The Best New Products of 2006
By SARAH THEODORE
Product innovation is the driving force in the beverage industry today. Consumers are looking for new experiences and the industry has delivered, with a steady stream of new flavors, packages and concepts.
According to Productscan Online, year-to-date beverage introductions are up almost 16 percent compared with the same period last year. Alcohol beverages lead the number of product introductions, followed by soft drinks, sports drinks and bottled water (grouped as one category) and fruit and vegetable drinks.
To help us determine the best new products to hit the market this year, we enlisted our colleagues at sister publications Stagnito’s New Products Magazine and Brand Packaging Magazine to sit on our judging panel. Together, we evaluated products that were featured in Beverage Industry throughout the year as well as products that were submitted through an open call for nominations that went out this summer.
A number of factors contribute to a new product’s success in the marketplace, from appearance to flavor to sheer luck. Smart as they are, our judges can’t predict a product’s fortuity, but they are experts in the areas of packaging, product formulation and market trends. We asked them to evaluate products on the following criteria:
• Innovation — Is the product innovative? Does it have the potential to bring new consumers to the category or to create a new beverage category?
• Packaging — Is the packaging unique, eye-catching, functional and appropriate to this product category?
• Overall Product Concept — Is the product concept clear and appealing, does it have potential for success?
The finalists in each category are the products that stood out from the rest, offering something new and special to the industry, and the winners were the products we felt best accomplished all of those goals. On the following pages you will find the finalists and winners in eight beverage categories — Carbonated Soft Drinks; Beer and Flavored Malt Beverages; Juice and Juice Drinks; Wine and Spirits; Coffee and Tea; Bottled Water; Energy and Sports Drinks and Alternative Beverages.
The winner in the soft drink category, Coca-Cola Blak, is a cola and coffee fusion beverage from The Coca-Cola Co., Atlanta, that is designed to appeal to adult consumers. The product is lightly carbonated, and at 45 calories per 8-ounce bottle, it falls in the range of mid-calorie products.
“Coca-Cola Blak is not just a flavor extension,” said Marc Mathieu, vice president of global core brands, when the product was introduced. “It is a blend of unique Coke refreshment with the true essence of coffee, and has a rich, smooth texture and a coffee-like froth when poured. We believe we have created a new category of soft drink — an adult product in a carbonated beverage — and a whole new drinking experience. This brand is ideal for any part of the day when people are looking for renewed energy or simply to take a break.”
Our judges were impressed with Coca-Cola Blak’s variation on traditional cola, and with the upscale packaging that blends the iconic Coca-Cola bottle with coffee-inspired graphics. “Great blend of signature [Coke] bottle and coffee-esque label,” commented one of the judges, while another said, “Good innovation for the soft drink category. Has a premium appeal.”
Virgil’s Black Cherry Cream Soda
Reed’s Inc., El Segundo, Calif.
An all-natural soft drink with a rich black cherry flavor. Contains unrefined cane sugar and Madagascar vanilla.
Dry Beverage Inc., Seattle
A lightly sweetened, lightly carbonated soft drink, described by the company as a “culinary soda.” Available in unique flavors such as Kumquat, Lavender, Rhubarb and Lemongrass.
Beer and Flavored Malt Beverages
In the beer category, Heineken Premium Light received high marks from the judges for extending the Heineken brand into what the company calls the “Luxury Light” category. Packaged in the green bottle familiar to Heineken enthusiasts, the product features a clear label to play up the “light” appeal, and was formulated for a fuller flavored “imported” beer profile.
“Consumers should not have to sacrifice the quality, taste and cache of a premium brand when selecting a light beer,” said Brand Director Andy Glaser when the product was released this summer.
Our judges agreed, praising the product for extending the brand while staying true to the core product. “Good move for a premium brand. Opens it to a new audience,” said one judge, while another said Heineken Premium Light is, “True to the core brand, but nicely separate.”
