Bocking a Trend

While major brewers battle it out for market share, one small bar in Texas has raised the ire of coffee giant Starbucks (Seattle). At issue is Star Bock beer, available at Old Quarter Acoustic Café (Galveston, Texas). According to testimony stemming from a lawsuit over the matter, the idea for the beer came to the bar's owner after a patron had asked for a Lone Star and then changed the order to a Shiner Bock (both Texas beers). A ruling on the case is expected in August.

Meanwhile, Starbucks is looking to expand its ready-to-drink (RTD) offerings in Asia. In Japan, Suntory Ltd. will manufacture and distribute chilled RTD coffee products, while President Starbucks Coffee Taiwan Ltd. will do likewise for the Taiwanese market.

In the U.S., 18 new RTD iced coffees have hit the market through May of this year, according to the Global New Products Database (Mintel, Chicago), while 180 new coffees have been introduced, many bearing notably ethnic influences.

Likewise, coffee enhancers are sporting an ethnic positioning as well. Borden (Green Bay, Wis.), for example, introduced a dulce de leche flavor among the new items on offer in its extra-creamy version of Cremora powdered, non-dairy creamer.

Fending off Fat

With the carb-cutting craze a fading memory, companies again are turning their attention to fat content to attract weight-conscious Americans. A search of the GNPD reveals 729 new food products--across all categories--introduced this year in the U.S. with a low-/no-/reduced-fat positioning, with 51 in the ice cream subcategory.

Soon, another reduced-fat ice cream will join the fray, as Haagen-Dazs (Oakland, Calif.) has announced plans for Haagen-Dazs Light. This super-premium ice cream promises at least 50% less fat than the original version--18g in original vanilla bean, 7g in the light version.

The reduced-fat versions rely upon a proprietary European process, says the company, allowing slow, low-temperature blending of the same ingredients used in the full-fat versions, but without the need of adding artificial sweeteners, fat substitutes or air. According to company claims, blind taste tests reveal consumers prefer the low-fat versions to their full-fat counterparts.

Luxurious Lager

Despite assertions to the contrary by both parties, the beer category is seeing something of a price war. Anheuser-Busch (St. Louis) has increased its promotional pricing in certain markets, narrowing the price gap between Bud Light and Miller Lite (SABMiller, Milwaukee) from $0.45 in the first quarter to the current $0.15.

The St. Louis giant is not finished there; the company also is looking into offering beverages with a higher alcohol content. Currently in test markets is Bistro 8, a malt beverage boasting 7% alcohol by volume (ABV), as opposed to the 5% in Budweiser.

Further competition for the pair is coming from Heineken USA (White Plains, N.Y.), which is introducing what it terms a luxury light beer. Brewed with the company's horizontal fermentation method, Heineken Premium Light Lager is currently in test market, promising 6.8g of carbohydrates and 99 calories.


In what is no doubt a surprise to film director Morgan Spurlock, it seems McDonald's (Oak Brook, Ill.) does not need a scathing documentary to jumpstart efforts to encourage consumers young and old to battle obesity.

The company is partnering with nutritionist Rovenia Brock (Dr. Ro) in a multi-faceted educational campaign to help consumers understand “the keys to living balanced, active lives.” The pair will bring the “it's what i eat and what i do…i'm lovin' it” campaign “to life for African-Americans through an ongoing schedule of national and local appearances,” according to a company statement. Dr. Ro will educate consumers about the importance of food/energy balance and incorporating fruits and vegetables into their everyday diets.

In addition, the company's mascot is joining the effort to encourage healthy lifestyles. New advertisements feature Ronald McDonald playing basketball, football, soccer and tennis, encouraging children and parents to balance food with staying active.