New Flavor Options
By BEV BENNETT
The market for alternatives isn’t limited to
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
“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
“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
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
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
“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
“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.