New American beverages play on tested formulas of success

Posted by James Ferre on 18th September 2008

Energy drinks shook up the beverage market when they connected with consumers’ interest in something new and different. A decade later, a multitude of new categories vie for attention, as companies large and small seek the next style that will rocket to beverage industry success.Many of the American aspirants represent variations on existing categories, according to a report from Beverage Marketing – ‘Up-and-Coming Beverage Categories in the U.S.’.

Just as energy drinks could be regarded as a functional variation on the traditional soft-drink, a number of energy drinks have spawned other types that seek to build on their base by adding a key difference. For instance, new brand activity has shifted toward energy drinks that purport to offer healthier formulas, often based on ingredients like green tea and B-vitamins. Protein drinks, with a background in the dietary supplement business and targeting such specialized niches as exercise enthusiast, have shown signs of crossing over to broader mainstream appeal as a meal replacement. Marketers of probiotic beverages similarly strive for broader attention.

Ready-to-drink tea, though a well-established component of the liquid refreshment beverage market, continues to be a vibrant staging ground for new sub-segments. Following the earlier success, brands like Snapple (now owned by Dr Pepper Snapple Group) and Lipton (marketed by PepsiCo) continue to mine the opportunities of superpremium teas by offering varieties like green tea, white tea and red tea, more-exacting brewing techniques and low- or no-sugar varieties. Two related categories include yerba mate – the brewed mainstay of South American countries like Argentina, which has been making inroads in both hot and ready-to-drink forms – and another fermented product, kombucha, which has enjoyed some success.

Bottled water also inspired several sub-segments, such as enhanced waters and so-called functional beverages that purport to offer more meaningfully enhanced drinks than the vitamins to be found in Vitaminwater and other similarly enhanced water. Essence waters – unsweetened or very lightly sweetened brands with just a hint of flavour – and a class of what might be called functional waters that offer no sweeteners, flavors or added nutrients but have claimed through their molecular structure or other means to offer more than basic hydration, also aim to take packaged water to another level.