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Agua Bonita Lives Up To Its Name With Modern Take On Latin American Classic

by Rudy Sanchez on 02/24/2022 | 3 Minute Read

Aguas frescas are soft drinks made from fruit, botanicals, and other natural ingredients and served cold. These drinks are usually made in large batches and served from large jars. As tasty as these aguas might be, they traditionally get made with a lot of refined sugar and surprisingly scant ready-to-drink (RTD) options in the US.

Beverage professionals Kayla Castañeda and Erin PonTell found themselves with an abundance of free time, an unfortunate consequence of being laid-off. As Latinas, they both were fond of aguas frescas and saw an opportunity in the RTD space for a version that speaks to the original aguas they remembered but made better. Castañeda and PonTell decided to make a better version using unsaleable fruit with no added sugar.

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Enter Agua Bonita, or “Lovely Water,” in Spanish.

“A lot of sparkling beverages have emerged; it’s very trendy. However, it's not for everyone,” says Erin. “We wanted to create an RTD option that was traditional, and aguas frescas are not sparkling. Also, flavored beverages usually only have up to 5% juice and then use many flavorings and artificial sweeteners, which we wanted to avoid. So we're between 50 and 60% juice in our beverages. You're not getting 150 calories of pure juice; adding the water cuts back on the sugar and the calories. We are the only juice and water beverage out there that is non-sparkling with no added sweeteners or sugar, which seems crazy; it's a wide-open space.”

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Available in pineapple cucumber, watermelon chile, and mango habanero, the packaging follows suit, with the elevated traditional theme of the aguas themselves. Rather than lean on overused folkloric patterns and graphics, PonTell designed entirely new ones, and Agua Bonita enlisted the services of creative studio Fenomenal to add finishing touches to the packaging. Visually, the label designs have a clear Latin identity grounded in tradition that's both modernized and raises the bar.

“Once we knew we wanted to create a traditional Hispanic beverage, it was obvious that the packaging had to reflect that heritage,” PonTell said. “We felt a desire to make something that was both authentic and elevated. If you just Google Hispanic patterns or Hispanic art, the first things that come up are cliche and a little bit cartoonist. That’s not the vibe you're trying to convey.”

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“I grew up spending my summers in Mexico throughout my childhood. So I had a lot of imagery and designs in my memories,” Erin explained. “I started diving into what I could pull from that was not only traditional but also beautiful. It just took a lot of experimentation and seeing what looks good, both on a can and on a shelf that was also different.”

“I think in the last couple of years, there has been this huge shift towards minimalism in beverages, and there's a lot of beautiful, simple, and clean beverage packaging designs, which are great. But when everybody starts doing that, you get bland washing,” Erin adds. “We decided to go in the opposite direction and do something maximalist and colorful and different, which I think turned out well; we've had a lot of positive feedback from consumers. And also you can find us in retailers now. And if you look at the shelves of all the beverages, it looks very different from anything else.”

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Agua Bonita’s fruit-forward juice flavors and bold packaging also appeal to Latinos and folks that like to post pretty food on the ‘Gram. “Our current customer base is about 50% Hispanic and 50% everyone else who wants to take a picture with a pretty can, and then they love the taste. So they come back and repurchase it,” PonTell said.

Aguas Bonitas is available direct and in select stores now.