When consumers shopped the aisles of different retail channels during the past couple of months as they prepared for the holidays, product assortments and even store environments probably started to seem the same after a while. This is partially because of channel blurring, according to Chicago-based Information Resources Inc.’s (IRI) September/October 2014 Times & Trends report “Channel Migration: The Road to Growth Has Many Lanes.” In fact, today it is more difficult to distinguish between retail formats based on product assortment than it was a few years ago, it reports.


As retail channels change, mass merchandisers and supercenters, warehouse and club stores, and discount retailers have expanded their grocery offerings, competing with the supermarket channel for share, points out David McGoldrick, U.S. analyst at Chicago-based Euromonitor International.


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BNP Media’s Beverage Industry (BI) analyzed the new beverage market launches of 2014 and BI editors determined five brands that they think are energizing the U.S. drink market and its consumers. To highlight those brands, the team named them Beverage Industry’s “2014 Innovations of the Year.”


Product: Chimp Food

Description: Two-thirds of a chimp’s diet consists of fruit and berries, and one-third of its diet comes from vegetables, nuts and seeds. Taking influence from this, Chimp Food, Hollywood, Fla., developed Chimp Food meal replacement drinks, which contain 25 different raw, uncooked fruits, berries, vegetables, nuts and seeds — including the peels, skins and seeds of the fruits and vegetables.


Product: maple.

Description: Maple, Concord, Mass., says its “maple.” brand is pure sap water from maple trees and does not contain preservatives, flavors or sweeteners. Officials say the beverage helps fulfill the all-natural hydration need states for both everyday use and workout replenishment.


Product: Malibu Sparklers

Description: Also pulling influence from healthy hydration segments was Purchase, N.Y.-based Pernod Ricard USA’s Malibu Rum Sparklers. Noting the growth of the coconut water market, the spirits brand took that inspiration a step further. Malibu Rum Sparklers combine coconut water and effervescence and are packaged in a Champagne-style bottle including the cork. The brand released the product in coconut and peach-coconut flavors.


Product: Starbucks Iced Coffee-Brewed to Personalize

Description: Customization is a strong beverage trend. Starbucks Coffee Co., Seattle, combines it with the growing popularity of ready-to-drink (RTD) iced coffee for its new Starbucks Iced Coffee – Brewed to Personalize line. “Starbucks Iced Coffee – Brewed to Personalize beverages are the first multi-serve iced coffees in the chilled coffee category that are fully customizable,” says a Starbucks spokesperson


Product: Wicked Dolphin RumShine

Description: In the spirits industry, it can be difficult to stand out from the crowd. Cape Spirits Inc., Cape Coral, Fla., found that niche. Wicked Dolphin RumShine is distilled from pure Florida cane sugar and developed to showcase the state of Florida. “We grow about 50% of the sugarcane for the U.S. here, and agriculturally we grow so [much] citrus [and] berry and some unique fruits and spices,” says JoAnn Elardo, president of Cape Spirits. RumShine launched in September in Florida in Blueberry, Strawberry and Apple Pie flavors. 


Excerpted from BNP Media’s Beverage Industry magazine, December 2014 issue.




Grocery stores still claim the majority of the larger, pantry-stocking shopping trips at 45% percent, along with mass merchandisers/supercenters and club stores at 31% percent and 33%, respectively, according to the IRI report. However, the urban or smaller-store format that is popping up in the mass-merchandise, natural and organic, and dollar retail channels is catering to the on-the-go lifestyles of today’s consumers, the report states. The capability of making smaller, more frequent trips is being met with success, it reports. Drug stores currently claim 54% of the quick-trip shopping experiences, and dollar stores claim 46%, compared with 25% for the grocery channel, according to IRI data.


In spite of these opportunities to steal share from the grocery and supermarket channel, the process is slow, Euromonitor’s McGoldrick says. “Supermarkets themselves are still growing, and they’re still the largest channel,” he says.


Traditional grocery channel sales increased 1% to $522.8 billion in 2013, and traditional supermarket sales increased 0.4% to $44.2 billion, reports Jackie Gray, director of Barrington, Ill.-based Willard Bishop. By comparison, fresh-format stores experienced sales growth of 10.4%, limited-assortment store sales grew 4.1%, warehouse store sales were up 3.4%, conveniences store sales increased 2.4%, and the dollar chain format saw 13.7% sales growth in 2013, she reports.


