Want more-healthful drinks? Marketers have 'em lined up

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Judging by the myriad kid-friendly drinks showcased at the Food Marketing Institute's convention last week, marketers had long been preparing for the industry's agreement to limit school-vended beverages to waters, juices and milk.

Coca-Cola Co., PepsiCo and Cadbury Schweppes promoted waters, juices and fruit drinks as well as classic fizzy drinks. But the real innovations came from smaller marketers like Bravo Foods, which added Cocoa Puffs, Trix and Wheaties co-branded shelf-stable milk drinks to its Slammers line aimed at elementary-school-age children. A protein-enhanced version called Pro Slammers is geared to boys ages 12 to 16 and Masterfoods-licensed Starburst Slammers are aimed at high-school students.

At least two marketers capitalized on the growing concerns of parents over sugary, flavored water brands with offerings boasting less or no sugar, and added vitamins and minerals. Private-label water bottler Advanced H2O promoted its Crayola-branded Color Coolerz purified water drinks with "natural flavors." Sold in eight-packs of crayon-inspired bottles at $2.99 retail, the brand boasts zero calories, sodium or caffeine and some vitamins.

"We found moms want their kids to drink more water," said Scott Pearson, exec VP of the Bellvue, Wash.-based company, noting he's having early discussions with school systems in the Northwest.

Wild Waters has its own kid-friendly water with six flavors from Kickin' Green Apple to Rockin' Red Cherry touted as having half the calories and sugar of fruit drinks, "natural flavors" and seven vitamins and minerals. Kids "really want Red Bull or Sobe, but moms like this," said Ed Newman, president. "It's a nice compromise."

Perhaps the most creative new product was the Sipahh, a straw filled with flavored starch pellets that add flavor to milk as it passes through. Marketed by Australian-based Unistraw, reps at the FMI show said the pellets, made of sugar, starch and flavorings, contribute just 14 calories per straw and "wake up milk." In typical trade-show hype, reps touted the straws as being able to deliver vitamins or even pharmaceuticals in future uses.
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