Mineragua may be hard to pronounce, but its owners are confident the unique name could be an invaluable way to generate authenticity for the sparkling water brand as it goes up against beverage giants such as Coca-Cola and Nestlé.
“We’re not going to be changing for the sake of changing for the general market,” said Efrain Mendoza, a brand manager at Novamex, who conceded the name is “a little difficult to pronounce.” “We are still true to our roots and it’s something we’re proud of, just the culture behind it.”
Mineragua was introduced in 1997 by beverage maker Novamex, a Texas-based company that also makes Jarritos flavored soda and a sparking non-alcoholic drink known as Sangría Señorial.
Initially known as Jarritos Mineragua Club Soda, Novamex overhauled the brand in 2021 to replace the club soda reference with the trendier sparkling water description. Over time, Novamex also has refreshed the packaging and simplified its ingredients list (the company declined to divulge which ones they eliminated), a move that allowed it to prioritize the minerals and carbonation.
Novamex, which uses tap water for Mineragua from two locations in Mexico before adding in minerals and carbon dioxide, only offers one SKU for sale. The company has tested flavored extensions internally, but for now, the focus is on increasing distribution and gaining additional customers beyond its core Hispanic base.
”Our customers, they see what the competition is doing and they ask for flavors,” Mendoza said. “But at the end of the day, we still need to get a little stronger consumer engagement to be able to expand the brand. Let’s stick with what we got right now.”
The decision to slowly grow Mineragua stands in sharp contrast to its competitor Topo Chico, which Coca-Cola purchased for an estimated $220 million in 2017.
In the years since, Coca-Cola has used its muscle to significantly expand Topo Chico’s distribution across the U.S. and expand the brand into premium sparkling waters made with fruit juice and herbal extracts, as well as into alcohol through its partnership with Molson Coors. The beverage giant is optimistic Topo Chico will eventually grow into a $1 billion brand.
Mineragua is the sixth best-selling branded item in the nonflavored seltzer/sparkling/mineral category, Circana data showed. The Chicago-based market research firm said Mineragua’s sales rose 30% to $30.4 million for the 52 weeks ending on June 18. Mendoza estimated his brand has a 5% market share in sparkling water, with annual case sales nearly doubling in 2022 from three years earlier.
Despite its small size, Mendoza said Mineragua has advantages. It can tap into its ties with Hispanic consumers — “cultural-centric brands are en vogue,” he said. It has higher levels of CO2 and doesn’t take water from natural water sources like springs, unlike Topo Chico or Perrier.
“We bring a little bit of difference to sparkling water,” he said.
Once relegated to smaller stores, often in the Hispanic or ethnic sections, Mineragua is rapidly gaining shelf space with mainstream retailers where it is displayed alongside other sparkling water brands.
Target, Whole Foods and Sprouts have recently started carrying the brand, and Kroger, which first started selling Mineragua in 2021, moved it out of the Hispanic aisle later that year. Novamex is prioritizing placing the brand in the sparkling water section to reach a broader array of consumers.
“We can’t just stay focused around the core [Hispanic] customer that helped us build” the brand, Mendoza noted. “Let’s ... go play with the big boys and see what we’ve got. We’ve been able to do that in the last year.”
In an effort to achieve more widespread recognition, Mineragua is doling out more samples where people can try the liquid. It’s also sponsoring events, such as a beach volleyball tournament in Miami and road bike races, as well as adorning an RV with the brand’s logo to do marketing, taste testing and advertising.
Sparkling water sales have soared as consumers look to cut their sugar intake and gravitate toward cleaner-labeled items while keeping the bubbles they enjoy in a carbonated beverage.
Mendoza said Topo Chico and other competing brands, such as Perrier and Nestlé’s San Pellegrino, have been a boon to the sparkling water category by increasing its popularity and recognition among shoppers.
“We saw the potential that sparkling water had,” he added. It has “taken center stage in the waters section.”