The sugar category and the sweetener category is really crowded, said Catherine Steffen, marketing director for the company that owns Sugar in the Raw. Sugar in the Raws version of brown sugar is generally considered the last new brand to break into the natural sugar market after gaining a national following in the 1990s.Recently, Sugar in the Raw launched its own liquid-sugar brand, aimed at the beverage market. Thats one hurdle for Banah. Agave is another. The natural sweetener isnt the same as liquid sugar the caramel-flavored syrup comes from the agave plant. But its already popular as a sweetener for cocktails and desserts, both high on Banahs target list as it pushes its own liquid sugar.
By now, Banahs new bottling assembly line was supposed to be humming nearly 24 hours a day, filling orders from Wal-Mart, Publix and other major stores. But the equipment sat idle last week, which Banah executives blamed on a fast redo of the packaging for its liquid-sugar bottles.Executives said they wanted a more tamper-proof pack, and so requested a plastic wrap encasing the bottles. But the halt also comes amid a major redesign of the imaging on the bottles: where once a piece of sugar dominated the label, now the face features a coffee cup and glass of iced tea. Theres also a small pancake on the back.
We wanted to help consumers understand how to use the liquid sugar, said Miguel Ferro, Banahs marketing director.
In terms of taste, Banahs liquid sugar falls somewhere between honey and syrup, but with a consistency closer to water. Banah executives say it resembles syrup when pulled out of the fridge. (Banahs liquid sugar must be kept refrigerated.)
Originally, Banah had hoped to sell its liquid sugar in bulk, too, as a new sweetener for sodas and other mass-produced beverages. But the method for liquefying the sugar left the product too dark for industrial use. That led Banah to think about selling directly to consumers.
Executives said they hope to restart the bottling process sometime this month. Leiva, the Banah CEO, said the Wal-Mart debut will be a big test for the companys next step with liquid sugar. Should it take off as an ingredient for homemade coffee and tea, Banah will emphasize that use in its marketing campaigns. If you to go to Starbucks and ask for a macchiato, what do they do? he asked. They take out a bottle and pour in a shot of vanilla.
But if the beverage route doesnt gain traction, Banah has its maple-flavored liquid ready to roll as an option for a more refined pancake palate.
My competition is high-end maple syrup, he said.
To push its way into a crowded pack, Banah has fiddled with solving downsides to sugar many consumers may not realize exist. For its standard-issue granular sugar, Banah uses clear plastic canisters with screw-on lids. We tell the people: It stops the mess. And they say, Oh, youre right, said Ferro, the marketing director. We need to stand out.
The push into liquefied sugar follows a similar approach. Home bakers are a target, Banah executives said, because they wont have to whisk or stir to mix the liquid sugar into a cake batter. In fact, Banahs success with liquid sugar may depend on how many consumers tire quickly of stirring.
I dont know if youve have tried dissolving sugar in cold tea, Leiva, the CEO, said. A couple of minutes later, its sitting at the bottom of the glass. Liquid sugar mixes much better.