American consumers are thirsting for water like never before. Behind soft drinks, bottled water is currently the No. 2 non-alcohol beverage category by sales and has amassed $12.7 billion in sales, up 6.9 percent, in U.S. supermarkets, drug stores, mass merchandisers, gas and convenience stores, military commissaries, and select club and dollar retail chains for the 52 weeks ending May 17, according to data from Information Resources Inc. (IRI), Chicago.

A November 2014 Harris online poll commissioned by the Alexandria, Va.-based International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) found that 96 percent of Americans believe they should be drinking more water.

“While there have been a few efforts made to restrict its availability, 92 percent say bottled water should be available wherever other beverages are sold. And, 55 percent said that bottled water was among their preferred beverages,” said IBWA Vice President of Communication Chris Hogan in a statement.

Experts say that the water enhancer category has seen explosive growth during the past several years as health-conscious consumers continue to look for better-for-you beverage options and are often turning to water and water enhancers. They also want convenient, simple ways to infuse a flavor into their water.

Citing the popularity of its Dasani Drops Infusion line, Atlanta-based The Coca-Cola Co. recently added Strawberry Basil and Lime as part of the water brand’s line of liquid concentrates. The drink mixes are available in 1.9-ounce bottles that can deliver as many as 32 8-ounce servings of flavored water, the company says. The new flavors join the six other varieties in the line: Cherry Pomegranate, Grape, Strawberry Kiwi, Pineapple Coconut, Pink Lemonade and Mixed Berry.

As consumers remain focused on these better-for-you options, Skinnygirl’s  line of liquid concentrate has seen notable success one year in the market. With $4.5 million in sales, the Skinnygirl liquid fruit drink mix saw a 190 percent increase last year, according to IRI data.

TV personality and entrepreneur Bethenny Frankel expanded her Skinnygirl line when she partnered with Carmel, Ind.-based Heartland Food Products Group to release Skinnygirl Water Enhancers in 2014. The liquid concentrates are available nationwide in four flavors — White Cherry, Blueberry Acai, Pineapple Coconut and Tangarine Pink Grapefruit — in 1.62-ounce bottles, which contain 24 servings. Each serving has just 5 calories due to its proprietary blend of natural stevia leaf extract and cane sugar, the company adds.

 “I wanted to give women a delicious alternative to just plain water and typical sodas,” said Frankel in a statement. “My new Skinnygirl Water Enhancers are light, refreshing and allow you to flavor to your liking.”

Research from Chicago-based Mintel supports consumers’ desire for the category’s healthful and flavorful aspects as well. In the market research firm’s March 2014 “Bottled Water and Cold Beverage Mixes” report, the company reports that two in five of those who consume beverage mixes do so to drink more water. One-third mention the on-the-go convenience and more than half do so for added flavor.

“This suggests that there is an opportunity to develop new flavors to encourage increased consumption of both mixes and bottled water,” the report states.

However, fruit isn’t the only flavor consumers are looking for. Millions of American consumers crave coffee. To meet that demand, in April Maxwell House, a brand of Northfield, Ill.-based Kraft Foods Group Inc., made it easier for consumers to get their java on the go with the release of Iced Coffee Concentrates. Available in House Blend, Caramel and Vanilla varieties, the liquid concentrates are available in grocery and mass merchandise retail locations nationwide.

 However, not all of the drink mix segments have fared as well in the past year. IRI data shows that while flavored hot drink mixes produced $27.2 million in sales, the category experienced a 9.2 percent contraction. However, with a little more than 50 percent of the market share, Alpine’s flavored hot drink mixes netted $13.6 million in sales and saw an 11 percent change during the 52 weeks ending May 17, according to IRI. Flavors include Original Apple, Spiced Cider, Spiced Apple Cider, Pumpkin Spice Cider and Cider Sugarfree Spiced Apple.

Atlanta-based Bravura Foods USA LLC is looking to stimulate the hot drink mix market with its Peanut Hottie instant hot peanut butter drink. Available in Peanut Butter & Chocolate and Peanut Butter flavors, Peanut Hottie powdered drinks are meant to be mixed with hot water and they feature a peanut butter flavor and aroma, the company says. A 9.15-ounce jar makes approximately 13 servings.

Mixing it up

Although frost, whipped and yogurt drink mix sales are up in the low-single digits, the overall drink mix category is down 1.7 percent, totaling $ 901 million, in multi-outlets for the 52 weeks ending May 17, according to IRI data.

While the energy drink market as a whole, comprised of aseptic beverages like Red Bull and Monster Energy, amassed nearly $11 billion in sales, with a nearly 7 percent increase in market share, the energy mixes category was down 7.4 percent with sales of $60.6 million for the 52 weeks through May 17, IRI data noted.

The liquid drink enhancers category also has faced contraction with sales down 4.9 percent totaling $367 million. Liquid energy drink mix segment sales were down nearly 9 percent for just more than $47 million. Mio, a brand of Kraft Foods Group, accounts for the largest percentage of market share in both the liquid energy drink mixes and liquid fruit drink mixes at 79 percent and 30 percent, respectively. With sales relatively flat, Mio Energy liquid drink mixes netted $37 million, while its liquid fruit drink mix sales totaled $86.7 million for the 52 weeks ending May 17, according to IRI Data. While liquid sports drink mixes where down overall, Propel sustained $1.7 million in sales and saw a nearly 228 percent change from the previous year, according to IRI.

In its March 2014 report, Chicago-based Mintel reports that it expects the drink mix category, which includes both powdered drink mixes and liquid water enhancers, to see steady increases through 2018. “The best- and worst-case forecasts take the value of the U.S. cold drink mixes from an estimated $2.3 billion in 2013 to $2.9 billion (best case) and $2.2 billion (worst case) in 2018,” noted the report, which added that Mintel expects the market to grow to a total of $2.6 billion in 2018.

 Although the powdered drink mix market has experienced several years of overall decline, the growth in the U.S. liquid concentrates segments has created value. To keep pace with this consumer demand for healthy, natural, refreshing beverages, beverage-makers continue to develop new concentrates and drink mixes that give consumers greater convenience and choice.