Following a rather lackluster 2009, when new beverage introductions plummeted nearly by half, the number of new beverages appearing on U.S. store shelves increased slightly in 2010. Notable gains in carbonated soft drinks, fruit and flavored still drinks, juices and malt and other hot beverages more than offset some significant declines in energy drinks, flavored water and beverage mixes.

That said, fruit and flavored still drinks, ready-to-drink coffee, malt and other hot beverages and coffee (a very small segment, in terms of introductions) were the only segments that even approached their 2008 numbers.

Perhaps most notable among the segment declines from 2008 were the number of energy drink introductions. Per Mintel’s Global New Products Database (GNPD), this segment hit a high of 328 new products in 2008; dipped by nearly two-thirds to hit 110 in 2009; and plummeted to 62 in 2010. Men have traditionally been the primary target audience for energy drink manufacturers, and according to a July 2010 Mintel report, nearly 20 percent of U.S. men consume the beverages. However, that report also notes 11 percent of American women consume energy drinks. While this is far from a huge market penetration, it indicates there is room to grow and diversify.

The past year saw a number of energy drinks around the globe target women, including a jelly drink promising beauty benefits and formulated with digestive fiber, collagen, hyaluronic acid and vitamins, which purportedly "support beauty from the inside out." Hyaluronic acid was found in several beverage introductions in Japan, including the beauty-oriented jelly drink Forte RN from Shiseido, Konjac Zero Calorie Grape Juice jelly drink from Family Mart and a protein drink powder from DHC, which also added the ingredient to a range of protein diet shakes.

In North America, functional energy drinks have yet to embrace such cosmeceutical applications. A pair of introductions did aim to benefit the brain and nervous system: Neuro added Neuro Sonic Sparkling Vitamin & Herbal Extract Beverage to U.S. beverage shelves. The lightly carbonated product incorporates L-theanine and caffeine to "put the brain into overdrive," promising to improve focus.

Caffeine, along with taurine, was likewise a key addition to the NOS Energy Shot that The Coca-Cola Co. released in Canada. The company noted the product was developed "for periods of increased mental and physical exertion" and promised to temporarily restore alertness or wakefulness.

Vuka LLC attempted to merge the energy drink trend with health in its "intelligent energy" drinks. Described as a beverage for "people who drink energy drinks, coffee and other caffeinated beverages, but are also health conscious," the developers incorporated all-natural ingredients.


Still recovering

Caffeine was absent from EPIX Grape Flavor Hydrating Drink from Neoalimentos S.A. de C.V., in Mexico. Low in sugar, the all-natural beverage aimed to hydrate the body and help muscles recover from exercise. Unlike some energy drinks, its ingredient legend was somewhat sparse: water, glucose, fructose, citric acid, malic acid, sodium citrate, potassium citrate, calcium nitrate, magnesium, vitamin C and natural flavor.

All-natural did prove a popular positioning for energy drink introductions in the U.S. in 2010. Reed's Natural Energy Elixir Drink contained 25 percent fruit juice, plus nine beneficial ingredients: ginger (described as a powerful antioxidant that increases metabolism, elevates mood, improves digestion and nutrition absorption); green tea; ginseng; goji; açai; camu camu (a superfruit with what is claimed to be the highest concentration of vitamin C of any plant); jiaogulan (promising to help reduce stress); L-theanine; and B vitamins. Unlike most energy drinks, Reeds’ product did not incorporate stimulants, other than the naturally occurring caffeine from green tea; instead, Reed's sought to "increase basic health and energy levels and not to run the individual down," claiming to get the consumer going naturally.

While Reed's may have been aiming for the unique, there were a number of energy drinks that positioned themselves as natural or organic: The Healthy Beverage Co.'s Steaz Energy Berry Flavored Energy Shot claimed to be an “organic fuel for the body, mind and soul,” incorporating green tea, yerba mate, açai, guarana and B vitamins, as well as 150-mg. of caffeine. The same company added Steaz Diet Energy Organic Fuel Energy Drink in Mexico, featuring Fair Trade-certified green tea, Guayaki yerba mate, Sambazon açai and guarana.

