It's A Rocket! It's A Grenade! It's Aquapod!

A new product from Nestle Waters North America with kid-appeal packaging is giving a lift to the already booming bottled water category.

Aquapod is an 11-ounce natural spring water that comes in a bottle shaped like a rocket. (Depending on the buyer's point of view, it could also look like a bubble, water balloon or plastic hand grenade.) Launched in June and rolled out nationally over the summer in time for back-to-school season, it is the first bottled water targeted directly to kids.

And just in time, given the new attention to childhood obesity and a focus on the role that school lunchrooms play.

"Aquapod is a timely response to the growing trend to provide healthful beverages instead of soft drinks," says Arthur von Wiesenberger, a beverage industry consultant and founder of BottledWaterWeb.com. "Aquapod's design, marketing concepts, Web site and positioning are well targeted towards the school-age consumer. It is just edgy enough to appeal to children and yet not offensive to their parents."

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Marketing support includes an interactive Web site from Byte Interactive, South Norwalk, Conn.; word-of-mouth marketing to 10,000 moms via BzzAgent, Boston; TV spots by McCann-Erickson, N.Y., and a mobile marketing tour that was developed by Ryan Partnership, Wilton, Conn., and executed by Universal Consulting Group, Brookline, Mass.

Most of the marketing material is directed toward kids ages 6 to 12. For example, aquapod.com is an animated Web site rich in graphics and games. It shows life in the fictional "Hydropolis," where an evil baron stalks a playground, stealing the fun. Kids are asked to "help stamp out boredom!" by pulling a rope and visiting Aquapod's underground headquarters. A child could easily while away several hours in Hydropolis, which occasionally tells users to "Stay hydrated! Keep an Aquapod with you!"

Back on Earth, an "Aquapod Squad Mobile Tour" has been crossing the country since June so that kids can "tour a life-size Aquapod bottle from inside-out."

Animated TV spots are airing on Nickelodeon and other programming geared toward kids. And the word-of-mouth campaign tested the product on moms and engaged them to chat about the brand with their friends.

But its rocket-shaped packaging is probably the most important element.

"Aquapod is a significant packaging change for bottled water," says Tom Vierhile, director of Datamonitor's Productscan, a new-products database in Naples, N.Y. "It's a design element that clearly speaks to kids."

The kids' market is worth tapping: According to Datamonitor, kids under age 14 account for 15.2 percent of U.S. bottled water sales.

Nestlé Waters North America is the No. 1 bottled water company in the U.S., with $3.1 billion in wholesale dollar sales, according to Beverage Marketing Corp. Its regional brands--including Poland Spring, Arrowhead and Zephyrhills--accounted for more than 31 percent of total bottled water sales in 2005.

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