Nondairy beverage processors combine better-for-you ingredients with better-for-the-earth packaging.

For years, beverages have been just that – beverages. Whether it’s a glass of juice, a can of iced tea or a swig of an energy drink, they are consumed with a meal or as part of an afternoon snack, and that’s it.

Now, the beverage market is more than just an aisle of brightly colored products. Thanks to an insurgence of exotic flavors, nutrient-rich options, innovative packaging concepts and the ever-changing consumer, this billion-dollar category has become the ultimate go-to arena for a quick fix of something healthy in a liquid form.

All juiced up

In 2009, fruit juices accounted for more than 40% of the total beverage market sales, according to a study conducted by Chicago-based Mintel. Therefore, affordable premium positioning is key to future growth.

That’s because beverages have become more than simple drinks, says Rodrigo Bosco Correa, marketing manager for Acai Roots.

In response to this growing trend, the San Diego-based company launched Acai Roots Pure Acai juice, made with Amazon-grown Brazilian acai berries, antioxidants, omegas and other nutrients and available in 10- and 32-ounce bottles.

“Over the past decade, we have seen a substantial increase from the general public interest in healthy liquid products,” Correa says. “As more consumers have become - and many others are still becoming - healthy-conscious, their nutritional habits also change. Today, it is very common for consumers to search in beverages [for] a source of healthy nutrition - regardless of their ‘ultimate goal’ at the time of the purchase.”

Consumers also are looking for better-for-you, all-natural products that still deliver great taste, says Kim Peddle, director of marketing for Nestlé Beverages.

As a result, the Glendale, Calif.-based company introduced Juicy Juice Sparkling in 8.4-ounce slim cans. Made with 70% real fruit juice and 30% sparkling water, Juicy Juice Sparkling contains no artificial flavors, colors or added sugars, counts as a full serving of fruit and is less than 90 calories. It comes in Apple, Berry and Orange flavors.

“Kids love carbonated drinks - especially as they get older, become more independent and see other kids drinking them. Sodas and other juice drinks can lack the nutrition their growing bodies need and are often loaded with artificial colors and flavors,” Peddle says. “Juicy Juice Sparkling is a way to provide older kids a healthier beverage option in a fun, fizzy format.”

For those consumers in search of fruit-laden juice products, The Naked Juice Co. developed Naked Juice reduced-calorie smoothies, available in Tropical with Coconut Water and Peach Guava with Coconut Water. Made with 100% juice combined with coconut water, this option reduces calories by 35% and helps replenish potassium and other electrolytes after working out, says Chris Malnar, marketing for the Santa Monica, Calif.-based company.

“We are always looking for new, delicious fruits from around the world to bring to our consumers,” Malnar says. “Naked Juice offers the freshest fruits and vegetables and derives naturally delicious and artful blends that offer healthy, feel-good refreshment.”

Naked Juice also created veggie-rich juice smoothies that come in Berry Veggie Machine and Orange Carrot, and carry a full list of vegetables and essential vitamins.

“Our consumers are looking for delicious and nutritious options that fit into their on-the-go lifestyle,” Malnar says. “By providing three servings of fruits and vegetables and nutritional value in every 15.2-ounce bottle, Naked Juice is a nutrient-rich beverage that can help consumers achieve their daily recommended servings of fruits and vegetables.”

Adding to its family of juices, Ocean Spray Cranberries, Inc., based in Lakeville-Middleboro, Mass., launched 100% Juice and Light, which contains two servings of fruits and vegetables in every 8-ounce glass and comes in Fruit & Veggie Tropical Citrus and Fruit & Veggie Cranberry Strawberry Banana options.

Meanwhile, Chicago-based Tropicana Products, a division of PepsiCo, created Trop50 Farmstand Apple, made with 50% less sugar and calories and is full of Vitamins C and E. Available in 59-ounce containers, Trop50 Farmstand Apple also contains PureVia, an all-natural, stevia-based sweetener that naturally enhances the sweetness of real fruit juice.

Coca-Cola-owned Odwalla, headquartered in Half Moon Bay, Calif., expanded its Protein Monster line to include a Strawberry version containing 25 g. of protein in every 15.2-ounce recyclable plastic bottle. Made with strawberries, soy and dairy protein, the Strawberry offering provides Vitamins B6 and B12, calcium and zinc.

