Bubbling With Potential

Bubbling With Potential
Sarah Theodore  

Irecently read a review in the Philadelphia Inquirer about the city’s new Water Bar at the Water Works Restaurant and Lounge. The article profiled the 19 brands of imported and domestic water stocked at the new Philly hot spot, which is staffed by a water sommelier who helps customers pair different varieties of water with food. The writer’s reaction to the water bar concept was a bit skeptical at first — as was the reaction of some people on our own staff.
Before I go any farther, I should tell you that I once served as a judge in a water competition, so I’ve been around water enthusiasts and know how passionate they can be about H2O. I can even say that with a little training from an expert I was able to discern subtle differences between waters. But will most consumers be able to tell the difference? Places like Water Bar are betting on it, and according to the article, consumers are paying anywhere from $4 to $50 a bottle to taste that difference, so who are we to burst the bubble on their creativity?
As it happens, bubbles were a big emphasis of the Water Bar review and many of the water/food pairings at the restaurant included sparkling water as opposed to still waters. A highly carbonated water, for example, was paired with an oyster appetizer, while a lightly carbonated brand was matched to a chicken entrée. It got me thinking that for all of the growth in bottled waters over the past decade, there has been very little emphasis on sparkling varieties in the United States. Even without expert training, it’s easy to distinguish the different flavors and textures of sparkling water, which depends in large part on the amount of carbonation in the product. With all the attention on water these days, maybe it’s time this sub-category got its due.
According to Beverage Industry’s annual Product Development Survey, which was conducted by researcher and contributor Catherine Penn and is featured in this issue, most of this year’s R&D efforts for the bottled water category will be directed toward flavors, sweeteners, and vitamin and mineral fortification. Those types of enhanced waters have been very successful in the past few years and are targeted at health-and-wellness-minded consumers. It seems that with a little innovation, or even just a bit of awareness-building attention, sparkling waters also would be a natural choice in beverage alternatives. If consumers in some cities are curious enough to belly up to the water bar to find the perfect bottle, surely there is potential in there for the rest of the population.
Catherine’s survey also reveals many more R&D plans for companies across all beverage categories — more than we could even fit into this issue. Turn to page 37 to find out which ingredients will be in demand this year and which flavors are likely to be the top sellers. Then visit our Web site at bevindustry.com where we’ll share details on who makes the product development decisions for the industry and why new products succeed or fail in the marketplace.  
Sneak Peek
Cover Profile — Fiji Water
Category Focus — Tea and ready-to-drink tea
Beverage R&D — Safety check-up Packaging — Labeling materials
Special Report — Health and wellness

Cover Profile — Polar Beverages
Category Focus — Soft drink report
Beverage R&D — Formulating diet drinks
Global Report — Asia
Packaging — Case wrappers and packers

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