What does this water smell like?
That’s not exactly the question most consumers hope to ask upon opening a bottle of water, but in the case of new beverage startup SZENT, that’s the whole idea.
The Los Angeles-based brand, which officially launches exclusively on Amazon today, is seeking to enter the zero-calorie flavored water market by appealing to consumers’ sense of smell. The ring around the neck of each 20 oz BPA free PET bottle is made from a polymer infused with natural oils that replicate the experience of drinking flavored water — without the use of any additives to the liquid itself. The overlap cap is resealable to help retain the oils from dissipating after opening, and consumers are encouraged to drink within 24 hours for best experience.
SZENT will debut in five core flavors: Tangerine, Tropical, Pineapple, Mint and Passionfruit.
“Every time you take a drink from the bottle, the ring sits right under your nose,” said SZENT’s chief creative officer Maddie Grandbois, who spent over three years developing the product and securing patents on the technology alongside partners Zac Scribner and CEO Shawn Griffis. Both the scented ring and closure were manufactured in partnership with St. Louis-based Tricor Braun. “Your brain believes you are experiencing flavor,” she said, “even though there is nothing but water inside of the bottle.”
As Grandbois explained, SZENT offers a unique solution to the problem of serving consumers who want to drink more water but are also seeking a more interesting drinking experience. Using scent-based flavors gives the product a clear point of differentiation, while also allowing it to be marketed as completely additive free; the liquid itself is reverse osmosis purified water without electrolytes added.
“We couldn’t find what we wanted out of a beverage when we were looking for pure and healthy options,” Grandbois said, noting that the brand intentionally avoided enhancing the water in any way. “Ultimately, we want to create a product that offers up a more interesting and fun way to experience flavor while you are still consuming water.”
The scent ring technology can work with other base liquids, but for now Grandbois said the brand is focused on quickly expanding its portfolio next year with a sparkling water line and kid-friendly variety, which will feature a shorter bottle and flavors like chocolate cake and cotton candy. The company, which is comprised of five full time employees, is also exploring opportunities in scent-based flavored milks.
For the initial product launch, Grandbois said she views the line as offering a light, bright flavor profile that is positioned to compete with products from La Croix and Hint. Launching exclusively on Amazon, where the product will be sold in 12-packs of 20 oz bottles for $27, will allow SZENT to amass consumer data prior to the brand’s launch at select retail stores in Southern California next year, where it will be sold in singles for $2.25.
“It’s a bit of discovery and excitement around the fact that it’s a new concept,” she said. “It’s also our opinion that consumers are getting more and more aware of what they are putting into their body. Everybody can approach that in however way they choose, but the reality is when there’s something in the water, there’s something in the water.”