Coffee, tea in a can

Ready-to-drink coffee and tea helped the beverage category reach the $50 billion mark because they’ve proved to be household staples in uncertain economic times, according to the Mintel study. In addition, issued a study that shows how drinking coffee and even some caffeine-infused teas can actually provide health benefits. For instance, coffee drinkers, compared to non-drinkers, are less likely to have Type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and dementia and have fewer cases of certain cancers, heart rhythm problems and strokes, the study says.

That’s why many of today’s ready-to-drink tea and coffee makers are trading in their conventional product portfolios for items that offer a little something extra for the consumer.

For example, New Leaf Brands, Old Tappan, N.J., revamped its lineup of iced teas and lemonades to include 100% pure organic cane sugar. Available in 17 flavors, including Plum Green Tea and Lime & Mint Black Tea, these high-fructose corn syrup-free drinks retain the necessary vitamins and minerals to make this a label-friendly product.

Meanwhile, New York City-based Honest Tea launched Passion Fruit Green Tea with Maqui Berry, an all-organic, naturally sweetened tea that combines notes of passion fruit and maqui berries in an 8-ounce bottle.

In addition, Smith Dairy Products, based in Orrville, Ohio, rolled out Peach Tea, which provides a ripened peach flavor in a hot or cold option. It contains zero preservatives and offers 100 calories per 8-ounce serving. 

A bevy of ready-to-drink coffee producers also are getting into the mix with an assortment of coffee-in-a-can options.<

For instance, Seattle’s Best, through a partnership with the North American Coffee Partnership, a joint venture between the brand’s parent company Starbucks Corp. and Pepsi-Cola North America Beverages, introduced ready-to-drink iced latte coffee drinks. Inspired by the lattes served in Seattle’s Best cafés, the drinks are available in Iced Latte, Iced Vanilla Latte and Iced Mocha flavors.

On the lighter side, Starbucks Coffee and the North American Coffee Partnership introduced a couple of low-calorie, low-fat flavors of ready-to-drink coffees that contain 130 calories per serving and 4 g. of fat. The Frappuccino Mocha Lite option, for example, features the same mocha flavor as the original with 100 calories per serving, while the Light Vanilla offering is made with low-fat milk and sweetened with Splenda.

In addition, the Seattle-based company introduced a 70-calorie formulation of its DoubleShot Light espresso, which features 36% fewer calories than the original, but contains the same blend of coffee, B vitamins, guarana and ginseng.

Likewise, McDonald’s Corp., based in Oak Brook, Ill., expanded its McCafé line to include Mocha Frappé, a frosted blend of mocha and ice topped with whipped cream and chocolate drizzle served in a 16-ounce cup.

Drinks with a kick

For years, energy drinks have mainly targeted males between ages 18 and 34. However, a growing trend is the increase in age of the energy-drink consumer, says Michael Levy, COO and CFO of Xyience.    

“There are a few things in our category that are driving the age trend,” Levy says. “First, those who came on board and adopted energy drinks as their beverage of choice early on in the category’s life have matured. The second is that energy drinks have become more widely accepted by those outside the traditional demographic, so you have more people opting for an energy drink in the morning or afternoon rather than a cup of coffee.”

To better address the needs of a mature energy drink user, in 2006, the Las Vegas-based processor developed Xenergy Premium, and then in 2009, rolled out Xenergy Xtreme, which is sugar- and calorie-free.

“Xenergy is the official energy drink of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), so we included the logo front and center on both Premium and Xtreme,” Levy says. “We established our brand in the sport of mixed martial arts and it’s very important to our brand to remain loyal to that consumer.”

Energy and sports drinks also face competition from a myriad of other beverages that are positioned at quenching thirst, the Mintel study says.

That’s why Abbott Nutrition, based in Columbus, Ohio, created EAS Peak, a sports nutrition beverage designed to sustain energy, increase workout capacity and protect muscles. EAS Peak features P3 technology, or Push, Perform and Protect, to help fitness enthusiasts reach their personal goals, according to a press release. EAS Peak delivers 10 g. of protein, 25 g. of carbohydrates, 1 g. of fat and 150 calories in every 16-ounce can. Consumers can select from Orange Spark, Peach Surge and Fruit Power flavors.

PepsiCo’s Gatorade division developed a similar offering for the athletic consumer with its G Series, a three-part regimen of drink offerings designed to fuel every step of the performance.

For example, Gatorade Prime 01 is filled with Vitamin B, carbohydrates and electrolytes. Gatorade Perform 02 is the original Gatorade, which is followed up by Gatorade Recover 03, a rehydrated protein drink that rebuilds fatigued muscles, according to the company’s website.

In addition, Gatorade is strengthening its position in the sports performance beverage category by introducing kosher-certified Gatorade Thirst Quencher and G2 products.

