Wet your appetite

Unique and healthy refreshments are heralding in a new age in the supermarket beverage aisle.

The beverage aisle is in the midst of a sea of change. Sugar- and calorie-laden drinks are giving way to a flood of “better-for-you” waters, teas and soft drinks that promise to refresh, rehydrate, nourish, cleanse and just taste great.EW_EssentiaWater3

“We have seen a lot of different categories emerge in the beverage aisle,” says Gary A. Hemphill, managing director, at Beverage Marketing Corp., a New York-based tracking and consulting firm. “There has been success with coconut water, as one example. Obviously energy drinks continue to be successful and the single-serve waters are performing extremely well. There has also been more heightened interest in sparkling water. It is a small base but is starting to show some growth. It is a segment that may appeal to the traditional carbonated soft drink consumer who on occasion wants to opt for something they perceive being a little bit healthier.”

That healthier option might lead consumers to reach for a 187-ml or 750-ml bottle of 12NtM (Noon to Midnight) sparkling beverages. “What makes our beverages unique is that they are developed by classically trained chefs,” says Patrick Dealy, CEO, of Twelve Beverage, based in Rye Brook, N.Y. “There are no added sweeteners. Our drinks are a very complex, layered taste experience with a lot of mouth feel. They have a great nose and finish, and only 47 calories per 187 ml serving.”

12NtM is available in three flavors: Blanc (citrus ginger), Rogue (pomegranate black currant) and Pronto, a sparkling coffee soda.

“We’re coffee fanatics here at Twelve Beverage and we’ve been lamenting the lack of a really good, ready-to-drink coffee product on the market that is not 300 calories,” Dealy says. “So we developed our own sparkling coffee made from premium Arabica coffee beans. We add other elements to take away the bitterness and other flavor notes, like chipotle. The end result is sparkling with a smoky effervescence to it.”

Currently rolling out into Kroger stores nationwide, Minta soda has a lightly sparkling effervesce and crisp mint flavor that is ideal for drinking straight-up or as a mixer. It also makes a great mint julep, say company officials.

“We are using five different kinds of mint,” says Jenia Kokotuha, president, Minta Beverages, based in Los Angeles. “They are blended using mint extracts. If we just used spearmint or peppermint it would be too strong a flavor, so in order to balance it we use a blend.”

Minta is available in Minta Original, sweetened with cane sugar and Minta Diet, sweetened with stevia. Both are currently packaged in 12-ounce distinctively shaped glass and plastic bottles. “We are working with Crown Cans on a new style of can that will be introduced soon,” Kokotuha says.

Mint may be new to the soda set, but in the bottled water arena consumers are seeking out more flavor options. For example, this year Fruit 2 O, a flavored water line from Cincinnati-based Sunny Delight Beverages Co., added Cucumber + Lemon and Watermelon to its existing eight flavors.

“Both of these flavors are on-trend,” says Michael Burton, vice president, shelf stable brands, at Sunny Delight. “What we try to do with innovation is to go somewhere where everybody else is not. Sometimes you need to zag when everybody else is zigging and we did that with the cucumber for sure. I don’t think a lot of people were thinking about cucumber as a flavor.”

Sunny Delight has been using social media to grow Fruit 2 O, Burton says. The campaign stresses that Fruit 2 O is simply filtered water and flavoring, without the added vitamins, minerals or colors found in other products. “The category has kind of gone a little crazy from a product standpoint, and Fruit 2 O is a good way to dial it back,” he says. “People on Facebook tell too much information about their lives so we put a button on Facebook where you can tell people to dial it back a little. We were able to grow our Facebook likes and friends by over 200%. We had a very good recall from the campaign.”

Coca-Cola has been increasing its presence in the flavored water category with fruitwater, a naturally fruit flavored, zero calorie, sparkling water beverage sweetened with sucralose.
“Usually the sparkling water category tends to skew a bit older—and we saw an opportunity to welcome a wider range of consumers by creating a brand with a fun, bubbly personality—while providing consumers with a great tasting, zero calorie option,” says Colleen Gargan, brand manager, fruitwater, at the Atlanta-based Coca-Cola’s glacéau division.

Like Fruit 2 O, fruitwater is also using social media to build sales.

“A full-scale integrated marketing campaign has been launched for fruitwater, including in-store, radio, print and out-of-home advertising as well as digital execution,” Gargan says. “In addition, the brand has launched its own website, www.fruitwater.com, and has a strong media presence on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. We’ve partnered with Christina Applegate for her sparkling personality, and she has been featured in all elements of fruitwater’s launch campaign.”

Nuts over coconut water
The fastest growing segment in the beverage category is coconut water, industry observers say.

“Some brands are even seeing triple-digit growth,” says Arthur Gallego, a spokesman for All Market, the New York-based manufacturer of Vita Coco Coconut Water.

“People have embraced coconut water as a lifestyle beverage because it is natural, authentic and has many ways to be in your life,” Gallego says. “You can drink it straight, in a smoothie, cook with it and use it for a hangover because it is high in potassium. People are connecting to the proposition of natural hydration, and coconut water has naturally occurring electrolytes, which makes it very appealing to athletes.”

1045172_16oz_bottle1_LineUp-(1)-(3)Vita Coco started in the health/natural food channel and then grew into mainstream supermarkets. Honest Tea has been using a similar tactic to build its business.

