Unilever SuperShots for Blood Pressure

Unilever takes the Promise brand further down the heart-health road with SuperShots for Blood Pressure.

By Hollis Ashman, Jacqueline Beckley and Jennifer Vahalik, Consumer Understanding Editors

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Blood pressure is important when considering the entire human system. Higher blood pressure in conjunction with other health issues such as obesity or diabetes increases the likelihood that some part of the whole system will fail with heart disease, stroke or kidney damage. About 73 million Americans have high blood pressure.

Thirty years ago, Unilever dedicated the Promise brand of spreads to “heart-healthier eating.” In July of 2007, the company took the brand into new territory with Promise Activ SuperShots, little (3.3 oz./100 ml) bottles of a fruit and yogurt blend that contained natural plant sterols, ingredients that are clinically proven to help remove cholesterol.

This past July, Unilever tweaked that formulation to focus on blood pressure, specifically on “closing the potassium gap” that can lead to high blood pressure.  The result is Promise (the word Activ is still there, but it’s getting smaller) SuperShots for blood pressure.

A number of studies conclude that an increase in potassium coupled with a decrease in sodium may be the most important dietary choice, after weight loss, to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Yet, most Americans consume about half the recommended daily amount of potassium and double the recommended amount of sodium. And Americans with hypertension may not even be aware of these choices.

The nutritional supplement category’s 2007 sales were approximately $6 billion through all channels, including mass-market, health/natural and direct/internet (“Nutritional Supplements in the U.S.” -- Packaged Facts 2008 -- http://www.packagedfacts.com/Nutritional-Supplements-1634930/). Sales are forecasted to climb 39 percent from 2007 to 2012 to reach $8.5 billion.

The “shot” or mini bottle (around 100ml) is an innovation from Europe. The small size allows for nutritional ingredients to be consumed in a simple “dosed” size. Dannon brought the mini bottle to America for its DanActive immunity/gut health yogurt drink in 2007.

Back in 2000, the FDA authorized the labeling of health claims for plant sterols or plant sterol esters in reducing the risk of coronary heart disease. The FDA also allows a claim for foods containing potassium: “Diets containing foods that are good sources of potassium and low in sodium may reduce the risk of high blood pressure and stroke.”

The market leaders for the potassium claim are generally foods. Orange juice (both Tropicana and Minute Maid use the potassium claim), bananas, pork loin, carrots, milk, dried apricots, turkey, cod fish and broccoli all contain more than 350mg of potassium in a serving.

For consumers who want their nutrition to come from food, but don’t really want to change their lifestyle much, Promise SuperShots provide the nutrition in a size small enough to not conflict with the other foods you eat in terms of calorie levels or enhanced nutritionals. People considering nutritionally supplemented food products are those who have health conditions of high blood pressure, heart disease or are at risk of stroke. These groups are typically willing to spend more on health- and wellness-related products. But they are looking for good taste and benefit delivery at the same time.

Insights

While a lot of consumers are trying to incorporate better-for-you products and nutritional supplementations, strange aftertastes and unfamiliar aromas and textures can be a barrier. Nutritionally supplemented beverages can have vitamin aftertastes, and the base of the beverage can be chalky. The target groups for these products are consumers who do not want to slow down and are looking to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Unilever is trying to fit with the changing paradigm for health care, of moving to more proactive solutions for specific health concerns, while at the same time delivering a product that tastes good.

Our Healthy You! and Drink It! Insights tell us the key attributes for consumption of healthy beverages are taste, price, healthy ingredients, “good for me” and texture. Getting the nutritionals right is critical but so is taste and texture in a value proposition.

The key attributes that consumers will trade for are fiber and protein, flavors, nutrition, vitamins and minerals and versions that are good tasting, part of a specific healthy diet, along with an endorsement by a health oriented association (such as American Heart Assn.). These are all product and health benefits. This is not a product that consumers are likely to get emotional over, or will seek an emotional reason to consume. They prefer the sensory and health benefits of the beverage over the emotional reassurances. In fact they look at an authority association for an endorsement for their reassurance.

These beverages are consumed most often once a day, maybe more, typically at breakfast, mid-morning or mid-afternoon. These are beverages that consumers are use as part of their rituals, so the taste and texture expectations must be familiar.

