Beverage Industryconsulted experts to identify some of the year’s best new product introductions. Although the experts were hesitant to “call the game early” as Susan Viamari, editor of SymphonyIRI’s “Times and Trends,” says they identified a few of the year’s beverage launches that might become the year’s best.

Crystal Light Pure Fitness
A SymphonyIRI survey found 74 percent of consumers are trying to make healthier food and beverage choices, which includes opting for low-calorie options, Viamari says. Crystal Light Pure Fitness, from Kraft Foods, Northfield, Ill., is sweetened with evaporated cane juice and Truvia, a calorie-free stevia-based sweetener. Pure Fitness has 15 calories per serving, contains electrolytes and is available in Lemon Lime, Strawberry Kiwi and Grape flavors. Lynn Dornblaser, director of CPG trend insight for Mintel International, Chicago, highlighted Crystal Light Pure Fitness beverage mix as an overall notable new product during Mintel’s presentations at the Institute of Food Technologists’ Annual Meeting and Food Expo in July. The beverage mix is interesting both because of the product’s sweetener formulation and its positioning as a fitness-related drink specifically for women, she says.

Bud Light Golden Wheat
Forty-two percent of consumers are going out less often with family and friends for the purposes of entertainment, which has led to an increase in at-home entertainment, Viamari says. This trend landed Bud Light Lime and MGD 64 on SymphonyIRI’s list of New Product Pacesetters for 2009. This year, SymphonyIRI is watching another Anheuser-Busch InBev launch. “Bud Light Golden Wheat is another extension, of course, of the Budweiser line, targeting premium beer drinkers,” Viamari says. “This is marketed as having a slightly sweet start with a citrus finish, and looking to bring excitement to the everyday beer occasion.”

Relaxation beverages, specifically Unwind from Frontier Beverage, Memphis, Tenn., are on the radar as one of 2010’s biggest trends, says Julie Hall, executive vice president of consumer practice and social media at Schneider Associates, Boston, and co-author of “The New Launch Plan.” Schneider Associates monitors new product launches for its annual “Most Memorable New Product Launch” survey.

“Relaxation beverages are going to target the health sector and also baby boomers to really help them relax,” Hall says. “I think in this recession, we’re all looking for ways to relax that doesn’t involve 900 calories of wine.”

Available in 12-ounce cans in Goji Grape, Pom Berry and Citrus Orange, Unwind is formulated with a proprietary calming blend that includes melatonin, valerian root, rose hips and passion flower extract for calming benefits, Frontier Beverage says.

Coca-Cola Mini cans
SymphonyIRI is watching the performance of the 90-calorie Mini cans that The Coca-Cola Co., Atlanta, rolled out nationwide in April, Viamari says. Coca-Cola launched the calorie-controlled cans as a way to remind people about the importance of moderation and calorie management, the company said. The introduction followed Coca-Cola’s announcement of its global commitment to provide calorie information on the front of nearly all of its products. The 7.5-ounce Mini options are packaged in eight-packs in 90-calorie Coca-Cola, Sprite, Fanta Orange, Cherry Coca-Cola, Barq’s Root Beer and Seagram’s Ginger Ale varieties. In addition, several no- and low-calorie beverages are available in the Mini cans, such as Diet Coke and Sprite Zero.

Gatorade’s G Series
With a debut at the Super Bowl, PepsiCo, Purchase, N.Y., aligned itself with its athlete base for the relaunch of its Gatorade platform under the G Series banner. The G Series includes Prime 01 concentrated pre-performance carbohydrate gels; Perform 02, the rebranded identity of Gatorade Thirst Quencher and low-calorie G2; and Recover 03 protein-enhanced sports beverages.

“They really did their homework in talking to 10,000 athletes when they were developing the product, and they found that the kids were already doing this,” Hall says. “That really spoke to me as a mom, too, that if these kids were already eating something with carbs before a game and then having a sports drink during and then something with protein afterwards, this is a perfect solution for what they’re already doing, so it wasn’t like adding any more calories in. I thought that was really brilliant.”BI

Global beverage innovations
An orange juice with double the antioxidant content of traditional orange juice and an African-inspired Pepsi variety from Japan, mark some of the notable global new product launches provided by Innova, Duiven, The Netherlands. Innova tracks new product development across the world and tapped its global database of new product launches and analysis to share some noteworthy new beverages introduced outside of the United States.

Minute Maid Todo Naranja from Spain.Coca-Cola’s Minute Maid brand launched a new orange juice with double the antioxidant content of regular Minute Maid orange juice. Todo Naranja uses Coca-Cola’s patented Wholepress juice processing technology that presses the entire orange, including the peel. The product, which translates to ‘Whole Orange,’ is available in a no-pulp and pulp varieties with identical nutritional benefits.

Attitude energy drink from the United Kingdom.Attitude claims to be the first caffeine-free, natural energy drink in the world. The product contains ancient herb rhodiola rosea that is known to sharpen the brain’s processes, rejuvenate the body’s energy stores and fight stress – without the drawbacks of caffeine, the company says. Attitude also contains L-carnitine for a natural boost and sugar extracts from low-glycemic index fruits to avoid spikes in blood sugar.

Fanta Still with stevia extract from France. Coca-Cola reformulated its non-carbonated fruit drink, Fanta Still, to be sweetened with Truvia natural sweetener only months after stevia received regulatory clearance in France. The new Fanta Still contains 30 percent reduced sugar. The company is dedicated to reducing the sugar content in its beverages in France and over the past 10 years has reduced sugar content by 15 percent, Innova says.

Pepsi Baobab from Japan.During the run-up to the 2010 FIFA World Cup soccer tournament, Pepsi Japan released Pepsi Baobab, flavored with the African fruit. Pepsi Baobab comes from a line of unique flavors in the Japanese market, including Pepsi Ice Cucumber and Pepsi Blue Hawaii, a pineapple and lemon flavor.BI