Although the grocery channel appears to have the lowest growth rate by percentage, it actually is growing at a similar rate to the mass-merchandise/ supercenter and warehouse/club channels,

“Supermarkets just have a much larger base, so it’s harder for them to post the same growth in percentage terms,” notes Euromonitor’s McGoldrick. “Overall, for the past three years, [the grocery and supermarket channel] has been growing at about between 2 and 3 percent each year. For the past year, it’s been a little bit on the lower end of that, [and] for 2014, we’re projecting about 2% growth.”

Of the products and services offered at grocery stores and supermarkets, non-alcohol and alcohol beverages make up 19.1% of the channel’s revenue, according to Los Angeles-based IBISWorld’s August 2014 report “Supermarkets & Grocery Stores in the US.” This makes it the second-biggest contributor to channel revenue, below “other food items,” it reports. This makes sense, given the consumer need to replenish commodity beverages, like milk, often, Euromonitor’s McGoldrick adds.


More specifically, coffee and spirits/liquor are two of the top three growth categories, along with refrigerated meat, within the grocery and supermarket channel, according to IRI’s report.

“The strongest beverage performer during the past year was coffee, which recorded sales of $4.6 billion, an increase of 4.5% versus the prior year,” says Susan Viamari, editor of Thought Leadership at IRI. Viamari credits the category’s innovation with boosting its sales.


“In [the last few years], three powerful coffee launches hit grocery shelves: Keurig’s Eight O’Clock and Maxwell House Café Collection single-cup lines and Starbucks’ Blonde Roast line,” she notes. “Starbucks also introduced its new Starbucks Refreshers line, which earned more than $30 million across IRI’s multi-outlet geography in its first year.”


Although carbonated soft drink sales were down 2.5% in 2013, they still were the most popular beverage category purchased that year in terms of volume sales, according to IBISWorld’s report.  And although its consumption rates have fallen, beer followed carbonated soft drinks as the second-most purchased beverage in the channel in 2013, the report states. Wine, which was the third-most popular beverage category, has become more popular because of the widely advertised health benefits of consuming it in small volumes, it reports.


The energy drinks category also has seen sharp growth recently, IRI’s Viamari notes. Unit sales were up 5.7%, and dollar sales were up 3.7% during the past year, she says.

In line with consumer health and wellness trends, bottled water, premium juices and bottled smoothies have been performing well, notes Euromonitor’s McGoldrick. 


“[Consumers want] overall healthier items, more organic and natural items,” he explains. “Fresh foods are very popular in the supermarket channel … the drink versions of these higher-end items [also] have been performing well. … A lot of that goes to how consumers are eating overall, with them looking to healthier items at the expense of some of the unhealthier, more snack-like items.”

Willard Bishop’s Gray notes that the drink mixes/liquid concentrates category also has seen growth in sales, unit volume and space, coinciding with the popularity of bottled water.


Because consumers still are price-conscious bargain hunters in the aftermath of the Great Recession, at least six in 10 shoppers look for a good selection of private-label products in their grocery stores, with this number running even higher in some banners and product categories, IRI reports. As such, private-label beverages make up 20% of total supermarket beverage sales, IRI’s Viamari says. This is slightly above the 18% average of total supermarket sales, she notes.


“Private-label solutions are well entrenched,” Viamari says. “They are viewed positively in terms of both value and quality, so they are an important part of a solid value equation.”

Because private-label items usually are priced below national-brand items, they contribute certain value to consumers, Euromonitor’s McGoldrick says.


“When you’re buying a private-label item, you’re not paying for the advertising that goes with that brand,” he explains.


Consumers also are able to discover the quality of a store’s private-label line by enjoying the private-label version of a commodity product and then being encouraged to test the private-label line’s different category offerings, he notes.


Private-label sales also contribute value to a store owner’s bottom line, McGoldrick points out. “It’s good for supermarkets because the margins that they get for [private-label products] are much better for them than from national brands, and the retailers are really looking to grow their sales of private label.” 


This article excerpted from BNP Media’s Beverage Industry magazine, January 2015 issue.