Reducing calorie consumption is among the recommendations in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans that were released in late January. A release from the U.S. Department of Agriculture states that the guidelines align with the fact that more than one-third of children and more than two-thirds of adults in the United States are overweight or obese.

For 2010, of the new children’s beverages launched in the United States that marketed a health position for the product, only 11.6 percent were positioned as low calorie, according Innova Market Insights, The Netherlands.

Andy Schamisso, founder and president of Inko’s LLC, New York, says that the market does not seem to offer too many new kids’ beverages that are all natural or low calorie. One reason might be that many beverage companies haven’t figured out how to sell products to kids “that aren’t basically sugar water,” he says.

In 2010, Inko’s launched two new flavors of white teas, Inko’s Poppin’ Punch and Bumpin’ Berry, which both contain 25 calories in each 8-ounce serving and are marketed to kids.

“The fact of the matter is calories are probably the most influential driver in parents buying for kids and kids buying for themselves,” Schamisso says.

He says that when Inko’s decided to develop products for the kids’ specific market, the company put emphasis on flavor and package design, but it also took the drinks to the New York City Department of Education for approval of sale. The New York City Department of Education revised its Wellness Policies on Physical Activity and Nutrition in 2010 to align with the goal of ending the childhood obesity epidemic, according to its June 2010 Wellness Policy.

Last year, the American Beverage Association (ABA), Washington, D.C., announced that America’s leading beverage companies had delivered on a three-year commitment to remove full-calorie soft drinks from schools across the country and replace them with lower-calorie, smaller-portion beverages. The commitment resulted in an 88 percent reduction in calories from beverages shipped to schools since 2004, the ABA says.

ABA has School Beverage Guidelines for elementary, middle and high schools. All schools can sell bottled water, while elementary schools can sell up to 8 ounces of milk and 100 percent juice with no added sweeteners and up to 120 calories. Fat-free or low-fat regular milk and nutritionally equivalent milk alternatives with up to 150 calories in an 8-ounce serving can be sold as well. Middle schools use the same guidelines as elementary schools, except juice and milk may be sold in 10-ounce servings.

High schools may have 12-ounce servings of milk, 100 percent juice with no added sweeteners and certain other drinks, as well as no- or low-calorie beverages with up to 10 calories in an 8-ounce serving. Other drinks can be sold with no more than 66 calories in an 8-ounce serving, and at least 50 percent of non-milk beverages must be water and no- or low-calorie options.

Natural positioning

When beverage companies released new children’s beverages in 2010, the top product claim was no additives and preservatives at 30.2 percent, Innova reports.

KIDStrong Enterprises LLC, Fairhaven, N.J., is one company that wanted to provide “healthy beverages that are convenient, all-natural, nutritional, low in sugar and taste great” to children, says Ron Berkowitz, the company’s chief operating officer.

“We are committed to offering 100 percent all-natural products that parents approve of and kids love to drink,” he says.

KIDStrong Enterprises offers KIDStrong Proactive Hydration drinks, a flavored water comprised of KIDStrong’s four stage complex carbohydrate blend of crystalline fructose, evaporated cane juice, trehelose and vegetable glycerin. The drink is available in Clearly Fruit Punch, Clearly Grape and Clearly Orange varieties. Berkowitz adds that KIDStrong drinks also offer 20 vitamins and minerals in each 12-ounce bottle.

“Consumers are looking for healthful and nutritious drinks that their kids will like to drink,” he says.

In Zone Brands Inc., Smyrna, Ga., released in 2010 TummyTickler Tots, a reduced-sugar apple juice for toddlers aged 1 to 3 years old. The juices are formulated with 40 percent less sugar and contain no artificial flavors, colors and sweeteners. Juices are available in 4-ounce bottles and 125-ml. juice boxes.

Innova research also found that 27.9 percent of new beverages for kids were positioned as organic.

B.R.A.T. Diet LLC, San Luis Obispo, Calif., last year introduced a line of organic beverages designed to help soothe children’s upset stomachs. Organic B.R.A.T. varieties are a U.S. Department of Agriculture certified organic non-dairy drink that is fortified with vitamins and calcium and is made from a blend of organic brown rice milk as well as banana and apple purees.

Organic B.R.A.T. is categorized as a dairy alternative drink by Innova, which accounted for 4.6 percent of children’s beverage categories in 2010 compared to 1 percent in 2009.

In addition to dairy alternative drinks, flavored and unflavored bottled waters saw an increase in product launches directed at the children’s market. The top category tracked for kids’ beverages in the United States remained juice and juice drinks in 2010 at 15.2 percent, but this was a decrease from the 20.8 percent in 2009, according to Innova data.