Mike-a-rita, the winning flavored malt beverage, is one of two new products that expand the lineup at Mike’s Hard Lemonade, Seattle, from “malternatives” to “premium malt cocktails.” Through the use of a new flavorless, odorless malt-alcohol base, Mike-arita and Mike’s Hard Frozen Lemonade expand FMBs from the beer aisle to the spirits aisle and into new consumption occasions. The company played up the spirits tie-in by packaging the products in long-neck 750-ml. bottles and 1.75-liter bottles with handles. Mike-arita also is available in an 8-ounce four-pack.
Mike-arita won over the judges for its witty word-play and for the innovative way it is extending the category, perhaps even carving out a new beverage segment. “Excellent line-extension—clever use of the brand name,” said one judge. “Looks like a mixer bottle, complete with Margarita glass. Clever,” commented another.
Anheuser-Busch, St. Louis, Mo.
A flavored malt beverage targeted at female consumers. Positioned as an all-natural product with real fruit juice. Available in Strawberry Passion Fruit, Pear Lemon, Cranberry Peach and Blueberry Pomegranate flavors.
Brother Thelonious Belgian Style Abbey Ale
North Coast Brewing Co., Fort Bragg, Calif.
An abbey-style ale with a name that gives a
nod to Belgium’s traditional monastery brewers while paying homage to American jazz legend Thelonious Monk. A portion of sales will be donated to the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz.
Leinenkugel Sunset Wheat
Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Co., Chippewa Falls, Wis.
A wheat-based beer brewed with coriander. The company recommends garnishing with an orange slice to bring out the beer’s citrus flavor.
Juice and Juice Drinks
V8 V.Fusion from Campbell Soup Co., Camden, N.J., was selected as the winner in the juice category for the creative way it combines a full serving of both fruit and vegetables in one product.
According to Paula Etchison, business director, new business development, beverages and sauces at Campbell Soup Co., “We know consumers want to get their fruits and vegetables, and they are interested in better-for-you beverage alternatives. V8 V.Fusion is that product.”
While V8 is known for tomato juice, Campbell realized that not every consumer loves tomatoes, and it used a more neutral blend of vegetables — including carrots and sweet potatoes — and fruit to create this product. “A lot of people really like V8 Red, but 65 percent of the population are tomato rejecters,” Etchison recently told Stagnito’s New Products Magazine. “Our objective was to find a way to give those folks the vegetable nutrition they want in a product with a vegetable and fruit taste that they would love.”
V8 V.Fusion is available in three flavors — Strawberry Banana, Peach Mango and Tropical Orange — with more to follow in early ’07. The product is shelf stable and available in 46-ounce and 12-ounce single-serve sizes.
Sundia Watermelon Blackberry
Sundia Corp., San Francisco
A blackberry extension to the Sundia line of watermelon juices. Incorporates the previously little-known health benefits — namely in the form of lycopene — inherent in watermelons.
Effervé Pomegranate-Blueberry Sparkling Lemonade
Eurobubblies, Santa Monica, Calif.
A sparkling juice that combines the health benefits of pomegranate and blueberry with the refreshment of lemonade.
Northwest Orchards, Bellevue, Wash.
Tart cherry-based juice that plays up the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of cherries. Available in Tart Cherry, Cherry Blueberry and Cherry Grape varieties.
Each of the finalists in the bottled water category extended water to a new and distinct level. Wateroos took the top spot for using both flavors and packaging that encourage kids to drink something healthy with zero calories, an important mission given today’s concerns about children’s health. San Francisco-based Maddie’s Beverage Co. launched Wateroos last year in Plain and Apple-flavored varieties. This year the company expanded the line to include two child-friendly favorites, Grape and Berry flavors. Wateroos products are naturally flavored and contain no sugar or artificial sweeteners.
“Having made the decision early on not to give my toddler sugary sodas or juices, I was left with little option than to tote around leak-prone sippy cups in my purse,” said company founder Roberta Greenspan of the product launch. “My a-ha moment came when I realized if I could put water in a kid-friendly, juice-box style container, my problem would be solved.”
“Spot on for little kids,” commented one judge about Wateroos, while another said, “Great kid flavors,” and another said “Takes kid-friendly waters to the most kid-friendly packaging.”
