- Nestlé Waters North America has named Yumi Clevenger-Lee as its new VP and CMO, the company announced via a news release. She assumes the role today, Aug. 1.
- Clevenger-Lee, who joined Nestlé in 2013, will oversee Nestlé Waters North America's marketing operations in the U.S. She previously served as marketing director of the Latin America region for Cereal Partners Worldwide (CPW), a joint venture between General Mills and Nestlé to manufacture and market cereal in more than 120 markets. In her prior role at CPW, she was responsible for all marketing activities across 14 countries and helped launch 14 new products across 12 markets. She has also held several marketing positions at General Mills.
- Clevenger-Lee steps in for Antonio Sciuto, who led digital transformation at Nestlé Waters North America and a revamping of the brand, including through the relaunch of the Regional Brands Sparkling water line. Sciuto is leaving to pursue other opportunities within Nestlé and outside of the company, the release said.
With Clevenger-Lee's background in product innovation and launches, Nestlé is looking to stay competitive in the quickly moving water category, which has seen a surge in consumer interest in recent years for both premium bottled water and sparkling options. Nestlé's water portfolio includes several well-established brands, like Poland Spring, Nestlé Pure Life, Perrier and San Pellegrino. However, smaller marketers, like the sparkling beverage makers LaCroix and relative newcomer Spindrift, have become power players in the space and have potentially put pressure on Nestlé to innovate.
National Beverage Corporation's LaCroix has grown to be a favorite among coveted consumer groups like millennials in part thanks to forward-thinking digital marketing strategies, such as leveraging Instagram micro-influencers to raise brand awareness. Revamping its marketing leadership now could help Nestlé keep its own offerings ahead in the U.S. market. LaCroix remains second to Nestlé's Perrier and San Pellegrino offerings, which are considered premium products. In February, Nestlé also relaunched its regional sparkling water products with 10 natural, unsweetened flavors designed to appeal to mainstream shoppers.
Both still and sparkling water are now the beverage of choice for more than two-thirds of U.S. adults, according to the International Bottled Water Association. However, most consumers aren't loyal to a specific brand, and generic store brands are often among the top sellers, posing challenges for marketers like Clevenger-Lee to make their products stand out.
Recent Nestlé Waters campaigns include a partnership with the WWE that launched in May and encourages consumers to "choose water" and lead healthy lifestyles. Bottled water sales reached $24.1 billion in 2017, and an increase in soda prices last year helped the category generate $81.6 billion in revenue, according to Beverage Digest data.