Opening the tap on water innovation
The desire for less sugar and fewer calories continues to fuel innovation with the original better-for-you beverage: water. Because ordinary bottled water may get boring after a while, beverage manufacturers are introducing a new generation of sparkling waters — formerly known as soda water — with added flavors, with or without a touch of sweetness.
“The healthy lifestyle mantra to ‘eat less sugar, drink less soda’ has taken root and bottled water is benefitting from the trickledown effect of this increased sugar and soda avoidance,” said David Sprinkle, research director for market research firm Packaged Facts, Rockville, Md. “Don’t be surprised to see a greater influx of flavored, sparkling and even caffeinated water.”
Coconut water, which contains natural electrolytes and typically possess a fresh, slightly sweet taste, is the most popular of the plant waters. It is now starting to make its way into blended beverages as well as adult-only drinks.
For example, Zico Beverages L.L.C., El Segundo, Calif., markets Zico Chilled Juice Blends, which marries Zico-brand coconut water with fruit juice. Flavors include orange, pineapple, pineapple mango, strawberry banana and watermelon raspberry.
Vasinee Food Corp, Brooklyn, N.Y., has a similar line of fruit juice-flavored coconut waters. Foco 100% Pure Coconut Water starts with coconut water sourced from young green coconuts grown in Southeast Asia. There is an original variety, as well as lychee, mango, pineapple, pink guava and pomegranate. These drinks undergo ultra-high temperature pasteurization to ensure freshness and shelf stability.
Healthy Beverages L.L.C., Auburndale, Fla., has developed CoCo Cocktail, an electrolyte-charged premium craft malt beverage (5.5% alcohol by volume) containing 70% coconut water. Each 12-oz can contains 130 calories and 7 grams of carbohydrates. It is a good source of vitamins A, C, D, E, B1 and B6, and provides 177 mg of potassium, a nutrient of concern in Americans’ diets.
While coconut water continues to evolve, other plant waters are finding their way to store shelves. Some examples include waters based on artichoke, birch, cactus, maple and watermelon, each with their own unique contributions to health-and-wellness plans.
True Me Brands, Scottsdale, Ariz., offers Truenopal Cactus Water, which is based on the juice from the prickly pear cactus, a plant rich in bioflavonoid antioxidants known for its ability to fight inflammation. Low in sugar, Truenopal is said to hydrate at the same time it stabilizes blood sugar.
Maple water is starting to appear in mainstream markets. Typically sourced from the maple tree-dense regions of Canada and the Northeastern U.S., maple water comes directly from the trees, which naturally filter, sweeten and fortify the water with nutrients.
One example is Drinkmaple from the namesake company located in Concord, Mass. With only a subtle hint of maple flavor, Drinkmaple contains 46 naturally occurring vitamins, minerals, polyphenols, antioxidants and prebiotics, according to the company.
Another product comes from New York-based Vertical Water, which markets a namesake beverage. The company explains that the water flows vertically through the maple tree’s trunk and branches, and the company taps this flow, without harming the tree.
Some recent water innovations are simply water with other enhancements. For example, Sonoma, Calif.-based vintner Don Sebastiani & Sons has entered the health-and-wellness beverage sector with the rollout of Aqua organic flavored sparkling water. Clear bottles showcase the locally-sourced water packed with big aromas and flavors with traceable, organic ingredients. Each 12-oz bottle delivers 45 mg of caffeine sourced from organic green coffee and 20 calories.
Aqua Java is enhanced with organic coffee and has a dark Italian roast flavor with an earthy aftertaste. Aqua Kola contains a boost of organic kola nut, which provides aromas of citrus with the sweet flavor of orange blossom. Aqua Mocha has caramel aromas with hints of dark chocolate from the addition of organic cacao beans. All three varieties are sweetened with a combination of organic erythritol and organic cane sugar to keep calories low.
Children have their own better-for-you beverages. Wonder + Well, New York, is rolling out unsweetened still water enhanced with just a dash of organic natural flavors. It is available in three flavors — peach, strawberry and watermelon — in 6.75-oz aseptic drink boxes.
For children who like bubbles, Tickle Water is simply carbonated water and natural flavors. “Fizz for kidz,” is the product’s tagline. The zero-calorie drinks come in cola, green apple and watermelon flavors, as well as an unflavored option. The 8-oz cans are designed to fit in children’s hands.
