BY PAULA DETWILLER
In a crowded marketplace of consumer beverage choices, how do you create a new non-alcoholic drink that stands apart from the rest?
Start by creating a new beverage category emphasizing taste. Draw inspiration from top chefs to develop up-andcoming flavor combinations.
Package the drink in sexy glass bottles and give it a name that asserts exclusivity. Finally, insist that your product is given a special place on supermarket shelves—away from the ordinary offerings of soda, energy drinks, spring waters, and Gatorade.
That’s the winning formula behind West Palm Beach-based Onli Beverages, a line of all-natural, sparkling drinks launched in 2012. Onli is pronounced “only” and bears the tag line “Elevating Taste.”
“When we took a look at the beverage landscape, we noticed that almost all of the drinks are functionality-centric,” says Onli’s 33-year-old founder and CEO Nadav Haimberg.
“They revolve around hydration, weight loss, energy or nutraceuticals. We wanted to do something different. So we came up with something that’s taste-centric. None of the competitors on the shelf really hang their hat on taste,” he says.
At Onli, taste is everything. Consider the lineup of flavors: Hibiscus Pomegranate, the No. 1 best-seller. The second is Hibiscus Strawberry—fruity, floral and unsweetened. There’s also Huckleberry Pomegranate, Lemon Watermelon, Lemon Mango Passion Fruit Mint, Espresso Swiss Hazelnut, and Green Tea Lemongrass Mango.
The newest flavor—developed in partnership with chef Clay Conley of Buccan Restaurant in Palm Beach and officially launched in March—is Black Tea Tangerine Ginger. Zing!
Interestingly, there’s a common ingredient in every Onli formulation: ginseng.
“We think it complements the other flavor profiles. And it’s healthy for you,” Haimberg says.
In keeping with the healthy trend, Onli beverages are lightly sweetened, only using cane sugar (a product of South Florida), stevia, erythritol (a non-glycemic sugar alcohol that occurs naturally in plants), or monk fruit, which has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine and has a low glycemic index.
Onli drinks are made in Pennsylvania, with fresh water taken from the Pocono Mountains region. Beverage research and development is conducted at specially equipped flavor houses. Design, packaging, and shipping is handled at the company’s West Palm Beach headquarters.
Haimberg says Onli strives to source local food in producing the beverages, but many times it’s not possible. “For example, we have a hibiscus flavor that’s formulated especially for us. As you can imagine, a lot of plants are not water-soluble. And to get hibiscus to a point where it is water-soluble, we need certain types of hibiscus that are not available locally,” he explains.
The drink itself is available locally, though, in Publix and Whole Foods Markets throughout Florida. It’s also available in Boston, Atlanta (where competition is fierce with native son Coca-Cola), and parts of Texas. Haimberg says the company plans to further expand during the next year into Texas, the Northeast and the Southeast.
As his business grows, Haimberg is enjoying every tasty, bubbly moment. Prior to starting Onli, he had helped launch five successful companies, including high-tech, automotive, and merger acquisition firms. He’s excited to now lead a company with a tangible product.
“When you’re in high-tech, it’s all source code,” he says. “When you’re in finance, it’s all numbers and contracts. So this was the first time I was able to make something that people can see and touch and taste. And it’s great watching people enjoying it.”