September 11-15, 2017

Natural Functionality Reinvented

From a beverage perspective, the Fancy Food Show has been gaining a reputation as a brief glimpse into the future for the next wave of all things functional and/or natural from across the globe. Here’s a snapshot of the liquid creations on display at the winter edition of the show in late January in San Francisco, which was presented by the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade (NASFT).

Thinking Big
Little Big Shot was born out of the desire to create an energy drink that wasn’t caffeine-based. The Belfast, Northern Ireland-based company looked to the seas for its answer. “We came up with a source called deep ocean mineral, coming from the bottom of the ocean,” reveals Bert Jukes, managing director of the brand’s owner, Big Shot N.I., Ltd. “It has 72 trace elements, meaning the drink becomes an ergogenic drink, meaning natural enhancement for energy.”

The company combines the active ingredient with a range of fruits, including pomegranate, cranberry, black currant, raspberry and hibiscus. Since its launch two years ago, the brand has been expanding throughout Europe and is moving into the Middle East, Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa and Australia. Jukes is eyeing June for a U.S. rollout.

Superfruit Surge
There’s still a lot of activity around superfruits and, increasingly, brands are shining the spotlight on a single antioxidant-rich fruit. Case in point: Gogee, which, you can guess by its phonetic spelling contains a lot of the Himalayan goji berry. Grown at elevations of 10,000 feet and above, goji is believed to help promote kidney and liver function, sexual function and healthy eyesight.

“Since it’s grown at high elevations, the fruit is a little bit more plump and a little sweeter,” says Mica Largo of brand owner Bazic Beverage. “We don’t add any preservatives, there’s no added sugar and nothing’s artificial—it’s a 100 percent natural juice.” Packaged in a glass bottle with a metal cap, Gogee’s got a shelf life of four years. In addition to the original flavor, it offers three other varieties that pair the goji berry with soursop, seabuckthorn and acai. Bazic also offers a sister product to Gogee juice in the form of an energy shot called Gogee Shot, aka G-Shot. Gogee Shot, which also touts its hangover recovery attributes, comes in three varieties, Goji Berries, Green Tea and Dark Chocolate.

Then there’s MOAB, which offers three juice varieties: açai, pomegranate and wild blueberry. It sources the açai from the berry’s native land of Brazil, the pomegranate from California and wild blueberry from Nova Scotia. So what’s MOAB stand for? “If you ask me, I’ll tell you it’s the ‘Mother of All Beverages,’ but [really] Most Optimum Antioxidant Beverage,” explains Terry Xanthos, director of global sales for MOAB Superfruits. Moab’s also a city in Utah, which was part of the inspiration. The brand is based in the state—Highland, Utah to be precise.

Exotic Origins
Premium citrus juice brand Italian Volcano, which sources its fruit from the nutrient-rich soil at the base of Mt. Etna in Sicily, had some new offerings to highlight. Adding to its signature blood orange juice are its tangerine juice, lemonade, limeade and a full-on lime juice. It soon will launch a grenadine, as well. “The whole line is organic, it’s kosher, not-from concentrate, with no preservatives,” points out Michelle Hankins, director of sales, North America, for Italian Volcano. Italian Volcano is available in half-liter glass bottles.

Bhakti Chai draws its inspiration from an even more exotic locale. Founder Brook Eddy was in India about a decade ago studying the social movement known as Bhakti (devotion through social action) and was enchanted by the chais she had tasted. When she came back to the states she started experimenting with her own chai brewing and came up with a spicy blend with fresh ginger and black pepper. She started selling it in gallon foodservice containers to cafes and ultimately developed a ready-to-drink version. ”We’ve had a year now of watching people love the product and just how it can be great for on-the-go and just to get your caffeine in,” Eddy reports. It offers Original tea, Decaf and a cold-brewed Coffee Blend.

The Wonder Stuff
While it’s premature to call it mainstream at this point, kombucha definitely has expanded beyond the early-adopting tree-hugger set and is gaining acceptance among a broader cross-section of the population. Kombucha Wonder Drink has been around long enough—it was founded in Portland, Ore., in 2001—to witness the gradual transition. The brand offers a line of eight flavors in 14-ounce glass bottles, half of which also are available in single-serve cans. Flavors include Traditional, Cherry Cassis, Niagara Grape, Essence of Lemon, Essence of Peach, essence of Mango and Lemon Myrtle and, its best-seller, Asian Pear Ginger. The company introduced its latest canned offering, Cherry Cassis. It’s a far cry from when the kombucha, a fermented tea, first hit the commercial scene about six years before Kombucha Wonder drink launched. “The first commercially available kombuchas were in 1995 or so, mostly in kind of the granola co-ops,” he notes. “I’d say where we are on the kombucha curve is that it’s really just starting. When you look at [kombucha] in the context of the overall beverage market, it’s really very tiny. So there’s really nowhere to go but up.”

Rethinking Soda
Artisanal sodas more challenging to the palate than traditional CSDs also made a strong showing at the NASFT event. Portland, Ore.-based HotLips Soda—which won a BW BevStar Award last year for its carbonated cranberry beverage—spotlighted a new flavor among its expanding line of offerings: Marionberry. Says HotLips’ co-owner David Yudkin. “It’s whole fruit crushed, we get rid of the seeds and just put a little bit of cane sugar, organic lemon juice in glass bottles.”

One could argue that the Minneapolis-based brand Joia takes a further step into the nontraditional. With flavors like Lime, Hibiscus & Clove; Grapefruit, Chamomile & Cardamom (its most popular), Pineapple, Coconut & Nutmeg and Blackberry, Pomegranate & Ginger (with a bit of elderflower), the company really strives to redefine what consumers conventionally think of as soda. It recently added to its line with Ginger, Apricot & Allspice and Orange, Jasmine & Nutmeg. “In other food categories, you’re seeing a lot of interesting combinations, more complex flavors, the incursion of fruits and herbs and spices—herbs and spices particularly into things like ice cream and confections,” explains Joia All Natural Soda co-founder Bob Safford. “And now we’ve done it with soda...and created these little-bit-more adult-oriented, more complex, much more distinct flavor profiles than we’ve ever seen in soda before.”

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