Both major soft drink companies added sucralose to their diet sodas, Coca-Cola's Diet Coke and PepsiCo's Pepsi One, and that sweetener could be found in diet products from a variety of companies.

  • Well-being is well

  • Low-carb is done

  • Flavor is fruity

    Despite remaining popular among the consuming public, coffee introductions slipped slightly from 2004, but new offerings did delve into innovative territory. Slowly, functionality and health emerged as a trend in this sector. Applied Food Sciences introduced Caffé Sanora. This antioxidant-rich coffee utilized a patented roasting process that retained the potent antioxidants normally lost through conventional heating.

    Similarly, an enhanced range of coffees from Fusion Coffee melded health concerns with a more widespread benefit. The coffees featured 97% fair-trade organic coffee and 3% herbal ingredients. Focus Blend had ginkgo biloba, yerba mate and Korean ginseng; Extreme Blend had guarana, Korean ginseng and yerba mate; and two incorporated green tea: Well Being Blend, also featuring Korean ginseng and white willow, and Lean Bean Blend, adding guarana, white willow and yerba mate.

    Most chai introductions were notable for reducing sugar content. Maxwell House's General Foods International introduced a sugar-free, instant Chai Latte Mix, containing 2g of carbs and 30 calories per serving; and a sugar-free variety of Safeway Select Spice Chai Tea was launched as well. For consumers taking an even more health-conscious approach to their tea, Nuestra Solid introduced a line of dietary supplement teas that were imported from the Amazon rainforest and Andes mountain range. Varieties included Enfermedad de La Mujer PMS Blend for PMS and menstrual discomfort; Diabetisan Sugar Balance Blend, for diabetes and hyperglycemia; Higasan Liver Cleanser improved liver function; Nerviosan Sweet Dreams aided in nervous system-related illnesses, anxiety and stress; and Rinosan Kidney Cleanser benefited overall health of the renal system and urinary tract.

    Feeling Green

    Green tea solids were a component of 7-Eleven's entry into the segment—Formula 7. This vitamin-enhanced drink also featured ginkgo biloba and a B vitamin complex to increase metabolism. Tea also could be found in a more prominent role in Sparkling Herbal Energy Tea from Tibetan tea, which was made from all-natural ingredients and claimed to increase stamina and endurance. Further differentiating it from its tea heredity, the product was lightly carbonated.

    While healthful may not be the first subject springing to consumers' minds when pondering energy drinks, a number of manufacturers attempted to appeal to the more nutritionally oriented consumer by introducing products with all-natural ingredients. Molson USA marketed Guru Energy Drink as the world's first all-natural energy drink; it was formulated with gingko biloba, echinacea and guarana, which also was found as a flavor option of Guara Viton Natural Energy Drinks from Guarani. The 100% natural, non-carbonated juice blend “combined taste with herbs, minerals, vitamins and other nutrient enhancers” in ginseng and acai flavors.

    Another all-natural energy drink had a bit more of a grown-up focus. At least, that was its claim. Kizz-Me from Kizz-Me Beverage assured “performance vitality for consumers 18 years old and older,” containing a supposed aphrodisiac of green tea and kola nut. The five flavors were Hot, Beach, Pink, Lightly and original.

    PepsiCo replaced its Slice brand of soft drinks with Tropicana Twister, capitalizing on a brand with a fairly healthful positioning.

    Final Cuts

    A slightly older audience was the target demographic for Anheuser-Busch's 180 Energy X-3: 21- to 27-year-olds. However, the true target was the diminishing number of carb-cutters. The “lemon-lime citrus blast energy drink” claimed to contain 90% fewer carbohydrates (3g) and calories (10) than the leading energy drinks.

    Energy drink manufacturers have added functional elements to their offerings to attract consumers. Specifically, coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), known for its anti-aging, weight-loss and antioxidant benefits and predominantly found in skincare items, has made its way into edible products and, now, into an energy beverage. Beverage Group incorporated the ingredient, as well as B vitamins and taurine, into its Shock Wave Energy supplement drink.

    CoQ10 was not the only resource for antioxidants in energy beverages, however. They also could be found in fruit and vegetables, interesting additions to energy drinks this year from Sambazon and Projoba. In late 2004, the former launched Antioxidant Superfood Smoothies, made from natural blends of Brazilian rainforest acai fruit, guarana, essential fatty acids and protein. The latter debuted Pollen Burst Energy Drink in May 2005. Promising to help control appetite, it was marketed as the first energy drink utilizing flower pollen. In addition, it featured superoxide dismutase, “the body's most powerful antioxidant.”