Nestlé USA and Jamba Juice Co. developed a line of ready-to-drink energy beverages  launched in the Northeastern U.S. in early 2011. The line features real fruit juice boosted with caffeine and will be available in three flavors: Pomegranate Blueberry, Strawberry Banana and Crisp Apple, each with no preservatives or artificial flavors, trans fat or high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS).

While the omission of HFCS was among 2009's stronger trends in carbonated soft drinks (CSD), the pace of such introductions appeared to slow in 2010. Canada saw Blue Sky Beverage introduce Blue Sky Cola Flavored Natural Soda formulated without HFCS, artificial colors, preservatives or caffeine, while in the U.S., Supervalu omitted the sweetener from the Blueberry Açai Soda addition to its Wild Harvest Natural line. The latter was sweetened with cane sugar and also noted it was caffeine-free. For that matter, caffeine and sugar were both absent from Duane Reade's Seltzer Lemon Lime under its DR Delish brand. Flavored with natural ingredients, the product was also free of calories and sodium.


Just relax

One soft drink introduction managed to borrow a page from some energy drink launches, by promising a relaxation benefit. Mary Jane's Soda attempted to bring the functional benefit to the CSD segment with Relaxing Soda, a natural blend of kava extract and passionflower said to have a calming effect. Similarly, Next Generation Beverage's Serenity Zen Beverage claimed to "enhance a Zen experience and promote relaxation."

Relaxing benefits appeared to be something of a craze during 2010, with Peaceful Remedies introducing Relaxzen shot-sized calming drinks, intended to calm the consumer during air travel. The two varieties had specific consumption guidelines: Day Flight was to reduce stress on daytime flights, while Night Flight was to ensure a peaceful period of sleep on a red-eye or overnight flight.

Nevertheless, functional soft drinks remained something of a niche market in the U.S. and could well hold potential for future development, especially when considering how functional attributes have been a boon to such other segments, such as juice, water and energy drinks. Not that the U.S. is completely devoid of functional CSDs — Hibix Corp. added Ooba Sparkling Hibiscus, high in vitamin C and "a super antioxidant to help maintain cardiovascular function." Plus, Bellibevies introduced a CSD designed to benefit consumers after enjoying alcohol beverages. Afterparty Hangover Recovery Drink promised every vitamin and mineral that alcohol depletes from the system, as well as an herbal blend to help detoxify the body and supercharge the liver; electrolytes for rehydration; and a natural pain reliever to battle any headache.

Florida Brewery added botanical and natural ingredients to its CasCal Crisp White Soda Drink, an all-natural soda with hints of apricot, magnolia and pear. Indeed, all-natural launches were abundant in 2010, with Izze extending its range of sparkling beverages with Sparkling Birch Drink, an all-natural beverage formulated with birch extracts; Kristian Regale adding a Sparkling Orange Juice Beverage, an all-natural sparkling juice drink made according to Swedish recipes; and Hotlips introducing Black Raspberry Soda, made with all-natural ingredients locally sourced near its headquarters in Portland, Ore.

Santa Cruz Natural took natural soda a step further with its certified organic Sparkling Mango Lemonade, a mango-flavored sparkling beverage from concentrate, containing 11 percent juice. Likewise adding the organic certification were NatureLand Products in Canada with its Pureiän Springs Cranberry Flavored Soft Drink; Taunusgold Getranke's Organic Koala Cola Soda under its The Organimals brand, which is a range of soft drinks sweetened with agave syrup and "free of granulated sugar, phosphoric acid, artificial flavors, sweeteners, genetically modified organisms or gluten;” and Zevia's Canadian introduction of a Lemon Lime Natural Diet Soda, one of an increasing number of beverages sweetened with stevia.

Healthier takes on CSDs will be almost essential for the segment to maintain its strength, as health concerns about the drinks have led to advertising restrictions and nearly a complete eradication of the beverages from schools around the country. As such, one of the prime demographics consuming CSDs, namely children and teenagers, is being directed to fruit juice and other beverages perceived as healthier.