Lifeway Foods Inc., Morton Grove, Ill., which offers its ProBugs Organic Whole Milk Kefir for kids, entered the juice market for children when it acquired the assets of First Juice Inc. in October. First Juice products include a line of juice flavors that are made from organic produce.

“The market for healthy children’s beverages and other foods that promote healthy children’s eating habits is clearly growing,” said Julie Smolyansky, chief executive officer of Lifeway Foods, in a statement. “We’ve seen it with our ProBugs Kefir products, as well as in the calls to improve children’s nutrition everywhere from the media to the White House.”

Addressing sugar

No added sugar was another of the top health positions for children’s beverages in the United States for 2010, Innova states. The positioning category made up 19.8 percent of the health-related claims, according to the product development tracking firm.

Tropicana Products Inc., a division of PepsiCo, Purchase, N.Y., announced in December that it is testing a new portable snack called Tropicana Tropolis, which is a blend of real squeezable fruit designed for kids. The company said it worked with moms, kids and health experts, including dietitians and pediatricians, to develop the healthy snack. The product is a good source of fiber and offers 100 percent of the recommended daily value of vitamin C, the company says. The Tropicana Tropolis introduction is the latest addition to the expanding “Good for You” product portfolio from PepsiCo, it says.

O.N.E. – One Natural Experience, Los Angeles, makers of coconut water, introduced a variety for children with O.N.E. Kids Coconut Water in 2010. The flavored coconut water has no added sugar and contains less sugar than typical fruit juices, the company says. O.N.E. Kids is packaged in 6.75-ounce aseptic cartons that contain 60 calories. The kids’ beverage also offers five electrolytes and provides natural hydration benefits to prevent dehydration, the company says. BI

Sidebar: Children’s drinks look to function

Global Industry Analysts Inc. projects that the global kids’ food and beverages market will reach about $89.3 billion by the year 2015, based on the July 2010 report “Kids’ Food and Beverages: A Global Strategic Business Report.”

“Growing health awareness and time constraints and the ensuing demand for functional and convenience foods has and will continue to drive growth and development of the kids’ food and beverage market,” the San Jose, Calif.-based company says.

The report says that focus has been shifted to better-for-you products due to imbalanced diets, a higher prevalence of childhood obesity, vitamin deficiencies and insufficient dietary intake of nutrition foods, including iron and fiber.

“Rising, and uncompromising emphasis on child health and wellness, coupled with growing awareness and benefits of the right dietary habits, are helping consumers spend more on products that offer greater value,” the report says. “Continuous product innovations will additionally help keep consumers interests sufficiently kindled.”

This past year of the value-priced offerings included private label products as Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market, El Segundo, Calif., began offering its own brand of children’s drinks with Goodness Fruit & Veggie Juice Blend in a Strawberry & Banana variety. The juice is a blend of 10 vegetable and fruit juices from concentrate, and each serving contains half a cup of vegetables and half a cup of fruits. The reconstituted vegetable juice blend includes concentrated sweet potato, carrot, tomato and beet juice, while the reconstituted fruit blend contains white grape, orange, apple, strawberry and clarified banana juice.

Lifeway Foods Inc., Morton Grove, Ill., also sees the need to address the “extremely valuable” children’s beverage segment, a company spokesperson says.

“Popular opinion and consumer behavior are trending toward healthier choices,” the Lifeway spokesperson says. “This has led to increased regulatory focus, such as Nutrition Keys initiative and the proposed taxes on sugary drinks.”

The company will continue to follow the latest nutrition research as well as experiment with innovative ingredients and production operations, the spokesperson says, and the company is conducting specific research on probiotic strains that are beneficial for kids.

Ron Berkowitz, chief operating officer of KIDStrong Enterprises LLC, Fairhaven, N.J., foresees the children’s beverage category growing as consumers shift toward natural products, simpler ingredient statements and functional drinks.

“Whether children are pushing their bike pedals or computer keys, essential nutrition is essential for them to be at their personal best,” he says.

As KIDStrong develops new products, Berkowitz says that the company will focus on health with vitamins and functional ingredients, as well as a taste that is balanced in nutrition that appeals to parents and kids.

Berkowitz adds that KIDStrong is close to debuting Watermelon and Lemon-Lime varieties to its product lineup and that the company plans to have 10 KIDStrong varieties by 2012.

“Consumers’ growing health awareness, time constraints and the ensuing demand for functional and convenience foods has and will continue to drive growth and development of the kids’ food and beverage market,” he says. BI