After seeing a slew of new beverages debut this year, it’s clear consumers like to drink new things. So what exactly is hot right now in the world of on-premise drinking?
We’ve seen it with desserts, we’ve seen it with breads, and now the low-carb craze has made its mark on the beverage industry. Drinkers are steering away from sugar and calories, and welcoming the low-carb and organic.
Just this month, Coke rolled out Coke C2 and Pepsi rolled out Pepsi Edge, bringing low-carb sodas to the forefront as alternatives to their flagship cola lines. Health-conscious (and lethargic) consumers alike are also forgoing their usual bottle of Poland Spring and Perrier and reaching for eclectic energy drinks instead, while in cafes and restaurants across the country, fruity new syrup flavors (also sugar- and carb-free) are enlivening those same old beverages.
When Torani was founded in San Francisco’s North Beach 78 years ago, their handmade syrups were blended with sparkling water and ice to create refreshing Italian-style sodas. Today, bottles of their syrup are on the back bar at such restaurant chains as Red Robin, Cinnabon, Cosi and Second Cup. While plenty of consumers still add syrups to coffees, teas and soda water, Torani has
introduced 20 sugar-free syrup flavors made with Splenda, all-natural flavors and purified water, including Almond Roca, lime, mango and watermelon.
Syrup maker Monin, Inc., has also expanded its sugar-free offerings with several new fruit flavors in tow. Bill Lombardo, president & CEO, points out how these fruity options like strawberry and
raspberry are especially popular in flavored iced teas and fruit drinks.
“There’s been a real resurgence of lemonade in the last two years,” he says, “although sugar-free lemonade is harder to come by.” (Monin has just introduced a sugar-free blend of Splenda and Anidex, a natural root. Mixed with water, it’s used to make a fresh-squeezed lemonade.)
EXOTIC FLAVOR GROWTH
Lombardo also notes an upswing in sales of more exotic flavors appealing to a younger, more adventurous
demographic, such as a bold and tart blood orange, guava, passion fruit and prickly pear cactus (nine different prominent chains already feature this one).
For those willing to splurge on the traditional sugar-enriched drinks, Torani’s collection of berry syrups and berry Frusia flavors is expanding and includes the new perfect-for-summer huckleberry. But sometimes, true decadence is in order.
Luckily, Torani’s sugar-free chocolate syrups have just arrived. White chocolate and caramel both promise to (artificially) sweeten blended hot and frozen coffee drinks alike.
According to USA Today, dessert consumption is down. Only 15% of dinners include a sweet item for afterwards. Torani is helping operators latch onto a new trend of “Drinkable Desserts” in the hopes of helping customers once again find their sweet teeth. For example, their pumpkin spice, tiramisu and cheesecake flavors are ideal for rich after-dinner and espresso drinks.
Others are busy adding new flavors as well. Island Oasis Frozen Beverage Company has introduced its 18th flavor, Wildberry, an all-natural puree of five berries, including raspberries and blueberries. Launched just in time for the summer months, Wildberry is also fat- and cholesterol-free. Eight ounces contain just 110 calories, but provide 100 percent of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for Vitamin C.
DaVinci Gourmet, based in Seattle, also has its share of dessert-like sugar-free syrups, including German chocolate cake, peppermint paddy, dulce de leche and pineapple. With a license from Allied Domeqc, they’ve also introduced a sugar-free and non-alcoholic version of Kahlua syrup.
While Lombardo proclaims it’s the core flavors still
driving volume when it comes to coffee drinks, he is also seeing a rise in blended value-added flavors like praline, toasted almond mocha and toffee nut.
DaVinci’s flavor makers seem to agree. Their new-to-the-market Frappease, a neutrally flavored blender base for smoothies, is ready to mix. A coffee bean studded version is also available, so the addition of espresso isn’t necessary.
TEA FOR THEE
Concern for calories has also caused the tea industry to respond and expand. Customers are getting snobbier about their teas and are demanding better quality and wider variety.
Colorado-based two leaves and a bud, a single origin tea purveyor has the exclusive market on Dilmah teas, packed fresh in Sri Lanka. These high-quality, garden-fresh teas come in the black, green and herbal varieties that are so popular now. Their own whole-leaf teas come in pyramid-shaped organdie sachets to ensure each cup of tea has the fullest flavor possible. Healthy Beverage Company introduced the first certified organic diet drink with the health benefits of green tea, called Diet Steaz Sparkling Green Tea. All leaves are organically grown in the
mountains of Sri Lanka and each 12 oz. bottle is naturally sweetened with organic cane juice.
