Prebiotic Soda Poppi’s Unexpected Target Strategy Sparkles in Pandemic Times

Poppi prebiotic soda company, which markets itself as a healthier alternative to traditional soda, this fall teamed up with Amazon Prime Video and plant-based brand Beyond Meat to disrupt the college football tailgate scene with an eco-conscious sampling activation tied to The Tailgate Tour traveling fan engagement platform. And while the brand was targeting 18- to 24-year-old Gen Z consumers, the program is part of a larger strategy based on a “trickle-up” phenomenon the brand experienced as it launched in March of 2020. 

Allison Ellsworth, co-founder and chief brand officer at Poppi, says there was a silver lining in the unexpected timing of the pandemic. As lockdowns took hold, many young adults moved in with older family members, bringing new influence to household purchase decisions. It allowed the brand to organically reach older generations, who are becoming Poppi fans themselves, thereby expanding the company’s customer base to a new demographic and shift in demand. 

“The generation of 50- to 60-year-olds now grew up on soda and cigarettes. Health and wellness weren’t quite at the forefront of everyone’s minds,” says Ellsworth.  

amazon-prime-pop-up-tailgate-2021-teaserEvents Built to Engage Gen Z:

The current excitement over health sodas like Poppi follows what was once a demand for kombucha fermented tea, she says. Before kombucha, it was cold-pressed juice. The demand for cold pressed juice waned as people realized how much sugar they were consuming. Now kombucha is fading in popularity, she says, as less bitter, just-as-healthy sodas appear. Poppi’s health lure is apple cider vinegar, a vinegar made from fermented apple juice, which is trusted by many generations for its natural health benefits. 

Ellsworth explains that while older generations are choosing Poppi for its health benefits, young consumers are drinking the beverage to emulate influencers like fellow gym goers, or the average mom in L.A., who—unlike celebrities—are leading attainable lifestyles that they can identify with. 

“Apple cider vinegar has been around for 400 years, and a study last year found that it was number two among functional beverages, and number two among young drinkers, ages 18 to 24,” Ellsworth says. “These young customers are introducing Poppi to their parents, and now the older demographic has been influenced by them because of valid health reasons. I don’t think it’s going to slow down anytime soon. We’re just getting started.” 

In addition to platforms like The Tailgate Tour, Ellsworth says the brand is focused on innovative, digital-first experiences and small, curated events, which she says are working well now in post-pandemic times. Successful efforts have included hosting live chats with female business founders, “go live” influencer-led workouts on social media, and mailing curated kits containing Poppi and other products to the homes of celebrities and influencers. 

In fact, the digital experiences helped Poppi identify its hottest market in middle America, a discovery that Ellsworth says would have taken much longer with its original playbook of in-person events that would have targeted larger cities on either coast before moving inward. For 2022, the brand plans to leverage influencer campaigns, college ambassador programs, festivals and events like New York Fashion Week.

This story appeared in the December 2021 issue

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