September 11-15, 2017

The Future of Functionality

If the exhibit floor at the 2012 National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) show is any indication, many functional subsegments—from enhanced waters to anti-hangover drinks—are gradually finding their way into the mainstream. The range of beverage exhibitors offered a snapshot of sorts of the state of the functional drinks market. 


Sparkling Performance

Talking Rain Beverage Co.’s Sparkling Ice zero-calorie (sweetened with Splenda sucralose) naturally flavored, vitamin and antioxidant-enhanced sparkling mountain spring water has been enjoying triple-digit growth of late. Talking Rain president Kevin Klock pointed out that, according to SymphonyIRI data, Sparkling Ice is now a $100 million-plus brand. “When you drink it, you don’t feel like you’re having a zero-calorie beverage,” Klock asserted. 

Sparkling Ice is available in Coconut Pineapple, Lemonade, Orange Mango, Pomegranate Berry, Lemon Lime, Kiwi Strawberry, Pink Grapefruit and, what Klock said is its most popular flavor, Black Raspberry. “The targeted age group really seems to be women, age 35 to 44, but that’s because they’re the enabler of the family,” Klock noted. “We really see this product being well liked by everybody from zero to 100.” 


Use the Old Nawgan

Fresh on the heels of its designation as a 2012 Beverage World Breakout Brand, mental-focus-enhancing Nawgan has been opening up new markets across the U.S. “We’ve been growing very rapidly over the last 12 months with distribution now in Arizona and Florida and we’re getting into the Northeast and also beginning some distribution in California,” noted the St. Louis-based company’s founder and chief science officer Rob Paul. The company also was unveiling some new flavors, including a zero-calorie lemonade. Other flavors include Strawberry Kiwi, Red Berry and Mandarin Orange. All are powered with Cognizin citicoline, which the company says studies have shown to improve attention.  “We’re looking forward to continued growth,” Paul added, “and really bringing this great quality science to consumers.”


Sparring Partners

One of Beverage World’s 2011 Breakout Brands, Xyience Xenergy, also has been enjoying some solid momentum. Last year the brand cracked the list of top 20 energy drinks across retail channels, based on SymphonyIRI data, with nearly $40 million in sales for 2011 and growth of close to 43 percent. At NACS, the brand, which is the official energy drink of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), showcased a trio of new hybrid product formats: Xenergy + Tea, Xenergy + Hydration and Xenergy + Lemonade. “Each of the products has two flavors in them and what makes them consistent with the Xyience Xenergy is the fact that they have zero sugar and zero calories,” said Xyience president John Lennon. “At their very core they’re still an energy drink, but we’ve now blended energy with a tea product, a hydration product and a lemonade product. We’re very excited about these new product offerings because the notion of mixing an energy drink with other beverage formats was a fantastic idea.”


Shot of Joe

Hangover helper beverages have been on the rise of late, but only one can claim a licensed tie-in with the movie franchise named after the malady such drinks aim to alleviate. Hangover Joe’s put together the deal with Warner Brothers in 2010 and now its Hangover Recovery Shot and associated marketing materials feature licensed images from “The Hangover.” At its NACS booth, an actor dressed (quite convincingly) as Zach Galifiniakis’ character Alan from the films was on hand to draw traffic to the brand. 

“We’re a functional lifestyle beverage,” said co-founder Shawn Adamson. “We’ve got everyone from college students to soccer moms and day laborers to professionals.” Among the active ingredients in the product—packaged in a shot-size bottle—is picamilon, which when combined with niacin, fights the headache associated with the hangover. It also includes kudzu, goji berry, and small bits of classic energy ingredients like taurine and caffeine. “They all work together on the body like a symphony,” Adamson added. 


Having a Ball

On the especially-for-kids front, Aqua Ball is an enhanced water targeted to the youth market, packaged in a spherical PET bottle. As an added pull for kids’ the brand has licensing deals with Disney and Marvel. “We’ve got a great formula and we’ve got great partners in Disney and Marvel, which creates both an exciting package at the point of sale, as well as a really healthy beverage,” said CEO of brand owner True Drinks. Aqua Ball comes in three flavors: grape, fruit punch and orange.


For the Active Lifestyle

A growing subsegment within the functional segment is the vitamins-in-the-cap beverage and one its leaders is Activate. The concept is simple: Twist the color cap clockwise, let the vitamins fall into the liquid, give it a good shake, twist the white cap counter-clockwise and it’s ready to drink. Each of Activate’s 10 flavors has a different proposition. “Each of them has a unique blend, based on the function,” says COO Reza Mirza. “For example, the orange has 270 percent of your daily vitamin C.” The core Activate consumer, Mirza says, is a 27-28 year old “who wants to do it all...She’s into healthy living and she’s looking for products which enable her to live 100 percent.”  

   Look for more innovations from NACS next month. Also look for exclusive videos showcasing the products at  

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