    Under the Powerade brand, Coca-Cola added three flavors (mango, strawberry melon and black cherry lime) to its Liquid Hydration + Energy Drink line, as well as the low-calorie Powerade Option (in strawberry, lemon and black cherry). Option had the same vitamin and electrolyte formula as regular Powerade but with only 10 calories and 2g of carbohydrates per 8oz serving. Von Dutch, meanwhile, named for the trendy fashion label, targeted “stylish males and females younger than the average age of energy drinkers.”

    Coming Soon

    Coca-Cola already has announced a number of introductions for the new year. Powerade Advance is described as a hybrid beverage, combining the ingredients of sports drinks and energy drinks and launched in January, when Fury and Sugar-free Fury augmented the company's Full Throttle energy drink line. Interestingly, the company is taking Tab into energy drink territory, although considering soft drink fortunes over the past couple of years, that may not be much of a surprise. Tab Energy launched in February 2006, specifically targeting women, and Sprite 3G Energy Drink is rumored to be in the offing for later this year—no word on whether it will be a duplicate of Recharge by Sprite, released in Australia by Coca-Cola Amatil in late 2004.

    PepsiCo expanded its presence in energy drinks by introducing Mountain Dew MDX Energy Soda, which featured Power Pack, a combination of ginseng, guarana, taurine, D-ribose and maltodextrin; it promised to provide higher levels of energy than regular soda.

    More with Less

    Soft drinks, per se, continued to eliminate elements, be they calories, sugar, carbohydrates, sodium or other ingredients. Coca-Cola, for instance, sweetened Pibb Zero diet soft drink with a blend of aspartame and acesulfame potassium, the same blend that was found in Diet Coke Black Cherry Vanilla diet cola when it debuted in January (at the same time as the regular Black Cherry Vanilla Coke). The “zero” moniker also will grace Vault Zero, a sugar-free soft drink from Coca-Cola claimed to “drink like a soda and kick like an energy drink.” The citrus-flavored beverage was set to debut in February 2006. Coca-Cola made fairly extensive use of the “zero” name during the year under review. Coca-Cola Zero, for example, did not replace Diet Coke, as their “target audiences were different,” according to the company, but it did eliminate calories, although consumers were not embracing the new beverage. The company revamped its marketing campaign, and sales have languished since the launch.

    Early in 2005, both major soft drink companies added sucralose to their diet sodas—Coca-Cola's Diet Coke and PepsiCo's Pepsi One—and that sweetener could be found in diet products from a variety of companies, including Leading Edge Brands, Adirondack Beverages and Dr Pepper/Seven Up. The latter's 7Up Plus line of soft drinks expanded to include cherry and island fruit varieties, while retaining real fruit juice, calcium and vitamin C fortification.

    Airforce Nutrisoda took nutrient-enhanced sodas a step further. The Ardea Beverage Co. products, another in the long line of products sweetened with sucralose, featured such nutrients as amino acids, CoQ10, vitamins, minerals and herbs. Airforce Immune, for example, included L-arginine (to support the body's immune system through enhanced T-cell function), vitamins A and E, echinacea, four B vitamins, zinc and selenium. With only 15 calories, the product had no sugar, carbs, caffeine, sodium or aspartame and promised to help protect against cold, flu and other viruses. A Flex variety introduced earlier in the year claimed to help lubricate, repair and restore active joints for improved movement and flexibility. Coca-Cola was rumored to be working on U Be, a vitamin-fortified soft drink, for launch in 2006, and the company also supposedly had a cholesterol-reducing drink in the works; in the U.K., Coca-Cola applied to add phytosterols to its range of fruit juices.

    Taking advantage of a brand with a fairly healthful position, PepsiCo took Tropicana Twister into the carbonated soft drink sector. Flavors included orange, grape, strawberry and diet orange, and the line replaced the company's Slice brand of soft drinks. Speaking of brands in new territories, Jolly Rancher was well-known along the confectionery aisle but made its way into soft drinks; Jolly Rancher Artificially Flavored Soda contained the “bold fruit flavor of Jolly Rancher candy” in such flavors as green apple, watermelon and orange, to name a few.

    Coca-Cola Zero did not replace Diet Coke, as their “target audiences were different.” According to the company, it did eliminate calories, although consumers did not embrace the new beverage.