Soma Beverage Co. LLC, San Francisco
An unsweetened, spearmint-flavored bottled water in an eye-catching metallic-labeled bottle. Said to aid digestion, freshen breath, fight stress and awaken the senses.
Tampico Flavored Waters
Tampico Beverages, Chicago
A line of flavored waters targeted toward Hispanic consumers with flavors such as Piña Colada, Grapefruit Tangerine, Mamey Mango and Mixed Berry. Available in both 1-gallon bulk and 20-ounce single-serve sizes.
Verve Brands LLC, Memphis, Tenn.
An oxygenated water imported from the Netherlands and packaged in a unique ball-shaped bottle.
Wine and Spirits
267 infusions from Boz Spirits Inc., Los Angeles, is a line of all-natural fruit-infused vodkas, rums and tequilas. Unlike many flavored or “infused” spirits, 267 products derive their flavor and color only from the fruit that is right in the bottle. Each 750-ml. bottle contains infusion ingredients such as whole chilis, cranberries, slices of lemon, orange, mango and even whole slices of pineapple … leading many of the judges to wonder “How’d they get that in there?” The package design also includes a strainer under the cap to keep the fruit inside the bottle while pouring.
The 267 lineup includes Lemon Vodka, Orange Vodka, Cranberry Vodka, Olive & Pearl Onion Vodka, Pineapple Rum, Mango Rum, Chili Pepper Tequila and Orange Tequila. The products can be consumed on their own or used to mix cocktails such as cosmopolitans or dirty martinis.
“Wonderful. Eye-catching. Shows the infusion, doesn’t just claim it,” remarked one of our judges. “Looks like true pre-made cocktails. Totally premium,” said another, and a third commented, “There are lots of flavored spirits, but the infusion is new.”
French Rabbit from Boisett America, Sausalito, Calif., won over the judges for its use of alternative wine packaging that manages to be playful and portable while maintaining the quality of the product inside. Available in Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot varieties, French Rabbit is packaged in 1-liter Tetra Prisma containers with recloseable screw-top caps.
“Our mission is to be the market leader of quality wine in innovative and environmentally friendly packaging,” said Jean-Charles Boisset, president of Boisset America, of the launch. “Our family has been growing wine for two generations, so preserving the planet has always been important to us. While sustainable vineyard practices were already in use, we are delighted to add environmentally friendly packaging to our repertoire.”
The judges praised the product for its unbreakable portability. “Picnic, anyone?” asked one, while another said, “Nice pitch for the environment.”
Phillips Distilling, Minneapolis
A line of three whiskey products that brings the popularity of flavored spirits to the whiskey category. Available in Original, Vanilla and Cherry varieties.
Jose Cuervo flavored tequilas
Diageo North America, Norwalk, Conn.
Like Phillips Union, Jose Cuervo flavored tequilas extend the flavor experience to a new spirits category. Available in cocktail-inspired Oranjo (with orange and other citrus flavors), Citrico (lime and other citrus flavors) and Tropina (pineapple and tropical fruit flavors).
Leblon Natural Cachaca Rum
Leblon, New York City
Made from Brazilian sugar cane, cachaca is the traditional spirit of the Caipirinha cocktail, said to be the national drink of Brazil. The company says it also can be used to create new versions of the Mojito, Margarita and Cosmopolitan.
Energy and Sports Drinks
G Pure Energy
This year’s three energy and sports drink finalists all represent completely novel and uncommon takes on this rapidly growing product category. G Pure Energy took the top spot for incorporating unique ingredients such as green tea, as well as having a light, sparkling flavor that is new to the category.
G Pure Energy comes from the Norwegian makers of Voss water, and the product gets its energy boost from caffeine, taurine, amino acids and green tea extract. It is lightly carbonated, with a lime and lulo (said to be similar to orange) flavor. Energy drinks often have a secondary purpose as drink mixers, and the company says G Pure Energy can be mixed with vodka, gin, whiskey, tequila or rum, as well as fruit juices. Keeping in mind the on-premise appeal of the category, the judges felt the product’s sleek glass packaging lends itself well to the nightclub and bar market.
