London-based start-up Ugly Drinks produces carbonated beverages have two ingredients – sparkling water and natural fruit flavours - and no sugar or sweetening additives.
The drinks are available in the UK in three fruit flavours – triple berry, lemon & lime, orange and tropical – made from fruit extracts, essential oils and natural aromas, all of which are free from propylene glycol.
“Ugly is totally unsweet,” Co-founder and CEO Hugh Thomas told FoodNavigator. “There is no sugar, no sweetener, no calories and nothing artificial in Ugly."
According to the company, the drinks provide the “crispness and refreshment” of traditional fizzy drinks without “the bad stuff”. The nutritional content of the drinks is, in the company’s own words, “zero, nada, zilch”.
'An everyday staple'
The company was founded by Hugh Thomas and Joe Benn in 2017 out of concern for the lack of unsweetened options and authentic brands in the drinks category. Both Thomas and Benn had experience in the food and beverage industry, working as head of marketing and head of sales respectively for Vita Coco.
Since launching in the UK in 2017 on the back of angel investment, the brand has secured retail listings in over 3,500 stores including the UK’s two biggest supermarkets, Tesco and Sainsbury’s, as well as Holland & Barrett and Whole Foods Market.
A US launch in May this year has seen the drink sold in shops across New York.
The brand has also set up a subscription-based delivery model, where consumers sign up online and have monthly supplies Ugly drinks delivered to their door. The success, Thomas said, is based on the fact the drinks contain no sugar or sweeteners and are therefore an everyday “fridge staple”.
“We wanted our consumers to be able to fill up their fridges as frequently as they choose. Sparkling water is a fridge staple and something that consumers love to hand on hand without the hassle of remembering to order or carry it home from the grocery store,” he added.
Total transparency, or the ugly truth
The company also makes an effort to engage in clear, transparent communication with its consumers.
“We called ourselves Ugly because we stand for the ugly truth. Too many products overpromise with health and happiness but often don’t deliver. We stand for the truth – within our beverages but also within our wider mission,” it says.
The website explains the UK products, which are manufactured in the UK, are packaged in recycled and recyclable cans while the US products, manufactured in Canada, are packed in cans that have a BPA lining that the company is looking to replace.