Juices have particularly benefited from these moves, as schools around the country have replaced any number of CSDs with these beverages in their vending machines. However, some of the more interesting launches in the past year were products unlikely to make their way into these locations. Trader Joe's, for instance, added Sparkling Clementine Flavored Juice Beverage, a blend of white grape juice and clementine juice concentrate. Promising 84 percent juice with no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives, the line also included a Vintage Cola Beverage naturally sweetened with cane sugar; both products were free of gluten and caffeine.

Tampico Beverages, meanwhile, was quick to boast about the fortification of its Tampico Plus line. With the 100 percent recommended daily allowance of vitamin C per 8-ounce serving that is almost ubiquitous among juices, Tampico Plus also qualified as an excellent source of vitamins A and E, under the Food and Drug Administration's food labeling guidelines and, per the company, was compliant with school beverage guidelines for U.S. high schools. The product is available in three flavor varieties: Citrus, Mango and Tropical.

Campbell Soup introduced V8 V-Fusion + Tea Vegetable & Fruit Drink with Tea Extract, a raspberry-flavored beverage blending nine vegetables and fruit juices from concentrate with other natural flavors and green tea extract. Ocean Spray added its first Fruit & Veggie juice this year, with every 8-ounce glass containing two full servings of fruits and vegetables. Campbell noted each 8oz glass of the V8 product provided a combined serving of fruit and vegetables with only 50 calories. In addition to the Raspberry variety, the Campbell range also included Pomegranate Green Tea and Pineapple Mango Tea.

Mango could be found in a smoothie from Beyond the Bean. The company's Sweetbird Mango & Orange Smoothie featured 100 percent ethically sourced fruit and no added sugar, while being 99 percent fat free. Suitable for vegans and vegetarians, the product was free from dairy, preservatives and genetically modified organisms. The same was true of Ouhlala Gourmet's Ouh...làlà! Buddy Fruits Pure Blended Fruit To Go, an all-natural, sugar-free, apple- and "multifruit"-flavored juice-to-go, which is also available in Apple, Banana, Cinnamon and Strawberry.

Unlike the CSD segment, functional ingredients have made strong headway into juices and juice beverages. Nextfoods' Goodbelly Kids brand, for instance, added a probiotic fruit drink with cherry flavor, multivitamins and calcium. Containing 30 percent juice from concentrate, the drink is formulated for children older than 12 months, to support healthy digestion and strengthen immunity. Each serving of the dairy-, soy- and wheat-free beverage contains 10 billion live and active cultures.

Meanwhile, Juice Bowl Products' JB's Juice Bowl Tomato Juice added vitamin C and other ingredients to its 100 percent tomato juice. Likewise enriched with vitamin C, Kirkland Signature Bolthouse do Brasil Bom Dia Mora Açaí con Mora Azul (Açai Berry with Blueberry Juice) was added to Mexican store shelves courtesy of Importadora Primex. Açai could also be found in Vita Coco Coconut Water with Açai & Pomegranate in the U.S., which contains more electrolytes than leading sports drinks and 15 times the potassium, to keep the body properly hydrated and to prevent cramping, the company says.

One of the segment's most popular ingredients in recent years found its way into relatively new territory, with POM Wonderful's launch of POMx Antioxidant Recovery. Capitalizing on the naturally occurring polyphenol antioxidants from the Wonderful variety of pomegranate, POM's take on sports drinks aimed to speed muscle recovery, reduce soreness and neutralize free radicals. The company noted a placebo-controlled, double-blind crossover study demonstrated that when subjects consumed a daily dose of POMx, they experienced more than 30 percent less strength loss, as well as 28 percent less muscle soreness as compared to the placebo.

Functional benefits have proven particularly popular among teas introduced in North America. Supervalu's Wild Harvest Organic Fair Trade True Green Tea was not only 100 percent organic, traditional Wuyuan green tea; it promised 185-mg. of flavonoid antioxidants, to fight toxins and free radicals in the body. Also in the U.S., RC Bigelow introduced the first tea with probiotics. Its Herb Plus Lemon Ginger Tea with Probiotics promised to support healthy digestion and maintain a healthy balance in the digestive tract. Herbal tea has long been consumed to aid digestion, but the new product enhanced the traditional properties of licorice root and ginger with probiotic bacteria. The range also included Wild Blueberry & Açai plus Antioxidant vitamins A and C for a healthy immune system; Cranberry & Ginseng plus B vitamins and choline for memory enhancement; and Pomegranate & Blueberry with omega-3 for heart health.