Key trends that impact this idea are convenience, flavor and healthfulness.

Convenience: These bottles are single-serve, or “dose” serving (around 100ml or 3 oz.) and sold in multipacks. Consumers are still expected to chill and shake the beverage.

Flavors: Flavor is driving interest in this category. These are typically fruit-flavored beverages, so the linkage of fruit benefits is intuitively obvious to consumers.

Healthfulness: Nutritional supplements have both the halo of health and reality of health. The focus on key health conditions allows for SKU variation based on key health ingredients. Key healthy ingredients that drive interest are: potassium, specific nutrients to lower cholesterol, probiotics and vitamins. These reflect many of the major health concerns we see today.

The experience

Promise SuperShots are available in a four-pack of 3.3-oz. (100 ml) containers for $3.99. They are designed for dosed consumption of 350mg of potassium. They are available in three fruit blends: strawberry banana, peach apricot and mixed berry.

SuperShots are sold refrigerated with a good shelf life (purchased in July, best used by November). The bottle graphics reflect the health condition “Help control blood pressure” in large font on a blue background with “good source of potassium” in smaller type, along with the Promise Activ logo of a heart. In-depth health and nutritional details are printed inside the cardboard overwrap.

It is clear this is a medically focused product with the colors, graphics and shape. Opening the bottle is not too difficult with a thin plastic lid wrapping.
This small beverage can be chugged or sipped. The mouth opening is sized for either. Color was perceived from the top of the container (dark red fruit) but aroma was really not sensed.

Flavor and texture are critical to the perception of the quality of drinks. The product claims to be made with real fruit. For this mixed berry, it had the taste of berry with what we felt was a “superfruit” taste. There was a dark red fruit flavor that all felt was very pleasant, sweet but not too sweet. The mouthfeel for a shot was deemed “excellent,” not too thick, syrupy or “gloppy.” The shot was definitely well balanced with respect to fruit, acid and sweetness. People felt that if they had a blood pressure issue, they could see consuming this product as part of a healthy diet.

Our evaluators loved that it was low in calories (only 45 calories), which would enable the SuperShots to accompany a regular meal. People felt that they would not have to sacrifice other foods because this product was low in calories.

Does the product deliver?
The Promise brand is about delicious foods to promote a healthy lifestyle and maintain heart health. This healthy food will empower consumers to take charge of their health and wellness. The dosed size makes clear this is a food that is about functional health.

The drink inside delivers beyond the taste and texture expectations set by the packaging. It appears that Unilever is purposefully thinking about the functional benefit and the product design in both this product and the earlier launch of Promise SuperShots for Cholesterol.

One concern we have is that unless the consumer is aware he or she has the health issue, they may not understand why the product should work (i.e. potassium’s relation to blood pressure management), and thus they may rely only on the claim and the endorsement.

How to make the idea bigger: The original Promise brand was about getting nutrition and cholesterol management. The first functional drink – Promise Activ for Cholesterol – continued the brand promise. This new direction broadens the message of managing heart disease via blood pressure, not just cholesterol levels. It also allows the brand to extend into other health conditions and other functional shots, a direction we are sure must be in the plans.

The product is easy to consume, tastes good and allows consumers to get the nutritional benefits they are looking for. The packaging never tells the consumer how many servings of fruit they are getting; creating shots that have both the functional benefit and a fruit serving benefit could be another direction. At 11g of sugar, the product might be just a little bit over the level that health-oriented consumers are looking for, so looking a little more down the road at that ingredient might provide expansion ideas.

This new product expands the brand beyond cholesterol and into new health conditions related to heart health. Many consumers understand the Promise brand messaging of cholesterol reduction via plant sterols. They may not understand that SuperShots are going beyond sterols into other functional areas and therefore further communication may assist this effort. While Unilever will not run TV ads on a product like this, we could foresee the type of ads drug companies use for their products to assist this understanding.

Rating: Promise SuperShots – Mixed Berry does deliver on the nutritional and taste promises. It’s an easy-to-consume food delivery of nutritional benefits.
Market potential: Very good, for the brand, great for the category and good for the consumer. As a means to expand the overall brand, this is a good start in delivering more heart health related options. We can image other functional directions over time.

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