“This is an energy drink for adults,” commented one of our judges, while another said, “Great ‘boutique-y’ bottle. Looks like perfume,” and a third said, “Exotic ingredients; a completely new positioning for energy drinks.”
Inov8, Rye, N.Y.
A spring water-based caffeinated energy drink in a colorful, slim 11-ounce bottle. Available in lightly sweetened, lightly flavored Dragonfruit, Acai Berry, Casaba Lime and new Pome-granate varieties, Hydrive contains only 25 calories per bottle.
Naked Juice Energy
Naked Juice, Azusa, Calif.
A super-premium juice product positioned as an energy drink. Gets its energy boost from guarana and green tea extract for 43 mg. of caffeine per bottle. Also contains B vitamins and vitamin C.
Coffee and Tea
Be Well Red Tea
In a category full of very serious and exotic products, The Republic of Tea’s Be Well Red Teas won over the judges with its irreverent positioning. The line is based on an emerging trend in red tea, or South African rooibos, which is caffeine free, rich in antioxidants and thought to have immune-boosting benefits. Blended with other ingredients, each of the Be Well varieties tackles a different health concern. Get Gorgeous, for example, helps clear the skin by adding chamomile, orange peel, hibiscus flowers, chaste berry and burdock root. Get Lost adds herbs, carob, cinnamon, banaba extract and gymnema leaves for weight control, and Get Some ZZZ’s adds chamomile, passionflower and valerian root extract as a sleep aid. Other varieties include Get it Going, for regularity; Get Charged, for energy; Get a Grip, for PMS/menopause; Get Clean, for detoxification; Get Soothed, for scratchy throats; and Get Relief, for digestion. Be Well Red Teas are available in 36-bag tins and six-bag Traveler’s Tins.
“Irreverent and humorous. I especially like the Traveler’s Tin,” said one of our judges of the teas. Another commented that, “The packaging will take this a long way on the crowded tea shelf,” and one judge added a very simple, “Clever!”
Ineeka Inc., Chicago
Considered a pioneer in organic and biodynamic agriculture, Ineeka packages its teas in Brew-Tache infusers that allow the tea to fully expand while steeping. The company’s Treleela line includes new caffeine-free Charm (Spearmint Lavender) and Captivation (Hibiscus Ginger Orange).
Taster’s Choice stick packs
Nestlé, Glendale, Calif.
New on-the-go packaging that gives the instant coffee category a boost.
POM Tea, with its line of pomegranate-flavored white, black and green teas, was the favorite in the alternative beverage category. Our judges praised POM Wonderful’s ability to continue innovating in packaging, expanding from its trademark pomegranate-shaped bottles to the use of a reusable, reclosable iced tea glass for POM Tea, and for its ability to extend its core pomegranate business in new ways.
With its original pomegranate juice, POM Wonderful trained consumers on the antioxidant health benefits of pomegranate. The company plays up that benefit with POM Tea by blending each variety with pomegranate juice as well as POMx, a highly concentrated polyphenol ingredient extracted from pomegranates. In addition, the teas contain only 70 to 80 calories per serving.
POM Tea is available in Pomegranate Black Tea, Lychee Green Tea, Blackberry Black Tea and Peach Passion White Tea.
“Love the iced tea glass … too clever,” said one of our judges of POM Tea’s packaging. “Wonderful!” added another, and a third judge said, “I love the fact that POM continues to push packaging as a differentiator for the brand.”
Fuze Beverages LLC, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.
Combines the vitamins of the original Fuze with the electrolytes of a sports drink to help “revitalize” the body. Available in Blackberry Grape, Orange Mango and Fruit Punch flavors.
Ben & Jerry’s Milkshakes
Pepsi-Cola Co., Purchase, N.Y.
Like eating melted Ben & Jerry’s ice cream … rich flavors include Ben & Jerry’s favorites Chocolate Fudge Brownie, Cherry Garcia and Chunky Monkey.