Beverage news: Plain old water gets a makeover
Flavor enhancers let consumers customize their beverages. Juice makers combine flavors (especially superfruits), and tea brands go with lower-calorie sweeteners.
“As the marketplace gets more crowded, packaging becomes an increasingly important selling tool,” said Gary Hemphill, managing director at New York-based Beverage Marketing Corp. He expects that companies will invest more in packaging design for heightened shelf presence and a chance at greater sales. Other challenges facing the segment are trial, improving taste and communicating product benefits, Hemphill said. Here’s how nondairy beverage processors have been responding.
Plain old water won’t really tempt consumers’ taste buds these days, but give them options of flavors and enhancements and they’ll be more inclined to grab that bottle of H2O. Water sales also benefit as people increasingly become more health-conscious, yet they don’t want to do so at the sacrifice of great taste.
“You can see with the explosion of the category that consumers are moving away from heavily sugared carbonated soft drinks and juices and are looking for ways to get delicious and healthy refreshment without all the drag of sugar, sodium and calories,” said Michael Salaman, CEO and founder of Skinny Nutritional Corp., Conshohocken, Pa. “Recent government movement toward curbing the distribution of sugar-laden drinks only helps our category.”
GoodBelly, known for its line of probiotic juice drinks, entered the water category in March with a 10-ounce probiotic coconut water in a grab-and-go bottle. It’s 70 calories per serving, has no added sugar and is infused with 20 billion live and active probiotic cultures per serving for daily digestive health, according to a company release. The new offering expands the brand’s (manufactured by NextFoods, Boulder, Colo.) line of dairy-free, vegan and soy-free products.
“The coconut water category continues to show amazing performance as a stand-alone product but also when mixed with other flavors such as coffee or chocolate,” said Deborah Meniane, vice president of marketing for Los Angeles-based Victoria’s Kitchen Almond Water. “The probiotic and Kombucha category has also shown to be very popular with health-conscious consumers.”
Launched in January 2012, Victoria’s Kitchen is carried mainly in natural and specialty food markets on the West Coast as well as in 250 World Market locations throughout the United States. The product is based on owner and founder David Meniane’s grandmother’s recipe from France. The label lists the ingredients: water, pure cane sugar, natural almond flavor, citric acid and love.
“Our label and packaging design is made to express our heritage and we keep on improving it to make sure our message is always clear and concise,” Deborah Meniane said. For 2013, she said the brand will expand on its flavors, introduce a “new, surprise product in January” and expand its footprint within the U.S. as well as internationally.
In October, Dasani, owned by Atlanta-based The Coca-Cola Co., debuted Dasani Drops, a zero-calorie liquid beverage enhancer for flavoring water sold in 1.9-fluid-ounce bottles. Available nationally in strawberry kiwi, pink lemonade, pineapple coconut and mixed berry, consumers control the amount of flavor by flipping the cap and squeezing as much flavor as they like. Each bottle offers 32 servings per container. The launch was supported with an integrated marketing campaign, including digital, print and out-of-home advertising and in-store bundle offers as well as sampling events.
“Consumer palates are sophisticated and people have become accustomed to trying new and different variations of flavor,” said Skinny Nutritional Corp.’s Salaman.
The company expanded distribution of its Skinny Water brand in July to 275 mid-Atlantic locations under the A&P banner, including Pathmark and Superfresh. Nationwide, Skinny Water can be found in more than 14,000 retail stores. Salaman said “new twists on old favorites are popular.” The six flavors are acai grape blueberry, raspberry pomegranate, lemonade passionfruit, orange cranberry tangerine, pink citrus berry and Goji black cherry. Each flavor contains electrolytes, antioxidants and vitamins.
Functional, enhanced and nutriceuticals continue to be industry buzzwords because consumers “realize there’s more to drinking plain water than just hydration,” Salaman said. In August, the company launched Skinny Water pH+, a high-alkaline, high-pH water infused with electrolytes. The suggested retail is $1.99 per liter and is being promoted at retail with point-of-sale educational materials.
“The body is in an alkaline state when it reaches 7 on a scale of 1 to 10,” Salaman explained. “Our bodies tend to be more acidic due to the acidic nature of the typical American diet that consists of soft drinks and processed foods. Skinny Water pH+ targets a pH level of 8 to 9 to help keep the body in balance.”
While superfruits (think acai or pomegranate) continue to be popular, Old Orchard Brands’ Kevin Miller, vice president of marketing, said the company has seen a renewed interest in “original superfruits,” such as blueberry, grape, cranberry and tart cherry.
“These can often feature twice the antioxidant power of the exotic superfruits,” he said.
Three years ago, the Sparta, Mich.-based brand introduced a line of 100% tart cherry juice dubbed Very Cherre to bring access at an affordable price point in traditional grocery stores. With the great interest the 64-ounce line has received, Old Orchard expanded the line in August with a single-serve 12-ounce variety. The Very Cherre line comes in 100% tart cherry and three blends: blueberry, cranberry and pomegranate.