Jumping on the organic bandwagon, Sweet Leaf Tea, Austin, TX, is another brand attempting to bring a healthy spin to the mass-market beverage industry. In less than 14 months, they’ve gained control of 36% of the ready-to-drink tea market in Whole Foods’ Southwest region, showing organic beverages, marketed correctly, sell.
Throughout Texas and Colorado, Sweet Leaf Tea is being launched as a new product in 500 7-Elevens. Ready-to-drink flavors include Organic Hibiscus (in response to consumer’s desire for a caffeine-free option) and Splenda-sweetened Diet Peach teas, all made with natural ingredients. Co-founder David Smith believes their success is “just a return to the simple ingredients.
“We use real tea leaves and a little bit of water,” he says. “The rest of the ingredients were a natural process.”
Also new on the West Coast is the Java-brewed Tejava iced tea with zero calories from sugar. TEAS’ TEA bottled tea comes in six flavors from Golden Oolong to Green Jasmine and also has zero calories, with high levels of vitamin C and antioxidants. Bottled Tradewinds teas are offering diet raspberry and diet green tea flavors.
While energy drinks might be alternatives to soft drinks, there’s no getting around the fact that cola is still one of the most popular beverages for refreshment, regardless of its sugar content. Sure, domestic sales have decreased, but in an attempt to recapture cola drinkers, Coke and Pepsi are staking their claims on the low-carb happy masses. Coke is armed with C2, while Pepsi has Edge (inevitably leading to more colas playing copycat.)
Some non-traditional sodas are worth noting for their inventive approaches as well. GuS, Grown-Up Soda, is sold in over 200 stores across NYC and is 100% natural, kosher and made from real juices and extracts and attracting those with a sophisticated and health-conscious palate through flavors like Star Ruby Grapefruit and Dry Valencia Orange. Urban Juice & Soda, in an attempt to cater to the diet conscious, has just launched its diet Slim Jones line (flavors include Diet Cream and Diet FuFu Berry), and Bong is the first soft drink to use FDA-approved whole beer concentrate (the concentrate removes water, alcohol and yeast but leaves carbs, nutrients and vitamins.) Flavors include Chronic Tonic, Green Dreams, Purple Haze, and Cottonmouth Quencher.
In the midst of all these inventive drinks, let’s not lose sight of that most essential of beverages, water. The bottled water category grew by 6.7% in 2003, and increased its wholesale numbers by more than half. The fastest growing bottled water company in the U.S. may be Euphoria, setting itself apart by donating 20% of its profits to charity.
But for those who like their water with a little kick, there’s a bevy to choose from, like Clearly Canadian with O+2 Berry Citrus and five times the amount of normal oxygen concentration and Glaceau, famous for its cleverly named Vitamin Waters.
Pumpkin Pie Latte
- 1 oz. Torani Pumpkin Spice syrup
- 8 oz. milk
- 1-2 shots espresso
Steam together Torani and milk. Pour steamed flavored milk to about 1/2 inch below the top of a 16-oz. glass. Add espresso and top with a thin layer of foamed milk.
BULLISH ON ENERGY
Thanks to Red Bull, the energy drink market is on fire. The Austria-based company was the first to promise an increase in concentration, reaction time and alertness by drinking one can of their high-caffeine product. That was 17 years ago and in 2003 they launched a sugar-free version.
Others have followed suit.
Impulse is a rapidly growing energy drink that came on the scene in 2002. It’s rich in B-complex vitamins and has established itself as a favorite among the Miami, FL-based health club set. SoBe, known for its creative juice cocktails, has also tapped into the growing energy market with sweet and fruity Adrenaline Rush. It’s sugar-free XS Energy Drink gives a boost with flavors like Tropical Blast, Citrus Blast and Cranberry Grape, chock full of adaptogenic herbs.
Then there’s non-carbonated Pimp Juice, made with the all-natural tropical ingredient, Gurana. Artifical coloring gives it a green glow, while 10% apple juice provides a necessary sweetness. Bawls Guaranexx Sugar Free, the first line extension to the Bawls Guarana brand, is a low-carb version of the guarana-spiked energizing original. But Red Bull’s biggest challenge yet might be the brand new Electra-X Peach Energy Drink, with 20% more energy content than the beverage giant.