“One of the things we have done is go to the natural foods channel where we do our innovation and that guides us as to what we bring into the mainstream stores,” says Seth Goldman, TeaEO of Bethesda, Md.-based Honest Tea, adding that that is how Honest Tea’s Unsweet Lemon Tea—now rolling out nationwide—came to be.

“In the natural channel we have a tea called Just Green Tea, which is just green tea with no sweetener, and that product is doing really, really well,” Goldman says. “But an unsweetened green tea may be a little early for the mainstream grocery consumer. However, a delicious unsweetened black tea with lemon is probably a good entry point.” Heart of Tea has been carving out a place on the shelves of leading New York retailers, including Fairway, Whole Foods and Duane Reade, as a tea with a purpose—30% of its profits are donated to the Bowery Mission to assist homeless people.

“When I first came to New York I was amazed at the amount of wealth and money in the city,” says Messi Gerami, founder/president, of New York-based Heart of Tea. “At the same time you have so many homeless people, but their plight was being ignored. There are so many charities in the city looking for stray dogs. I found more homeless people than I did homeless animals. My dream is to help homeless people get off the street and find a job and help them give back to the community.”

Packaged in stylish, heavy-weight glass bottles, Heart of Tea is available in Peach, Pomegranate Orange, Lemon and Victorian (English-style sweet tea) flavors. To build awareness, Heart of Tea’s staff, which includes former Bowery Mission patrons, give out free samples on Manhattan’s streets. “Lots of companies give out free samples, but we like to give out free samples and ask for donations to the Bowery Mission in return,” Gerami says.

Clean energy
Across the river in Brooklyn, Runa Tea has expanded its product line to include an energy drink, marketed in an 8.4-ounce can, similar to a Red Bull.

“We basically took the same features and benefits of our teas and concentrated them into an energy drink,” says Dan MacCombie, co-CEO and co-founder. “It is the same clean energy, based on one single ingredient—guayusa.” Guayusa is an Amazonian “super leaf” that grows in the Ecuadorian rain forest. “It has as much caffeine as a cup of coffee, 120 milligrams, and a number of other antioxidant compounds, similar to what you would find in green tea and chocolate,” he says. “The overall effect is what we call ‘clean energy.’”
Sold in the refrigerated case, kombucha is made from fermented green tea, called SCOBY (symbiotic cultural bacteria and yeast), and traces its roots back to ancient China.
“Kombucha is definitely an acquired taste,” says Chris Reed, CEO/founder of Los Angeles-based Reed’s, which counts Reed’s Culture Club Kombucha among its brands. “In China it was used as a health tonic and immortality drink. It had a great reputation and mythology around it.”

Kombucha has to be refrigerated because, like yogurt, it contains live cultures. “It is a pretty unique situation to be in to have a drink that’s growing,” Reed says. “The culture in kombucha thrives on caffeine and sugar. Obviously there are a lot of health properties and antioxidants just in the tea, but if you are using green tea and fermenting it you are getting way beyond green tea.”

According to Reed, kombucha is the top-selling product in the natural food industry and is quickly making mainstream inroads—the brand was recently picked up by Kroger. “Kroger just put in a kombucha section in the dairy department,” he says. “Many supermarkets are creating these sections and that is helping the growth.”

Rehydration station
Blood is thicker than water, but Essentia Water can change that.

According to a study published in the July/August issue of Alternative Therapies, rehydration with Essentia Super Hydrating Water is an effective means of significantly improving Whole Blood Viscosity (WBV) levels. Blood viscosity is also known as “thickening blood.”

The study looked at nine firefighters in Renton, Wash. They were studied for two weeks to determine their normal WBV and complete blood count (CBC) measurements. Then they took part in a stringent mock fire drill. Less than an hour after the exercise, upon rehydration with 9.5 pH water, each firefighter’s blood tests showed they had nearly been restored back to pre-test baseline hydration levels.

Essentia’s proprietary process results in an electrolyte-enhanced water with optimum alkalinity and an ideal pH of 9.5, say company officials. They add that Essentia Water hydrates the body, promoting optimal health.

“Essentia prides itself on providing scientific evidence for each health and wellness claim we make about our functional water, so we are pleased that this finding confirms the role of hydration on health,” says Ken Uptain, president and CEO of Bothell, Wash.-based Essentia.

A follow-up study is being planned. “It’s a natural next step for us to plan a much larger, clinical test to measure the absorption rate of Essentia versus other hydration products,” Uptain says, adding that the study will likely be conducted next year and use a larger pool of participants, such as competitive cyclists.

Swift move
In a nod to Taylor Swift’s inspirational sayings and award-winning lyrics, Diet Coke has created a collector’s edition can as part of its celebration of extraordinary individuals across the country.

Seven-time Grammy-winner Swift is known for always staying true to herself, whether in the recording studio, on the Red Carpet or performing on stage, say Coca-Cola officials, and her extraordinary individuality serves as the inspiration behind the collector’s edition Diet Coke can. Available in six-packs, each 12-ounce can is adorned in hand-written style with one of her most popular sayings: “If you’re lucky enough to be different, don’t ever change.”

“The Taylor Swift collector’s edition Diet Coke can is a way for us to celebrate the individuality and creativity that inspires people to achieve their dreams and be anything but ordinary,” says Lauren Radow, associate brand manager, Diet Coke, at Atlanta-based Coca-Cola North America. “Taylor’s message is simply extraordinary. We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.”


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