Troy Carter, founder and CEO of entertainment company Atom Factory and manager of Lady Gaga, and photographer Terry Richardson are teaming up for a new consumer product, Pop Water, set for an early 2013 debut. The new beverage will be marketed as a healthier alternative to sugary soft drinks - an 11.2 oz can will contain 30 calories and 7 grams of sugar. Initial flavors will include apple, orange, pineapple and grape.
Richardson, a fashion photographer whose sometimes sexually explicit work has stirred controversy, will serve as the brand's creative director.
Carter tells Billboard the idea for Pop Water resulted from the various conversations his company had with Pepsi and Coca-Cola over the years regarding their respective music initiatives. "We noticed none of the brands had music in their DNA," he says. "We felt we could build something with relevance to music and pop culture if we built something from scratch. Whether it's flying to Kentucky with food scientists or flying around the world sourcing the packaging, the last two years has been an education for us in the beverage space."
Pop Water will start with a soft January launch in Southern California before expanding nationally later in 2013. Musicians are expected to play a part of the marketing as well, though Carter was light on details. "We're talking to a bunch of music and pop culture icons who've tasted the beverage. We're gonna have a lot of support behind this," he says.
Using musicians to launch a new beverage is an increasingly common practice in the spirits industry, where everyone from Diddy (Ciroc vodka), Kid Rock (Jim Beam's Red Stag) and Jay-Z (Ace of Spades champagne) have all lent their names, likenesses and even investments to help products get off the ground. But that trend was really sparked by 50 Cent's early 10% stake in Vitamin Water, which ballooned in value after the beverage was sold to Coca-Cola for $1.2 billion in 2007. The rapper eventually received a cashout worth an estimated $60 to $100 million.
Pop Water website's splash page
Not every music-beverage pairing has been a hit, however. Jermaine Dupri's partnership with soy-based 3 Vodka fell apart, and Lil Jon recently folded his Little Jonathan Winery in 2011. Pharrell Williams' Qream vodka, a partnership with Diageo that launched in mid-2011, sold fewer than 200 cases by the end of the year, while the Pitbull-backed Voli Vodka sold about 300 cases in 2011 following the rapper's involvement (Fergie has sine come on as an investor and spokesperson.)
Though Pop Water will have celebrity faces, they won't be of the typical "sip-and ah!" variety. "The idea is not to be just an endorsement but to be a part of people's lives," Carter says. "Endorsements, where they're just one-offs feels like the artists just got a check for it. For us, we set out to make something that's a lot healthier than what's in the market. It's really hard to get 30 calories to taste good."
And ultimately, Carter feels the biggest opportunity for Pop Water is to market itself around the current healthy-food movement. "We see what's happening in New York with Mayor Bloomberg and this consciousness throughout the country where people want to get healthier, looking for alternatives," he says. "When we saw what was happening with Subway and how they completely disrupted McDonald's…it's a bigger movement than what we expected."