Likewise, Coca-Cola’s Powerade division developed ION4, a sports drink that contains an advanced electrolyte system. Each 22-ounce bottle delivers 100 mg. of sodium, 24.2 mg. of potassium, 2.5 mg. of calcium and 1.2 mg. of magnesium to help replenish lost electrolytes.

Other companies such as Canada-based Kore Nutrition Inc. are tapping into the acai berry trend with its release of Go All In energy drinks, which deliver high levels of antioxidants fused with low calories, zero sugar and a host of herbs, vitamins and amino acids. They come in Grape, Acai Berry and Citrus flavors in 8.4-ounce cans.

Packaging points it all out

For several processors, success isn’t just measured by the amount of new product introductions per year, nor the ability to reach a wider audience. In some cases, it’s just about making the world a better place, one package at a time.

Such is the case for many of today’s beverage makers who rely on packaging innovations to speak to the consumer, all while saving the earth.

For instance, Naked Juice unveiled new packaging of its 32-ounce bottles to be made from 100% post-consumer recycled plastic, Malnar says.

“By Earth Day 2011, all bottles will be transitioned and will feature a new label to help consumers detect exactly what they are getting in every bottle,” he adds. “We’ve added more vibrant fruit clusters, an easier-to-read flavor name and more prominent placement of the good stuff included in every bottle.”

For its part, Apple Rush Co. launched a marketing campaign promoting its newly designed logo and packaging that envelops its newest flavor offering – Blueberry. According to a press release issued from the Dolton, Ill., producer of 100% Juice Sparkling beverages, the new logo denotes that the juice is organic, while placing it in glass bottles that are shipped in 4- or 12-pack wooden crates.

To meet the ever-changing demands of juice drinkers, Houston-based Minute Maid redesigned the size of its Premium Orange Juice. Now available in 89- and 128-ounce bottles, the clear bottle stands out on the shelf and communicates important health benefits, according to the company.

Minute Maid also revamped its Premium Lemonades and Fruit Drinks lineup, placing them in a contemporary 128-ounce bottle that’s located in the chilled juice aisle, the release says.

According to customer feedback, some shoppers fail to consume an entire energy drink in one sitting. That’s why Denver-based Vuka LLC designed its new line of “Intelligent Energy” enhanced drinks in 16-ounce resealable bottles. They are manufactured using impact extrusion technology, the press release says, and feature a 66 mm. body, a custom-radius oval shoulder and an extended neck. The “Intelligent Energy” line is made with all-natural ingredients and nutritional supplements and comes in Berry Lemonade (Workout), Orange (Awaken), Pomegranate Lychee (Think) and Mango Peach (Renew).

As part of its new launch of Passion Fruit Green Tea with Maqui Berry, Honest Tea redesigned its packaging to demonstrate its partnership with Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Each bottle is outfitted with limited-edition pink labels and caps.

Whether consumers rely on beverages for added nutrients or a jolt of energy, today’s options are more than an ordinary drink.

Fast Facts: Juice

According to an executive summary produced by Chicago-based Mintel outlining the habits of consumers in relationship to juice, survey results show:

  • As the economy expands in the coming years, consumers are likely to return to higher-priced brands, especially in fruit juice.

  • Consumer concerns about products containing too much sugar, artificial sweeteners, sodium or other ingredients deemed unhealthy are driving marketers to develop products without these ingredients and to highlight these benefits to buyers.

  • Value pricing is a big draw for fruit juice/drinks, especially for brands that appeal to minorities.

Fast Facts: tea

According to an executive summary produced by Chicago-based Mintel outlining the habits of consumers in relationship to ready-to-drink tea and coffee, survey results show:

  • Despite the economic downturn, coffee and tea have proved to be staples that consumers are not willing to part with regardless of the costs.

  • RTD tea, whether shelf stable or refrigerated, increased steady at 7-8% over 2005-07.

Fast Facts: sport Drinks

According to an executive summary produced by Chicago-based Mintel outlining the habits of consumers in relationship to sports and energy drinks, survey results show:

  • From 2004-09, the number of adults and teens drinking sports drinks remains at just below 40%. One way to overcome this challenge is to develop new products that contain all-natural ingredients that appeal to a healthier sports-oriented crowd.

  • Sports drink sales dipped 5.6% to $1.6 billion from 2007-09 as the segment received tough competition from enhanced water. However, sales of bottled water also declined nearly 8% to $8.4 billion as consumers looked for cheaper alternatives, such as turning to tap water.

