New Age still the rage in beverages

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Restaurants and retail might be turning to indulgent foods, but good-for-you functional drinks are once again the toast of the beverage category. At the Food Marketing Institute's annual convention last week, three main brands, South Beach Beverage Co.'s SoBe, and Triarc Beverage Co.'s Snapple and Mistic all charged further into functional beverages with a spate of line extensions, while other tea and fruit drink makers rolled out their own New Age lines.

Growth in the New Age segment, now commanding $350 million in wholesale sales, reflects the still-expanding alternative health craze. "This is a way of feeling good about what you put into your body, an easy way to health," said Michael Bellos, CEO of consultancy Beverage Marketing Corp. "The question is how broad-based it will get. We're watching it."

The company projects the segment will grow to $600 million in wholesale dollars by 2004.

DECAF POSITIONING

While most of the new drinks tout some form of herbal buzz, Arizona Beverage Co. set itself apart by decaffeinating its new tea-based Rx Herbal Elixirs line. Spiked with vitamins and herbs including kava kava, gingko biloba and schisandra, the single-serve tonics are named for their benefits: Stress Relief, Memory Mind, Energy Body and Health Immune.

While remaining true to its tea roots, the line's exotic tropical and citrus ingredients boost the fruit flavor in the Memory and Energy teas. Labels on the new Ferolito Vultaggio & Sons product sport a white cross on the barrel-shaped bottles, an Rx symbol and the line "a safe and certain tonic." Bart Vinza, VP-national accounts emphasized that, "We make no claims at all for health benefits."

The tonics are supported solely with grassroots efforts such as the Web site, as well as outdoor ads handled in-house, that shout "Stressed out? Mind blown? Played out? Need a boost? Fughettaboudit!" A power-focused line extension is also in development.

New Age beverage category leader South Beach Beverage Co., meanwhile, unveiled supplement-rich Tsunami orange cream brew under its Lizard line and Lean Peach Tea as part of its Lean line relaunch. Fortified with taurine, guarana and zinc, along with vitamins A, B-complex, C, and E for increased energy and immunity, Tsunami is the first of what's planned to be two annual new-product launches for the dairy-based Lizard line. The label art features a lizard on a surfboard and like other drinks in the line ties back to an alternative sports athlete. For Tsunami, the company has signed surfer Laird Hamilton as a member of Team Lizard.

The Lean Peach Tea is made with three metabolic enhancers to suppress the appetite and burn fat. The peach flavor is sweetened with sucralose and Ace K, as are other flavors in the original launch, now reformulated with sucralose instead of aspartame.

SIGNING ON DALY

Signaling an attempt to broaden its appeal to a wider audience, SoBe recently signed professional golfer John Daly as spokesman. "He's definitely irreverent, not your typical golfer and we'd like to get him drinking more SoBe," said Mr. Bishop, who noted Mr. Daly has some of the largest spectator galleries next to Tiger Woods. "He's going to touch a whole other consumer base for us."

His relationship with golf courses won't hurt either, according to Mr. Bishop, who added that those venues would make a nice distribution channel.

SoBe's new products will be included in the brand's $9 million radio ad blitz, handled by Performance Media, Wilton, Conn., and an accompanying tour of its "SoBe Lizard Love Buses." South Beach, which recently agreed to a purchase by equity investor J.W. Childs Associates, has a total $15 million marketing budget, double that of last year.

Continuing its growth in New Age beverages, Snapple also added two new flavors to its Elements line -- Altitude and Sky, to complement Meteor and Gravity introduced earlier in the year. The brands will be part a grassroots marketing campaign from Deutsch, New York (AA, May 8).

Snapple sibling company Mistic Brands is trying to position its new Zotics drink as simultaneously healthy and pampering. The vitamin-packed Zotics ties each flavor with factoids specific to a country, equating drinking the beverages with spa-like getaways.

UNIQUE APPROACH

Using the tagline "Taste the world," the line includes five exotic fruit drinks and one premium green tea. The Zotics launch will be supported with a 20-city mobile marketing tour; outdoor and radio ads; an under-the-cap promotion; in-store merchandising; and a 20-market radio campaign, all via D-Rush, New York, starting in late May.

"Lots of products have nutraceutical benefits but we wanted something unique and different," said Whit Beebe, director of creative services. "We wanted to have a mysterious atmosphere and be vitamin-enhanced."

The grippable, three-sided Zotics bottle has different labels for each side, prominently displaying the name and a symbol for the country each flavor represents. Yuzu Fruit is an orange flavor popular in Japan; Acerola Berry is a native fruit of Barbados; Pitaya Fruit flowers at night in Brazil; Mangosteen Fruit is considered the "queen" of fruits in Thailand; and Ginseng Green Tea represents Tibet.

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