Miller sees growth opportunities not only with these original superfruits but also in single serve and the frozen juice category. Although the latter is a segment that has declined in overall volume for some time, he notes that there are several benefits consumers could find appealing: environmentally friendly, fresh when you make it, plus the inherent value of a frozen concentrate.
The FaVe Juice Co., Middletown, N.J., expanded its reach this August when its line of all-natural juices became available at all Fresh Market locations. FaVe (an acronym for fruits and vegetables) is sold in 46-ounce recyclable PET plastic bottles and comes in three flavors: strawberry-banana-kiwi, pomegranate-blueberry-goji and orange-tangerine-pineapple. Each 8-ounce serving has 60 calories and three full vegetable servings.
Chief marketing officer David C. Kirkpatrick finds the Nutrition Facts Panel (NFP) to be the company’s “best friend” in the competition for consumers. “The FDA is currently exploring the concept of requiring food and beverage makers to disclose the added sugars in their products on the NFP,” he added. “We support this idea.”
The brand uses its packaging to quickly communicate the line’s key benefits. And the colorful bottles include a full-wrap 360 label to keep light away from the juice.
Campbell Soup Co., Camden, N.J., made several national introductions this year. In January, it expanded its V8 V-Fusion brand with two new lines — an energy drink and a sparkling beverage. V8 V-Fusion + Energy, available in pomegranate blueberry and peach mango, has 80 milligrams of caffeine and gets its boost from green tea. V8 V-Fusion Sparkling juice drink, its first carbonated beverage, is available in tangerine raspberry, black cherry pomegranate and strawberry lemonade. And in August, it debuted two flavors, the first since 2003. They were V8 100% vegetable juice Hint of Lime and V8 100% vegetable juice Hint of Black Pepper. Each is available in a 46-ounce bottle. An 8-ounce glass provides two servings of vegetables.
New flavors were also introduced this year from GoodBelly. Quart-size tropical orange and pink grapefruit both include 10 billion live and active probiotic cultures of Lp299v per serving.
Peach continues to be the favored flavor of choice for ready-to-drink tea, notes Andy Schamisso, founder and president of New York-based Inko’s Tea, but he sees growing consumer interest in a “mash-up of flavors.” To quench that thirst, the company expanded beyond its RTD white teas and in August launched three new flavors: mango passion fruit rooibos tea, half-and-half green tea with lemonade, and citrus black currant oolong tea. Packaged in 15.5-ounce recyclable aluminum cans, the new flavors have 50 calories per serving. With a lighter color palette and clean design, packaging is skewed feminine to attract its target market.
Schamisso sees the greatest opportunity with aluminum cans, both because they’re environmentally friendly and they have lower manufacturing costs. “Aseptic packaging seems to finally be making headway onto the shelf,” he adds, “thanks to the various coconut offerings available.”
Honest Tea, Bethesda, Md., expanded in March with a lower-sugar version of a country-style tea. “Not Too Sweet” tea is a traditional sweet tea but with 40% less sugar and calories than the leading sweet teas, according to the company. Each 16.9-ounce bottle has 100 calories. It’s brewed with organic black tea and sweetened with organic cane sugar and organic stevia. To spread the word about its various offerings, Honest Tea launched its first integrated advertising campaign (titled “Refreshingly Honest”) this summer that includes TV commercials, social media, billboards, transit signage and grassroots events.
Old Orchard Brands’ Miller said the sweet tea category is expected to grow 24% in the next four years, so to tap into that demand, the brand launched two frozen tea concentrates: Southern-style sweet tea and a half-and-half blend of black tea and lemonade.
“It’s a fresh-when-you-make-it approach to the growing sweet tea category,” Miller said, “and its 99-cent SRP brings new affordability to the category.”
When it comes to java trends, single serve is the fastest-growing segment. To tap into this demand, Marley Coffee, Los Angeles, released its Real Cups (compatible with Keurig Brewers) in November following last year’s launch of single-serve pods. The Real Cups are available in three organic flavors: Get Up Stand Up, One Love Ethiopian Yergacheffe and Lively Up Espresso as well as a 100% Jamaica Blue Mountain Talkin Blues.
In addition to opportunities with single serve, CEO Brent Toevs said the company is investing many resources into automated retailing and expects it to have “big impact for us next year.”
This summer, Seattle’s Best Coffee, part of Starbucks Corp., teamed with Coinstar Inc. to debut a coffee kiosk. Five hundred were to be installed in grocery, drug and mass merchant retail channels by the end of 2012 (primarily in the Northeast and West Coast). More will be rolling out in the coming years. One unit occupies about nine square feet. The Rubi kiosk grinds and brews whole beans into a single cup on demand. In addition to brewed coffee, specialty drinks, like mochas and vanilla lattes, can be purchased. n
Processors of Nondairy Beverages Are Talking About:
• Blends of fruits, not single varieties
• Customizing beverages
• Using superfruits
• The importance of hydration
• Reducing added sugars