor profile over its shelf life.
“The foil gives the tube a premium appearance and reinforces the cooling attributes of the products,” Hastert says. Energice uses the matte or dull side of the foil. “It’s easier to read copy on the dull side versus the shiny side of the foil,” Hastert explains.
The backside of the 8.5-inch by 2-inch tube carries the nutrition facts panel and ingredients statement. The tube’s front panel displays the Energice brand name and flavor variety.
The freezer bars come in four flavors: fruit punch, Concord grape, lemon-lime and blue raspberry. Colorful illustrations of fresh fruit on the tubes convey strong flavor cues and deliver appetite appeal.
Alcan flexo-prints the tube material in six colors. Two openings at opposite ends of the tube permit users to consume the product as an icy treat or chilled liquid. The liquid end bears a contoured opening to direct a stream of product.
Ascendia packs the tubes in a 12-count paperboard carton. The tall carton stands 9.5 inches.
The Energice brand name runs vertically across the carton’s front panel and leads into the Ascendia symbol—a snow-covered mountaintop with a rising sun.
The Energice name appears in two shades of blue—a deeper hue for “Energ” and a lighter, frosty tint for “ice.”
The brand name begins in a stark white background and moves into a vibrant blue scene with patterns mimicking ice crystals. Colorful, life-like illustrations of fresh fruit also reside in this blue area at the top of the offset-printed carton.
Graphics Convey Transformation
The brand name’s dual colors and protrusion into the illustration signal a transformation, says Tim Pressley, Creative Director for Maddock Douglas, a package design firm that helped create the graphics for the Energice packaging.
This transformation reinforces the product’s attributes of rehydration, muscle recovery and core body temperature cooling.
Maddock Douglas italicized and expanded the brand’s custom font to depict movement, speed and energy, Pressley explains.
“We did not want to use a ’blocky’ typeface like a bodybuilder product,” Hastert says. “The graphic design and colors communicate ’cold’ and a great-tasting, refreshing product.”
The tall carton also educates consumers about the product’s functional benefits of core temperature cooling, rehydration and muscle maintenance.
Two side panels highlight the “Cool Zone” through graphics and text. Package copy states, “Working from the inside out, ice cold Energice helps cool the body’s temperature to a level that optimizes mental and physical performance.”
Cool Zone graphics and copy grace all of the brand’s “touchpoints.”
“Initially, we thought glutamine fortification for muscle rebuilding was our key product attribute,” Hastert says. “But consumer feedback told us that core body temperature cooling was also important.”
Ascendia plays up these two benefits by putting “Cooled and Fueled” on packaging, literature and other brand communications.
Like the freezer bars, “Energice Go Gel can be eaten frozen or chilled,” Hastert says. “Most energy gel products have the consistency of toothpaste. They’re hard to consume from the packaging. Our gel resembles the texture of jelly and tastes delicious.”
Go Gel comes in the same tubes as the freezer bars, only smaller at 5 1/4 inches in length and 2.1 ounces.
Ascendia packs the flexible tubes in a 24-count carton. Retailers can convert the cube-shaped carton into a PDQ countertop display.
On-The-Go Energy
Where to go for more information...
© Flexible film. At Alcan Packaging, contact Lisa Apolinski at 773.355.5201 or
© Package design. At Maddock Douglas, contact Wes Douglas at 630.563.6414 or
© Smart Spout pouch. At Kapak, contact Brian Bell at 952.693.2434 or
The gel’s texture makes it easier for athletes to consume the product while engaged in a race or training exercise. That kind of thinking also went into the development of Energice Endurance Fuel drink.

The glutamine-fortified drink comes in a stand-up pouch with a spill-resistant Smart Spout. Kapak supplies the quad-panel flexible bag with the reclosable spout.

A silicone valve in the spout prevents spilling and allows consumers two options for drinking. They can suck product through the spout or they can squeeze the flexible bag to direct the liquid into their mouth.

The pouch contains layers of polyester, nylon and foil. Like the flexible tubes, Ascendia uses the matte side of the foil. Graphics on the bag mimic the design on the cartons and tubes. Kapak prints the pouch in seven colors using a rotogravure process.

Unlike rigid plastic bottles, the flexible pouch delivers space savings after consumption. Athletes can fold the empty package to minimize its volume for storage and disposal.
The author, Bob Swientek, is the Editor-in-Chief of BRANDPACKAGING magazine.