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Kayla Castañeda, co-founder and CEO of better-for-you aguas frescas brand Agua Bonita, saw a need for innovation in the hyper-sweet category.

Hannah Esper, Managing Editor

June 1, 2021

3 Min Read
Agua Bonita
Agua Bonita

Agua Bonita is shaking up the sugar-laden aguas fresca category with a new line of canned beverages made solely from upcycled fruit and spices with no added sugar. Aguas frescas, a fruit drink popular throughout Mexico, typically contain a whopping 79 grams of added sugar. Kayla Castañeda, co-founder and CEO, and Erin PonTell, co-founder and CMO, set out to create a healthier option of this cultural favorite.

Castañeda pitched their company to a panel of industry judges and a live audience last week at Natural Products Expo West Virtual Week, nabbing a Rising Star designation at the competitive Pitch Slam. Here, Castañeda tells us a bit about her company and what it was like to pitch.

Why did you feel there was a need for innovation in this category?

Kayla Castañeda: There is whole customer segment who really wants all the benefits that sparkling waters bring, without any of the carbonation. Or that want better-for-you versions of cultural favorites. But when you look at the category currently, you just don't see an option. So we created Agua Bonita to really fill that void and in a way that's full flavor, not just a splash.

How do you encourage customer trial when purchasing direct-to-consumer?

KC: One way we do that is by offering 4-packs for limited times. This really gives customers a way to sample our drinks in a small amount with little financial commitment. We also have a 100% product guarantee, so if customers don't like them for whatever reason, they just tell us, and we'll give them their money back. This is to make sure customers have a great experience with us each and every time.

What plans do you have for partnering with retailers in the future?

KC: We see retail as being a crucial part of our long-term success. In the next year, you should expect to see us in many more boutique and independent specialty stores, like we are currently, but also showing up in traditional retail as a fun, new option at an affordable price point. 

What would you say to a buyer who asks you this question: Why should I remove LaCroix off my shelf and put you on it?

KC: There are tons of sparkling waters out there, but there isn't a noncarbonated option like ours that brings real, natural fruit into the picture so pronouncedly. Having Agua Bonita on your shelf speaks to a new customer you haven't spoken to before and helps to incrementally grow your category. 

Why did you decide to add QR codes to the cans?

KC: We love to stay as engaged with our customers as possible, while also being able to give them an immersive brand experience no matter where they discover us at. Dynamic QR codes help us achieve that by giving us control of what sort of brand experience we can give customers.

What was some good advice you received from the judges or a question that got you thinking?

KC: To think critically about how you drive customer acquisition in a COVID-influenced retail setting. 

What's one piece of advice you'd offer to other brands that are pitching at events such as Expo West?

KC: Practice, practice, practice, and don't get lost in the numbers. Start with your why and let the rest follow!

About the Author(s)

Hannah Esper

Managing Editor, New Hope Network

Hannah Esper is the Managing Editor for New Hope Network’s Nutrition Business Journal. She’s an editorial professional with more than 10 years’ experience of creating content strategies and overseeing their implementation process.  

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