Another tea, Loose Leaft Tulsi Tea from Organic India, promised stress relief and revitalization benefits. Tulsi, the company claimed, promotes strong immunity and stamina, while enhancing calmness and clarity.

Such functional benefits were not exclusive to loose-leaf teas, however, as a number of ready-to-drink (RTD) teas and other beverages sought to increase their appeal. In Mexico, Function: House Call Lemongrass Green Tea from MD Drinks featured vitamins A, B complex, C and E; antioxidants; and the powerful macro-nutrients chlorella and beta glucan to help keep the immune system healthy. Some of tea's biggest news, however, centered around a CSD giant bringing a blended tea from Japan to American audiences.

The Coca-Cola Co. is importing Sokenbicha, an unsweetened tea aimed at consumers open to alternative health remedies. Available at Whole Foods Markets, the tea is Coca-Cola's largest tea brand in Japan and, in the U.S., will initially appear in five flavors, including Green Tea and a blend of cinnamon and ginger. The beverage is among the rare few to promise it benefits a healthy spleen, and the teas are "authentically brewed in Japan" and endorsed by one of Japan's leading wellness experts, Nihondo.


Global functions

The Coca-Cola Co. has also introduced ideas initiated in the U.S. into Japan. In another attempt to incorporate dairy into carbonated soft drinks, The Coca-Cola Co. extended its Fanta brand in Japan to include Fanta Moo Moo White. The carbonated, dairy-based soft drink is formulated with lactic acid bacteria and calcium lactate and has 60-mg. of calcium per 100-ml., nearly a third of the daily recommended amount for adults in each bottle — a seldom-found positioning in the CSD segment.

Similarly trying to capitalize on calcium-enrichment and Superfruits, Suntory added a baobab flavor to its Pepsi brand in Japan. The African baobab fruit promises six times more vitamin C than oranges and twice as much calcium as milk, per the company.

Supporting the digestive system was the goal behind a number of launches in the CSD segment, notably Soprole's launch of Next BioBalance Mango and Orange Sparkling Drink in Chile, but vitamin and mineral fortification proved a key trend in CSD’s around the globe. Silver Ice Beverages introduced Rio Agni Sweetened Carbonated Beverage in India (promising vitamin C); Kirin Beverage added Kirin Lemon with vitamin B6 in Japan; vitamin C was key to Lebediansky's Frustyle Shchipuchiy Napitok Malinoviy (Sparkling Raspberry Flavoured Drink) in Russia; and Nigerians saw Nigerian Breweries introduce Maltina Classic Non-alcoholic Malt Drink, "rich in essential vitamins and minerals," including vitamins A, B and C.

A coffee introduction in Taiwan took an even more functional approach. Biedermeier Direct Fire Café from Hey Song was an instant coffee with a number of functional ingredients said to improve metabolism and maintain a healthy digestive system. The formulation included a patented brindall berry extract, chromium niacin, citrus extract, green coffee extract and xylo-oligosaccharides.

Likewise in coffee, Power Root introduced Cappuccino with Collagen in Egypt. The instant coffee added Marine Matrix Collagen to Colombian Arabica coffee. In Thailand, Montana Marketing Group also incorporated marine collagen, but added mulberry extract to help reduce blood pressure, per the company, L-carnitine to "help the metabolism of excess lipid,” garcinia "to help the excretory system and reduce lipid storage" and fiber.

Also in Thailand, King Coffee Plus Instant Coffee, from Modern Bisnes Trade, was enriched with natural extracts, such as cactus, white kidney bean extract and oligofructose. The cactus extract purportedly suppressed the absorption of carbohydrates and sugar, while the white kidney bean extract was intended to promote "healthy weight management and healthy weight loss."