BOULDER, COLO. — Aguas frescas are making a splash stateside, buoyed by recent launches from large brands including Chipotle Mexican Grill and The Coca-Cola Co. Consumer interest in the Latin American refreshment has grown nearly 42% over the past year, according to Tastewise, a food and beverage industry data platform.
Several years ago, Juan Ignacio Stewart began bottling the beverage — known as refrescos or simply frescos in his native Guatemala — to sell at Colorado farmers markets. The drink, formulated with water, hibiscus and a touch of sugar, was a hit among the local community, marking the launch of Frescos Naturales. Today, the brand offers six sparkling options, including hibiscus, tamarind, passionfruit, pineapple, guava and mango, sold in coffee shops and grocery stores in the Boulder and Denver areas and rolling out to several Kroger divisions including Ralphs and King Soopers.
A recent appearance on the television show “Shark Tank” is expected to accelerate demand for the culturally inspired concoction.
“Using recipes of growing up back home in Guatemala, I developed Frescos Naturales, the first full line of better-for-you sparkling aguas frescas,” Mr. Stewart said during his pitch featured in the episode, which aired Jan. 20. “We use just three ingredients, one of those being water, then the highest quality fruits and flowers, and then just a little bit of sugar to wrap them up good.”
He added, “Every Latino that you know in the United States drinks this and has had it all their life… but you go to the store, and you don’t find it.”
The panel of investors praised his energy and entrepreneurial spirit but demonstrated reluctance in backing a beverage startup due to the industry’s many challenges, including competition and costs.
Ultimately, Mr. Stewart established a partnership with guest Shark Daniel Lubetzky, founder and chief impact officer of Kind Snacks and co-founder of SOMOS Foods, to position Frescos Naturales for future growth. While an investment deal was discussed during the recording, Mr. Lubetzky has since committed to providing resources and mentorship to Mr. Stewart, who launched a hot sauce company prior to founding the beverage business.
“Going into the ‘Tank,’ he was definitely the one I wanted to work with,” Mr. Stewart said in an interview with Food Business News, citing Mr. Lubetzky’s integrity, business savvy and a shared cultural connection. Mr. Lubetzky is Mexican-American.
During the episode, Mr. Lubetzky noted the market opportunity for aguas frescas, telling the fellow Sharks, “This really is on trend. It is one of the hottest spaces.”