  • This market is projected to grow 2-3% annually during 2009-14, however it requires more innovation to increase market penetration.

  • Stay Svelte

    Consumers have become more educated over the past few years and now understand nutrition labels and question the purpose of certain ingredients, according to Clark Driftmier, vice president of marketing and sales for California Natural Products.

    That’s why this Lathrop, Calif.-based processor debuted CalNaturale Svelte, an all-natural, non-dairy, gluten-free alternative to other energy, protein and meal replacement beverages currently in the marketplace, Driftmier says.

    “Made with organic and all-natural ingredients, CalNaturale Svelte drinks come in a variety of delicious flavors to satisfy any taste palette and provide naturally sustained energy through a unique blend of certified-organic complex carbohydrates, including rice syrup solids and inulin, high fiber and a substantial amount of protein,” he adds. “Svelte drinks provide a good source of the daily value of fiber in just one serving and 16 g. of protein from a fresh, organic base of soymilk and rice. The beverage also qualifies as a low-glycemic product with only 9 g. of sugar per container.”

    They come in Chocolate, French Vanilla, Cappuccino and Spiced Chai flavors and are packaged in recyclable Tetra Prisma 15.9-ounce containers.

    “When we created the design for Svelte, we knew that we wanted to package the innovative product in a more environmentally friendly way, without compromising on quality, and we are extremely pleased with our outcome,” Driftmier says.

    Time to Unwind

    Despite the flurry of caffeine-induced energy drinks and beverages, Frontier Beverage Co. took a different approach, one that allows consumers to take a time-out from being wired.

    The Memphis, Tenn.-based company launched Unwind, a low-calorie, relaxation drink available in Goji Grape, Pom Berry and Citrus Orange. Made from melatonin, valerian roots, rose hips and passion flowers, among other herbs, Unwind contains 40 calories and 10 g. of sugar in each 12-ounce can.

    Wild About Water

    For years, bottled water has been the on-trend product. Thanks to an array of new product offerings combined with earth-friendly packaging, today’s processors are keeping this trend alive.

    For instance, under its line of US glaceau vitaminwater, Coca-Cola launched vitaminwater stur-D, a blue agave-, passionfruit- and citrus-flavored blend of enhanced water and juice and fruit-derived blue coloring. Stur-D is fortified with Vitamins C and D and calcium and contains 5% juice.

    Likewise, Resveratrol, based in Haverford, Pa., renamed its Preventiv Water to EVR (pronounced ever) to better depict the beverage’s functional benefits. This all-natural, zero-calorie, zero-sugar and zero-sodium beverage comes in a 16-ounce bottle and is available in Wild Berry, Pomegranate and Grape flavors.

    On the other hand, some consumers are searching for functional water without the messy packaging waste. That’s why Coral LLC developed Mineral Sachets, which allows consumers to convert regular tap water into healthy, high-pH, antioxidant- and electrolyte-rich water. They come in “bottleless” stickpacks, foil packs and BlastCaps and are easy to use, store and transport.

    “The alkalizing water treatment is made from natural minerals, which are packaged into a sachet similar to a small tea bag,” says Alberto Galdamez, sales and marketing director for the Carson City, Nev.-based company. “The sachet is used as a post-treatment. It will also change chlorine to chloride, a healthy trace mineral. By using the alkalizing water treatment, you are not only drinking healthy water but you are also eliminating the use of plastic bottles that are harmful to the consumers as well as the environment.”

    Soymilk Turns Sassy

    Many of today’s consumers are concerned about the origins of certain beverages and food items, especially when it comes to the ingredients and packaging used. That’s why Silk Soymilk launched a website designed to trace the origin of its soybeans.

    The new site,, allows users to enter the manufacturing code and expiration date of a Silk carton to learn where in the United States the soybeans were grown. The website also includes information about the soymilk production process and the steps Silk takes to ensure its soybeans do not contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

    The traceability site also provides quizzes, games, polls and a question-and-answer section.

    Meanwhile, Earth Balance expanded its line of all-natural butter spreads, shortenings and nut butters to include organic, non-GMO-verified soymilk. Made with 100% USA-grown soybeans, the Earth Balance Soymilk contains calcium, Vitamin D and Omega-3s and comes in Original, Vanilla, Chocolate and Unsweetened varieties.

    “Consumers continue to manage their health at least in part with dairy avoidance,” says TJ McIntyre, general manager of Earth Balance, a division of Boulder-based Smart Balance Inc. “The Earth Balance brand has a great footprint already established on this front with our patented blend of oils included in our buttery spreads.”