A Sweeter energy drink emerges

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  • Michele Burchfield, co-founder and CEO of Blume Honey Water, found honey and water do wonders for hydration.

    BLOCK NEWS ALLIANCE/REBECCA DROKE

  • b6water-jpg-1

    Ginger Zest and Wild Blueberry are two flavors Blume Honey Water markets to coffee shops and grocery chains.

    BLOCK NEWS ALLIANCE/REBECCA DROKE

PITTSBURGH — Michele Burchfield describes herself as a “horrible water drinker” who used to be able to ride her bike 50 miles without stopping to take a sip. Now she doesn’t leave home for a ride without at least four bottles of the drink she created.

And she’s not the only one chugging her concoction — Blume Honey Water is available at coffee shops and grocery chains across Pennsylvania, the Washington metro area, and Colorado.

The suburban Pittsburgh resident first heard about the health properties of honey from a wrestling coach at her son’s boarding school, who gave infused water to his athletes to keep them energized while cutting weight.

“Honey and water have been combined since the first Olympiad for hydration and energy,” Ms. Burchfield said. “Honey is made of glucose and fructose and other components, giving us this beautiful spikeless energy.”


b6water-jpg-1

Ginger Zest and Wild Blueberry are two flavors Blume Honey Water markets to coffee shops and grocery chains.


BLOCK NEWS ALLIANCE/REBECCA DROKE

Enlarge

A veteran of the craft beer side of the beverage business, she was eager to turn the idea into a product but envisioned something more sophisticated than an energy drink.

So she called a former classmate, Carla Frank, who now lives in Manhattan.

After attending high school and Penn State University together, the two embarked on different paths — over the course of a career in publishing, Ms. Frank has worked for magazines including Cooking Light and Glamour Italy — but they remained friends.

And now, they are business partners. They formed a limited liability company in 2015 — then becoming a women-owned company as certified by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council — and began sampling hundreds of varieties of honey, traveling between Pittsburgh and New York for tastings.

By June, 2016, they were ready to launch with three flavors: vanilla citrus, wild blueberry and ginger zest.

Blume Honey Water launched in Pittsburgh that month. It hit the D.C. and surrounding metro areas of Maryland and Virginia in November, 2016 and arrived in Colorado in February. The company determined its initial markets by cross-referencing the top 10 affluent millennial markets with the top 10 healthy markets.

“Our target consumer is female, between the ages of 18 and 54 with a healthy lifestyle who is fashionable, loves the outdoors [and] concerned about our environment and social issues,” Ms. Burchfield said. “But we found we also have a halo of men with the same beliefs that also love the waters.”

After a lot of sampling, both at coffee shops and neighborhood events, Ms. Burchfield said, the product made its way into the three Whole Foods locations in Pittsburgh, Giant Eagle Market District stores, and another 14 Whole Foods in the D.C. metro area.

Blume Honey Water now has approval for all 54 Whole Foods locations in the mid-Atlantic region and will be available in nearly 100 more Giant Eagle stores soon.

The company uses a proprietary blend of three True Source certified, bee-friendly honeys with the help of area honey supplier Dutch Gold. The product is packaged and assembled in the area, and 10-ounce bottles are priced between $2.49 and $3.25.

Flavored water is a challenging industry — drinks like coconut water and value-added waters are all competing for the same stomach, as Ms. Burchfield put it. She said research shows a $35 billion market at play for small brands like Blume Honey Water.

The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Rachel Treisman is a reporter for the Post-Gazette.




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