In the technology world, one of the first things that might come to people’s minds when they hear the word “innovation” is Apple. In fact, the company topped The Boston Consulting Group’s list of the 50 most innovative companies in the world for the ninth consecutive year this year. Just as Apple has revolutionized the technology world, beverage companies aim to do the same in their respective categories. For instance, Kraft Foods changed the game for the drink mix category when it introduced Mio liquid water enhancers in 2011. This innovation kick-started a whole new segment of liquid concentrates, which today spans multiple brands, flavors and beverage categories, including energy drinks, sports drinks and tea.
This year, more than 3,600 new beverages launched in the United States, according to Mintel’s Global New Products Database. After analyzing the market, the editors of Beverage Industry magazine took note of five brands in five different categories that have pushed industry trends to the next level to help the brands gain market share and meet consumer needs. As a result, Beverage Industry has named them its inaugural Innovations of the Year.
Consumers continue to seek convenient methods of brewing and consuming coffee at home. As a result, single-cup coffees have exploded in recent years, according to an article in Beverage Industry’s September 2013 issue. In 2012, dollar sales of single-cup coffee grew 82 percent to $922 million, Packaged Facts reported. In addition, research by the National Coffee Association (NCA) showed that 10 percent of households owned a single-cup coffee brewer in 2012, and a February poll by Harris Interactive Inc. also found that, among adults who own single-cup coffee makers, 70 percent say they have consciously chosen to use it instead of buying a drink at a coffee shop. However, that doesn’t mean consumers have lost the desire for café-style coffee drinks. Therefore, Northfield, Ill.-based Kraft Foods Group Inc. developed a product that would help bring the café experience home.
In September, it launched Gevalia Kaffe single-serve, café-style coffee drinks for use in Green Mountain Coffee Roasters’ Keurig K-Cup brewing system. Available in café staples Cappuccino, Mocha Latte and Caramel Macchiato varieties, the product adds a froth packet made from real milk to the K-Cup experience that creates foam on top of the beverage, just like a café-style drink. To make the drink, consumers pour the froth packet into an empty mug
and brew the K-Cup over it.
“With the explosive growth of single-cup coffee, we know that premium coffee drinkers want convenience without sacrificing quality or taste,” said Tracy Sinclair, director of premium coffee at Kraft, in a statement. “These new Gevalia café-style beverages deliver the deliciously unexpected and delightfully innovative experience that consumers have come to expect from Gevalia.”
The drinks are available in six- and nine-packs nationwide.
Last summer, frozen cocktails in flexible pouches became particularly popular, because they emulate the on-premise experience without the price tag, said Natalie Tremellen, market analyst for Innova Market Insights, in an April 2013 Beverage Industry article. However, they can be difficult for retailers to merchandise, noted Bump Williams, chief executive officer and president of Bump Williams Consulting. Many pouches can’t simply stand on a shelf; they must hang from a special rack, he said.
By developing a skinnier, freeze-pop-like package for its Skinny Freezer frozen vodka martinis, Upland, Calif.-based Slim Chillers Inc. was able to avoid the merchandising hurdle that other pouches often face. The 100-ml pouches are positioned in retail-ready boxes to be sold on the shelf. Plus, their sleek size mirrors the product’s 100-calorie positioning, bringing a low-calorie benefit to the lineup.
The product also differentiates itself from many other frozen cocktails in pouches in the market, which typically are malt- or wine-based. Instead, Skinny Freezer frozen beverages are made with vodka.
“Slim Chillers introduces a brand-new innovation in frozen cocktails … the first-ever 100-calorie frozen vodka martini called a Skinny Freezer,” says Regina O’Brien, vice president of sales at Slim Chillers. “The Skinny Freezer is an adult frozen concoction born from the minds of the people at Slim Chillers for those folks interested in a delicious frozen vodka martini made from actual eight-times-distilled vodka and at only 100 calories.”
Containing 8 percent alcohol by volume, Skinny Freezer frozen vodka martinis are available in Cosmopolitan, Watermelon Lemonade, Appletini and Lemon Drop varieties.
