These days, the word “fancy” has become somewhat synonymous with “natural” or “functional”—that is, if the disproportionate number of liquid refreshment products with such attributes on display at the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade’s (NASFT) 2012 Summer Fancy Food Show are any indication. This year’s crop of drink innovations at the June event in Washington, D.C. ranged from an ultra-pristine and ultra-premium water to an organic beverage formulation so retro, it’s believed to have been consumed by early Neolithic cave dwellers. Here’s a look at some of the products that caught Beverage World’s eye.
The Ice Harvest
The company behind Ice Swan promises “water of extreme pureness,” backed up by the fact that it’s sourced from glacial Chilean Patagonia, one of the world’s most untouched regions. And, there’s no mechanical interface to get it to the bottling plant, just good, old-fashioned, gravity. “The water reflects the landscape, it’s in harmony with the landscape,” says CEO Juan Enrique Benitez of the Santiago, Chile-based company. And he means harmony quite literally: “We harvest the water with classical music,” he reveals. The practice is based on the research of world-renowned scientist Dr. Masaru Emoto, who asserts that water has memory and is sensitive to sound. The company says when classical music is added to the natural sounds of its Patagonian habitat, it preserves its original essence and molecular structure.
Straight Out of the Stone Age
Fermented non-alcohol beverages have been in vogue, thanks to kombucha, but the fermented tea has a rival in the form of this Neolithic offering. Toronto, Canada-based Caveman Foods is a line of water kefir, a naturally fermented soda, which are dry, somewhat fizzy and slightly sweet. The company bases its beverages on research that found remnants of a mixed fermented beverage in China about 9,000 years ago. Ed Coffin, director of marketing and sales for Caveman Foods, explains, “The water kefir culture is very specific to making this exact drink. It doesn’t use a tea base like kombucha and the other difference is it’s a lot shorter of a fermentation process, so it’s not as sour.” Flavors include vanilla, tarragon, original, black pepper and saffron.
On the natural soda front Q Drinks bills its line of refreshers as carbonates for consumers looking for something a bit better. “It’s for anybody drinking better spirits or better beer and eating better tomatoes, better fish or better meat—people who are taking seriously what other products they eat or drink. Now they can actually have a soda of comparable quality and sophistication,” says founder Jordan Silbert. Q Kola, for instance, features kola nut, cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg and is lightly sweetened with organic agave. Others include Q Tonic, Q Ginger and Q Club.
When Twelve Beverage, LLC first unveiled 12 Noon to Midnight sparkling beverages—now simply 12 NtM—at the Fancy Food Show two years ago, it was in a wine-sized bottled and was billed as a “culinary beverage.” There have been a couple of tweaks since then, as the company revealed at this year’s event. The company still offers the same Blanc and Rouge fruit-juice-sweetened varieties developed by famous chef David Burke, but now it’s available in single-serve, retail cooler-friendly 6.3-ounce frosted bottles and has dropped the “culinary” verbiage in favor of “chef-crafted.” “‘Culinary beverage’ didn’t quite work,” admits Twelve Beverage CEO Pat Dealy. “Chef-crafted really resonates with people. It really sets the premium nature and uniqueness of the brand.”
GuS-Grown Up Soda is back with a new entry to its line of less-sweet soft drinks: Dry Root Beer, a 100 percent natural and lower-sugar alternative to mainstream root beers. It’s made with real birch oil, natural vanilla and clove and lightly sweetened with cane sugar. Each 12-ounce glass bottle has 95 calories, compared with 160 or so for conventional root beers. GuS co-founder Steve Hersh says the development of Dry Root Beer was in direct response to demand from regular consumers of the brand’s other varieties. It follows the success of two other GuS-ified classic sodas: Extra Dry Ginger Ale and Dry Cola.
Readers might recall RealBeanz, our silver winner in the RTD tea and coffee category of last month’s BevStar Awards. Brand representatives were at the Fancy Food Show sampling their two newest flavors: Iced Cappucino made with Coconut Water and Iced Dark Roast made with Coconut Water. Each coffee variety contains 20 percent coconut water and contains just 70 calories per serving. RealBeanz products combine premium-brewed beans with growth-hormone-free milk.
A Regular Joe
As a brand, Joe Tea is a survivor. It’s been around 15 years and most have never heard of it. But it still manages to find its niche, one retail outlet at a time.
The company launched as Two Little Guys Co., selling Two Little Guys Lemonade in what Steven Prato, president and founder of the Upper Montclair, N.J.-based company, says was a “really cutesy package,” ie: not masculine enough. Enter Joe.
“We went up to Vermont and found the voice of the brand there,” he says. The company put a picture of a vintage pickup truck on the bottle, which sealed the deal demographically.
The line, which includes Classic Lemon tea, Peach, Classic Lemonade and Peach Half & Half, is available in boutique-type restaurants and shops, as well as some Whole Foods locations throughout the mid-Atlantic.
If you missed the Summer Fancy Food Show, NASFT is hosting the winter edition in San Francisco, Jan. 20-22, 2013. The summer event returns to New York City—after two years in D.C.—June 30-July 2, 2013. For more info, visit specialtyfood.com