5 minute read

Starryside: Helping Kids Think — And Drink — Outside the Box

Functional beverages have been popping up for just about every target market: the stressed-out Silicon Valley techy, the zen yogi, the endurance athlete and the sleep-deprived college student. Yet Liz Seelye and Erin Fasano, two working moms, noticed that one core market has been lef largely unaddressed: kids.

Tough the kids’ and shelf-stable juice category is worth $4.8 billion, innovation in this space hasn’t kept up with the speed of other beverage sub-categories. “Te kids’ drink aisle still looks the same as it did 30 years ago – full of sugary juice boxes,” Seelye notes. Tis white space limits options for health-conscious parents and adventurous kids – and it represents a missed opportunity to address a much larger problem: “As we strive to make sure our kids stay imaginative, we’ve realized part of the ‘creativity crisis’ is old thinking in what they drink. Studies show that when kids are hydrated and healthy, it improves both their concentration and imagination.” Seelye and Fasano decided to put their decades of experience in CPG innovation together to co-found Starryside: the brand on a mission to help kids think – and drink – outside the box.

UNDERSTANDING THE NEED

Seelye and Fasano knew early on what they wanted as the frst line of their brand: an organic, fun-favored, immunity-boosting beverage in some of the category’s only sustainable packaging. To further refne their climate-friendly concept, the team dug into their target market’s resistance to the existing kids’ juice aisle. “We conducted online surveys and talked to many parents about why they’ve lef the kids’ juice category. We found that many are avoiding sugar, juice, and the juice boxes and pouches that end up in landflls.” Tey discovered that parents wanted organic, bold favors, natural sweeteners like monk fruit, and an easy source of vitamins and minerals to keep their little ones hydrated and healthy.

While parents are the household purchasers, it is ultimately kids’ taste buds that determine a repurchase of a beverage. With seven kids between the two co-founders, the team tapped into their network of little ones to taste test everything they made. Tey also enlisted the help of a friend, fellow parent and former Ben & Jerry’s favor guru to dream up the unique varieties: Beachy Peachy Strawberry, Magical Mango Pineapple, and Rockin’ Root Beer. Te Starryside team relied on kids’ preferences to determine their packaging too. Tey were already committed to combating the climate crisis using only natural ingredients and 100% recyclable packaging, but additional insights led the way: “We learned that kids love feeling grown-up drinking from cans, but parents told us they never drink a full 12 ounces.” Tey interviewed pediatric dieticians who explained that kids should drink the number of eight-ounce cups of water equal to their age every day to stay fully hydrated. With this feedback, they searched high and low for the perfect eight-ounce can that would reduce waste, help parents track their child’s hydration, and fulfll kids’ dreams of clutching a fun can.

CONSTANT FEEDBACK + A LIVING MISSION

In the past year of development, Seelye and Fasano moved quickly to create a minimum viable product that can “level up kids’ lunchboxes” – a large feat for two working parents. But the team knew they could not create in a silo; it was critical to get product in the hands of other families for their feedback and rapid iteration. “Every conversation about Starryside has led us to a new insight, a new relationship, or a new idea. Telling everyone around you about the idea helps it to grow, breathe and get better.” Te co-founders believe that, above all else, their dedication to constant feedback has led to their greatest learnings. A desire for innovation and early feedback fueled Starryside to go from idea to selling online, but it is their vision that continues to build their community and grow the brand. By involving kids in the process of creating the ofering, and donating a portion of their sales to kid-founded businesses, they live out their mission to encourage kids’ creativity and imagination. And while some brands limit research to the product or market, Starryside also takes time to expand their knowledge base:

“We share ideas from fellow entrepreneurs about what they do to stay innovative and help their kids stay inventive,” says Seelye. Tey also use feedback from families to inform and inspire goals and promotions. Tis spring, Starryside will ask kids to submit creative ideas to help the environment and award a few lucky winners with a Star Water stand to start their very own businesses, along with their own infatable water slides – “It’ll be business in the front (yard), party in the back.”

LOOKING AHEAD

To determine early success, Starryside will look to fellow parents and kids for feedback about both the Starryside brand and Star Water, ofcially launching during World Creativity Week on April 15th. Tey’ll also continue to innovate. “We have a pipeline of kid-inspired ideas from new favors and functions to a complete line of Starryside snacks on the way.” Troughout the process, they will continue to keep kids involved. “Our little ones have a hand in everything from designing the packaging and selecting favors to reinventing the lemonade stand and selecting songs for box-packing dance parties.” Seelye and Fasano see the brand as a way to combat the creativity and climate crises, and a celebration of teamwork and friendship their families share.

“We like to say, ‘when you look on the sunny side, you see what’s positive. When you look on the Starryside, you see what’s possible.’ We are looking on the Starryside every day to see what this brand can be.”