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Plant-based beverages an option
Value-added fruit and vegetable juices, as well as nut milks continue to drive innovation in the health-and-wellness market. With some products, the two come together.
For example, NuMoo Foods, New York, makes certified organic and Non-GMO Project verified nut milks using a proprietary milling technique that uses the entire nut and creates zero waste. One offering is strawberry pecan nut milk, which is made from organic strawberries and cold-pressed pecan milk. Other flavors include chocolate almond, cold-brew cashew latte and dark chocolate pistachio.
Tropicana Products Inc., Bradenton, Fla., a division of PepsiCo Inc., Purchase, N.Y., is moving into the health-and-wellness space with the introduction of Tropicana Essentials Probiotics, a new 100% juice with good-for-the-gut probiotic cultures. Each serving delivers one billion live and active cultures and no added sugar, preservatives or artificial flavors. Varieties are peach passionfruit, pineapple mango and strawberry banana.
“We are thrilled to be the first to bring probiotics more commonly seen in yogurts, supplements and kombuchas to the mainstream juice aisle,” said Björn Bernemann, vice-president and general manager for Tropicana North America. “As a heritage brand rooted in innovation, Tropicana is dedicated to launching significant innovation within the rapidly evolving health and wellness space.”
Rebbl Inc., Berkeley, Calif., is introducing dark chocolate protein and vanilla spice protein drinks made with a proprietary plant-protein blend of sunflower, pea and pumpkin along with coconut milk. The drinks are further fueled by a blend of purported medicinal herbs. The protein drinks join the super herb elixir line, which include ashwagandha chai, matcha latte and reishi chocolate. They are said to assist with destressing and reenergizing.
Irvine, Calif.-based Orgain Inc. offers protein beverages to meet all protein preferences. Its Kids Protein Organic Nutritional Shake is made with a proprietary organic protein blend of grass-fed milk protein concentrate and whey protein concentrate. There are also a number of plant-based protein beverages for adults, as well as combination protein beverages.
For example, new Organic Cold Brew Coffee + Protein comes in iced coffee and iced mocha varieties and is made with protein from grass-fed milk protein concentrate and rice bran extract. Each 11.5-oz bottle contains 5 grams of fat and 10 grams of protein. There is also only 1 gram of sugar, as the product is sweetened by erythritol and stevia.
Orgain also is rolling out Grass Fed Protein nutritional protein shake. Each 11-oz shelf-stable drink box contains 20 grams of protein from 100% New Zealand-sourced grass-fed milk protein concentrate. The company said that grass-fed milk is 62% higher in omega-3 fatty acids, as compared to grain-fed milk, and contains up to five-times more conjugated linoleic acid. The new beverage comes in chocolate fudge and vanilla bean flavors.
Another health-and-wellness beverage segment to take note of is drinking vinegar, also known as shrubs. These are vinegars combined with sweetener. The resulting syrup may be blended with water — carbonated or still — as well as juice or even spirits. Some beverage manufacturers are doing the blending and bottling product as a ready-to-drink vinegar.
The consumption of vinegar as a medicinal and cosmetic elixir may be traced back thousands of years to the Greeks and Romans. Claims to fame include improved digestion and cured acid reflux. Apple cider vinegar is the most well-known, likely because of its palatable flavor profile, as compared to other vinegars. However, as today’s health-and-wellness-seeking consumer embraces better-for-you beverages, other fruit vinegars are being explored, often in combination with other ingredients.
Suja Juice Co., which The Coca-Cola Co., Atlanta, acquired a minority stake in one year ago, has started blending its cold-pressed high-pressure processed organic fruit and vegetable juices with organic apple cider vinegar. Each bottle contains more than four billion colony-forming-units of live vegan probiotics, which have been shown to support gut and immune health, according to the company. The fermented and unfiltered drinking vinegars contain 20 to 30 calories and 3 to 6 grams of naturally occurring sugar per 13.5-oz bottle, offering a light sweetness with no added concentrates or extracts.
Austin, Texas-based Live Beverages is entering the category with Live Sparkling Drinking Vinegars. Each 12-oz bottle contains two tablespoons of the company’s proprietary blend of apple cider and coconut vinegars. Flavors are: blueberry and ginger, Concord grape, pomegranate and elderberry, and tart cherry.
The company explains that drinking vinegars are a refreshing toast to a balanced, happy gut.