The Summer Fancy Food Show returned to New York City last month after two consecutive years in the nation’s capital (thanks to some now-complete renovations at New York’s Jacob Javits Center) and the brief time away seems to have agreed with the show. The multi-level event was pulsating with wall-to-wall activity and, as host organization the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade (NASFT) reports, the 2013 edition broke previous records in exhibit space and attendance. The show drew 24,100 retail and restaurant buyers and 1,500 exhibitors covering 354,00 square feet of exhibit space. Only a fraction of that was beverage, of course, but among those liquid products on display there was no shortage of innovation—including some brands that had just launched that month. Most of those fell into the health and functional segments, but there was plenty of room for indulgence as well. Here are eight themes that emerged among the drinkable offerings.
As the name suggests, oats work in a beverage.
While soluble-fiber-based drinks are becoming a segment unto themselves, it’s only recently that companies have started deriving that fiber from oats.
“We sort of saw this resurgence in the popularity of oatmeal—Starbucks introduced it a few years back and it’s been their biggest-selling non-beverage item,” says David Peters, CEO of Oatworks (pictured, left), which offers a line of oat-based drinks available in Strawberry Banana, Peach Mango and Pomegranate Blueberry flavors. After nearly two years of development, Oatworks products finally launched in June.
“A lot of people know about the benefits of oats, but they don’t necessarily like the taste of it; they don’t like the texture,” Peters notes. “They think it’s going to be lumpy and not so good.”
Consumers might be surprised to find that Oatworks is completely lump-free, with more of a bottled smoothie-type consistency. “
Each 12-ounce PET bottle contains the benefits of two bowls of oatmeal, Peters reveals.
“It’ll help lower cholesterol; it will give you that feeling of satiety you get when you’re eating oatmeal and it also keeps you energized and sustained longer because the energy is released in a sustained fashion.”
Tart cherries are quite versatile.
In addition to Cheribundi’s line of functional juices based on the tart cherry—original Cherry Juice, reduced-calorie Cherry Juice Light, whey protein enhanced Cherry Rebuild, electrolyte replenishing Cherry Restore and melatonin and L-Theanine-infused Cherry Relax—the brand has launched the Fruit Refresh and Tea Refresh Lines. The Fruit Refresh line blends the tart cherry with fruits like blueberry, lemonade, raspberry, pomegranate and cranberry, while the Tea Refresh blends the base fruit with black, grean, jasmine and rooibos teas.
“Most people drink [Cheribundi] because it’s beneficial,” says Cheribundi’s public relations and social networking manager Garian Vigil. “It’s beneficial for people with arthritis and gout and athletes drink it because it’s a natural anti-inflammatory.”
The battle against aging rages on.
Among the many products showcased by importer Brands Within Reach (BWR), was its own in-house brand, Yoüthy, which, as its name suggests, contains ingredients with purported anti-aging benefits. The prickly pear juice has a strong concentration of grape seed extract and resveratrol.
Studies have linked grape seed extract to various cardiovascular benefits. Others have pointed to anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic benefits of resveratrol.
“Each bottle has 90 milligrams of grape seed extract and resveratrol, which is the equivalent resveratrol content of 60 glasses of wine,” says BWR founder Olivier Sannois.
The beer category doesn’t have a complete monopoly on the term “microbrewery.”
Ready-to-drink tea brand Dr. B’s is actually following the market trajectory of craft breweries.
“I love micro-brewed beers and if I go into a store or bar, I’ll go in that direction before I go to a Budweiser or a Miller,” says company founder Kenneth Banks, the company’s namesake “Dr. B,” a dentist. “I wanted to take that same concept of micro-brewed beer into the tea world, as I also love tea.”
He chose rooibos as the tea base because it’s naturally caffeine free. And, he wanted a sweetened beverage, but, given his line of work, that presented a bit of a challenge.
He found his solution in birchwood xylitol, a zero-calorie sweetener derived from birchwood trees in Maine. It’s known for its supposed dental health properties. The company does all of its production and packing in-house; it doesn’t use co-packers. Dr. B’s is largely self-distributed in the Mid-Atlantic region.
The world doesn’t need another business book—unless it’s a comic book!
Honest Tea co-founder and TeaEO Seth Goldman used the opportunity to promote “Mission in a Bottle: The Honest Guide to Doing Business Differently—and Succeeding,” which he co-authored with co-founder Barry Nalebuff. But what sets it apart from the tens of thousands of other business and entrepreneurship books on the market is that it was written and illustrated in graphic novel format.
“I’ve read so many green business books and they all get kind of preachy and repetitive and frankly they aren’t that interesting,” says Goldman. “You’ve got to find a way to make the story inspiring and engaging, so [we thought] let’s try to make a green business story into a comic book.”
Nalebuff, Goldman notes, was open to the idea.
“He’s an economics professor and he’s seen his share and the world doesn’t need another business book.”
The two enlisted illustrator Sungyoon Choi to do the artwork. The book goes on sale Sept. 3.
It’s actually okay for kombucha to have a little bit of alcohol in it again.
Speaking of Barry Nalebuff, he’s a partner in a new venture called Kombrewcha, a kombucha drink that gets back to its roots and retains its 2 percent alcohol content.
Lindsay Lohan’s shenanigans a few years back put an unfair media spotlight on kombucha and many brands removed the trace amounts of alcohol. “A lot of the companies reformulated the kombucha to take out the alcohol, so it’s a bit more sour, and some of them pasteurize it so you don’t get the probiotic content,” explains CEO Ariel Glazer.
“We’re just bringing back the kombucha people know and love. It has 2 percent alcohol and actually half the calories of light beer.”
And because of that content, Kombrewcha is going to retail through a network of beer distributors. In addition to the usual natural channels, it’s also being sold in bars and hotels and is available both bottled and on draught.
Hot chocolate can be shelf stable and doesn’t even need to be hot.
New York-based The City Bakery has made its famous hot chocolate available in ready-to-drink form. “The concept is to take it outside New York and sell it all over the country,” says Maury Rubin, chef and CEO of The City Bakery. “It can be enjoyed hot or cold. The idea is you pour it out of the package, microwave it or stove top it and you’ve got hot chocolate.
Keep it in the package and put it in the fridge or freezer for 15 minutes and what you’ve got is a luxurious chocolate milk.” Packed in shelf-stable Tetra Pak containers, The City Baker Hot Chocolate is available in dark and milk varieties.
Marketing vitamin content doesn’t have to be boring.
Activate Drinks saw last month’s show—as well the Food Fete, a new product showcase that ran on the evening of the second day of the Fancy Food Show—as the perfect forum at which it could get on its soapbox about an underreported societal scourage: vitamin cruelty. In all seriousness, “Stop Vitamin Cruelty” is the theme of its newest PSA-inspired ad campaign and the company, known for its fresh twist cap technology, unveiled a 30-second digital spot humorously exposing vitamin characters slowly deteriorating in water—complete with very sad piano accompaniment. A title card reads “Vitamin A, B5, B12 & C deteriorate sitting in water,” followed by another that reads, “Keep vitamins fresh in the cap. We do.” The spot gets decidedly more upbeat as the funereal piano morphs into rousing club music with dancing vitamins.