For many consumers, the first decision of the day is whether they will drink coffee or juice. But what if consumers could drink a juice that also delivered energy?
In order to take advantage of the morning drinking occasion, PepsiCo developed Kickstart by Mountain Dew in Orange Citrus and Fruit Punch flavors. Kickstart qualifies as a sparkling juice drink because it contains 5 percent fruit juice, but it also contains 92 mg of caffeine for consumers who need an extra kick in the morning. By positioning the product under its Mountain Dew platform, it further associates itself with the energy properties of a well-known soft drink.
“Our consumers told us they are looking for an alternative to traditional morning beverages — one that tastes great, includes real fruit juice, and has just the right amount of kick to help them start their days."
“Our consumers told us they are looking for an alternative to traditional morning beverages — one that tastes great, includes real fruit juice, and has just the right amount of kick to help them start their days,” said Greg Lyons, vice president of marketing for Mountain Dew, in a statement. “We heard them loud and clear and created a completely new offering with Kickstart to give them exactly what they asked for.”
In less than a year on the market, Kickstart by Mountain Dew built a more than $100 million business, said Zein Abdalla, president of PepsiCo, at the Barclays Capital Back-to-School Consumer Conference in September. He also noted that the brand has the capability to capture the nighttime drinking occasion to appeal to a different consumer group.
During the first half of 2013, craft beer sales and volume increased 14 and 12 percent, respectively, according to the Brewers Association. Although the segment is stealing some consumers from mass-domestic beers, which were down 2 percent in the first half of 2013, the wine and spirits categories also are threatening to swipe share from beer, reports the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS). In 2012, wine sales in the United States from all production sources increased 2 percent from the previous year to a new record of 360.1 million 9-liter cases, according to wine industry consultant Jon Fredrikson of Gomberg, Fredrikson & Associates. Plus, a recent Gallup poll found that 36 percent of Americans who drink alcohol say they drink beer most often, while 35 percent say they drink wine most often.
But why couldn’t a beverage appeal to both beer and wine drinkers? In line with the experimental nature of craft beer, the brewers at Milton, Del.-based Dogfish Head Craft Brewery decided to mix wine and beer to create a fruitier, hoppy beer that both beer and wine drinkers could enjoy. The discovery came when President Sam Calagione poured some of his favorite red wine into a glass of the company’s best-selling 60 Minute IPA. As a result, Dogfish Head Sixty-One combines Dogfish Head’s 60 Minute IPA with Syrah grape must from California.
“Sixty-One is one of my favorite beers we’ve ever brewed here at Dogfish, and it’s been even more popular than we dreamed it would be,” Calagione says. “It’s got a beautiful IPA hop character, but it also has a unique red-wine complexity. It’s a fantastic food beer.”
Although Dogfish Head has been crafting beer/wine hybrids for more than a decade, Dogfish Head Sixty-One is the brewery’s first new core beer since 2007. Four-packs of the 6.5 percent alcohol by volume hybrid drink are available four times a year throughout Dogfish Head’s 27-state distribution network.
Last year, BNP Media’s Market Research Division conducted a survey on behalf of Beverage Industry magazine and found that 9 percent of respondents believe that beverages with interactive dispensing caps are innovative. Dispensing caps come in many different forms, but all of them were designed to protect the ingredients inside the cap from elements such as water, air and light that could degrade them. They also create a visual, interactive experience for consumers when the colorful ingredients are dispersed into the water below. And who loves interactivity more than children? Therefore, New York-based New York Spring Water Inc. took its patented twist-cap technology to the kids drink segment by releasing VBee! functional beverages this summer.
“We’re thrilled to deliver a kids line with the same attention to health and nutrition as all of our other New York Spring Water products,” said Luke Zakka, vice president of operations, in a statement. “We are constantly working to evolve our brand and know that there is nothing else like VBee! on the market.”
VBee! beverages are fortified with calcium and vitamins B3, B5, B6, B12 and D. In addition to making hydration more fun, the brand’s Vitamin Infusion Cap keeps these ingredients potent for at least a year, the company says. The zero-calorie drinks are available in Watermelon, Green Apple, and Blue Raspberry flavors.