    The New Blak

    Coca-Cola did announce plans to launch Coca-Cola Blak this year. This cola-coffee beverage is promised to be “an invigorating and stimulating blend that has a perfect balance of the effervescent taste sensation of Coca-Cola and natural flavors, with real coffee.” The mid-calorie drink is hoped to be a new category of soft drink—an adult product in a carbonated beverage. Pepsi also joined the coffee-cola mix, debuting Pepsi Max Cino (featuring a shot of cappuccino flavoring) in the U.K. in January. If these are to be the first in the adult soft drink sector, they already have some company.

    Dry Soda was a non-caffeinated drink targeting consumers seeking the experience of a wine in a soda. Flavors included lavender, lemongrass, rhubarb and kumquat, and could be found in the wine department of select supermarkets. Also focusing upon that adult soft drink consumer, Utmost Brands added dry cranberry lime to its Grown-Up Soda GuS line, formulated “for adult tastes and emphasizing natural fruit taste instead of sweetness.”

    In beverages theoretically available only to adults, beers also have seen the addition of new flavors, including coffee. Widmer Brothers Brewing launched Milk Stout Beer under its Snow Plow brand. It was brewed with dark chocolate, coffee and roasted malt aromas to “create warmth for the winter.” Coffee has been seen in a number of beer introductions around the world, largely in the U.K. and Sweden. While it may not have had coffee, Natty Up Natural Light Beer from Anheuser-Busch was a caffeinated beer available in North Carolina, Florida, Texas and Missouri.

    Anheuser-Busch made a number of flavorful introductions this past year. It test-marketed 9th Street Market Pilsner Beer, a line created with fruit flavors, including such varieties as pomegranate and raspberry, lime and cactus, and Tuscan orange and grapefruit. In addition, the brewer launched seasonal offerings as well: Jack's Pumpkin Spice Ale was a specialty seasonal draught beer available during the holidays, as was the 8% alcohol by volume (ABV) Brew Masters' Private Reserve. Michelob Celebrate, likewise available during the holidays, was made in small batches and featured dark caramel and carapils malts, imported hops and gently milled whole vanilla beans.

    The company also blurred the line between beer and wine with its test market of Bistro 8. The product was a fermented 7% ABV beverage with the flavors of apple, mango, apricot, cactus, lime, grapefruit, oak and spices.

    While a number of waters have added fruit flavors to augment the taste, water introductions have increasingly incorporated more-healthful benefits. United Natural Foods' Water + All Natural Enhanced Water was fortified with an energy formula, vitamins, minerals and herbs said to energize and revitalize the body, and further enhanced with white tea extract. Each bottle promised an antioxidant capacity equivalent to a single serving of fruits and vegetables. Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Nestle all have launched enhanced or functional waters on the U.S. market, and such beneficial waters are likely to become more widespread, incorporating a wider array of vitamins and minerals.

    Much of the information in this article was derived from Mintel International's Global New Products Database,, 312-932-0400.

    Sidebar: Going Global

    In recent years, soft drinks have faced harsh criticism for their high sugar content and other nutritional drawbacks. Seeking to appease parents somewhat, Australia's P&N Beverages launched Fuze Carbonated Passion Fruit, containing 99% fruit juices and enriched with natural flavors and vitamin C.

    More-obvious health benefits were the aim for the Alimentos à Base de Soja (soy-based beverages) line from Bunge Alimentos. These ready-to-drink juices were available in functional Saúde (health), Equilíbrio (balance), and Crescimiento (growth) varieties.

    In Indonesia, Orindo Alam Ayu's Mable orange drink stood out from its shelfmates by featuring orange particles floating in a clear liquid. The orange-tasting drink had a sibling with green particles, a Fuji apple flavor and vitamin C.

    With the seemingly unstoppable popularity of coffee products continuing to grow, it should be little surprise to see it so prominently around the world. Bickford's Café Cino was a sparkling espresso coffee drink for Indonesians. In Japan, Coca-Cola's Georgia brand offered Smooth Café Latte (a milky coffee with selected honey and fresh cream), Precious Taste (a milky coffee using mandehling coffee from Indonesia and Colombia Supremo) and Bitter Style (a milky coffee with 40% less sugar than regular milk coffee).

    Also in Japan, but most definitely aiming for the nutritionally minded consumer, is Green Vegetables a Day under the Tropicana brand from Kirin Beverages. This 100% fruit/vegetable juice provides approximately 120g of vegetables and fruit: 1.4g of carrots, 6.3g of red bell peppers, 6.6g of asparagus, 6.3g of broccoli, 85mg of green bell peppers; 55mg of radish, 54mg of bean sprouts, 53mg of spinach, 54mg of Brussels sprouts, 54mg of cabbage, 54mg of parsley and 54mg of cress, not to mention clovers, oranges, apples and lemon.