Sugar Free Sips

Two moms combat sugary drinks with fruit-flavored water that kids and parents will like.

This spring, kidsWATER, a sugar-free beverage targeted toward kids, is hitting local grocery store shelves. The brainpower behind the innovative product comes from sisters Lisa Amundson of Woodbury and Laurie Ambrose of Chanhassen, moms who created the drink after witnessing how sugary drinks were negatively impacting kids’ health.

According to the American Heart Association, children should consume no more than 24 grams (six teaspoons) of added sugar per day. On average, a child’s diet in the United States includes 80 grams of sugar a day. When considering a typical juice box contains about 23 grams of sugar, it’s easy to see how sugar consumption can quickly add up.

Amundson, a dentist with a practice in Cottage Grove, sees the harmful effects sugar has on her young patients.  She urges families to switch to non-sugary options, like milk or water, but she soon realized a challenge parents face—packing flavored drinks or juice boxes in their kids’ school lunches was just easier. “It was very clear to me that there was a struggle between healthy drinks and convenient drinks for younger kids,” Amundson says.

Amundson says consumers can be misled about products' nutritional information. “So many of our parents grew up thinking juice was healthy,” she says, “and it can offer vitamins, but it’s really deceiving the amount of sugar that’s in it.  It’s much better to drink some water and eat an apple than to drink apple juice.”

Ambrose faced similar challenges with her children, struggling to find healthy and enjoyable options to pack in their lunches. “I was trying to add sugar-free flavorings into reusable water bottles, and they would be left at school,”  she says. “I just thought, ‘There should be a better option.’”  

As the sisters brainstormed, it didn’t take long before they developed kidsWATER. “It’s all natural flavoring. You can think of it as if you had fruit sitting in water, and the water takes on those flavors, so there’s no sweetener added whatsoever,” Amundson says. “It does have a sweet essence on your tongue. It’s a bridge between plain water and a very light, sweetened drink,” Ambrose adds.

The drink line will roll out with Leaping Lemonade with a raspberry twist; Biking Berries, including blackberry, strawberry and raspberry; and Paddleboard Punch, featuring watermelon and tangerine flavors.

The entrepreneurs had the perfect panel to test their product. Ambrose’s children-Maddie, 10; Emily, 7; and Charlotte, 3 and Amundson’s children, twins Liam and Elle, 6, and Evelin, 4-were instrumental in tasting the flavors and providing feedback.  “We spent a lot of time doing sample after sample to get a good flavor kids would like,” Amundson says. The flavor must make it possible to break from sweetened beverages. “It was a little [hard] at first, but I feel healthier, and now juice tastes so sweet to me,” Maddie says.

kidsWATER comes conveniently packaged like juice boxes and is easy to pack in lunches or for kids on the go. Packaging features kid-friendly colors and designs. “We helped make sure that the box looked really cool,” Emily adds.

“We would also like to create some other product lines that address that big gap of finding things that are healthy and convenient,” Ambrose says.

Success often arises from challenge. “Just time in general,” Amundson says. “We are moms, and we also have businesses to tend to and families to take care of, so being a mom is always the most challenging thing. I think both of us are always just making sure we are getting that quality time with our kids.”  

kidsWATER will be available in local grocery stores listed on their website and through amazon.com.