New Flavor Options

June 1, 2005
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New Flavor Options
By BEV BENNETT
The market for alternatives isn’t limited to non-carbonated beverages
Meyer Lemon, Blueberry, Grapefruit and Clementine aren't your typical soft drink flavors, but smaller manufacturers trying to appeal to an audience that grew up on brown colas or clear lemon-lime sodas are embracing the fruit bowl of carbonated beverages. And as they're discovering, carbonated fruit juices are appealing products for natural food and gourmet stores.
“Carbonated beverage [sales] are down in commercial groceries, but up in natural food stores and specialty stores,” says Gregg Arends, senior vice president of marketing and sales for Blue Sky Soda and Hansen Beverage Co. in Corona, Calif.
In addition, he says, sales of natural beverages are up, opening opportunities for health-based carbonated fruit drinks, such as the new Hansen line with tea, and bubbly drinks that promise real fruit juice, not just the flavor. But do consumers want to wean themselves from cola to such flavors as Fuji apple or sparkling blackberry?
Yes, the manufacturers say.
“Adults are suffering from taste fatigue,” says Andrew Shamis, chief executive officer of Zota Soda, located in Burlington, Vt. “The traditional soft drink lingers on the palate making the tongue fuzzy and heavy. Consumers need new options.”
For shoppers looking for more than refreshment, the company is producing a tea, fruit juice and carbonation combination. Zota's drink is a lightly carbonated green tea in Cola, Root Beer, Orange, Lime, Raspberry, Lemon, Ginger or Wekiwa (a grapefruit, tangerine citrus hybrid) flavors. The cost is about $1.59 to $1.99 for a 12-ounce single-serve bottle. (That's slightly more expensive than other fruit-based carbonated beverages. )
“We see trends coming together — organic, health and wellness,” Shamis says.
And there's “affordable luxury” as well. “Not everyone can buy a $50,000 car, but everyone can buy a fine soda,” says the executive of the 18-month old company.
Zota isn't the only company to discover the marriage of tea and fruit. Blue Sky Tea Soda also sees this as a promising concept.“[Soft drink] beverages have been losing share of the stomach to other beverages such as water or tea,” Hansen’s Arends says.
“We looked at opportunities to take advantage of other beverages; we looked at tea and iced tea and saw that green tea popularity has been growing. We wanted to leverage our strength in carbonated beverages, and the green tea aspect of the beverage works well,” Arends says.
The company recently introduced Imperial Lime Green Tea; Peach Mist Green Tea; Raspberry Red Tea and Pomegranate White Tea.
For Zota and Hansen, the tea aspect may help capture the adult market, but isn’t being promoted for consumption by children. Other companies, including The Switch and Fizzy Lizzy, are aiming at a family-friendly audience.
The Switch, for example, made a push into schools that are limiting foods and beverages with minimal nutritional value. The company's juices are in schools in nine states including California and New York.
Bill Hargis, president and chief executive officer of the Richmond, Va., company started his business in 2001 with the goal of producing a 100 percent juice with carbonation. “We're hitting the young adult market who prefer a real and honest drink; no hype,” he says.
The 10 flavors, including Cranberry Ginger, Watermelon Strawberry and Orange Mango, appeal to teens, and the fact that the drinks have 100 percent of the daily recommendation for vitamin C appeases parents. So far, The Switch has an almost 11 percent share in some of the major supermarkets, according to Hargis.
Fizzy Lizzy was designed for adults and children, says Liz Marlin, president of the five-year old company based in New York City.
“For adults it's appealing because it's not that sweet, but it's refreshing and thirst-quenching. Children like the sparkling fruit juice as well,” Marlin says.
She distinguishes her products as having a higher concentration of the characterizing juice. “If a product is called grapefruit, it should have grapefruit juice,” Marlin says.
Like The Switch, she promotes her line of six juices as healthy alternatives to soft drinks, but acknowledges it's not always easy.
“It's been disillusioning to see that buyers in health food stores don't care as much about quality. It's the gourmet market that's more concerned,” Marlin says.
As the market for carbonated fruit-based drinks grows, companies will try to distinguish their products. Consumers will get to choose whether pure fruit, exotic flavor blends or herbal enhancements suit their needs.
“It's a real challenge for everyone in the industry to hold onto consumers against competitors and entirely different categories. We have to think outside the six-pack,” Arends says. BI
Changing the recipe
Izze Beverage Co., Boulder, Colo., isn’t confining its sparkling juice products to the beverage marketplace — it is promoting its beverages as cooking ingredients as well. A new press kit includes recipes for Izze vinaigrette dressing, Izze sorbet and Izze in cocktails, such as Izze Sparking Grapefruit and vodka.

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