A question of taste: Developing the 'adult' soft drink

By Neil Merrett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Soft drinks Alcoholic beverage

As beverage groups increasingly look to launch soft drinks that can shake their often child orientated image, analysts suggest that premiumisation, packaging and health claims will be key factors in meeting this demand.

However, in the second part of an article looking at opportunities for so-called sophisticated soft drinks, one company believes that taste, above all else, will be the key driver factor in differentiating its product.

Tim Dewey, chief executive officer of the Juice Brewery, which manufacturers a natural drink combining fruit, barley and hops, says that health and functionality had not been the foremost concern in developing its branded beverage, the Hopper.

Speaking to BeverageDaily.com, Dewey said that while Hoppers were suitable for children to consume, they had been devised foremost as an attempt to offer a unique tasting product specifically for adults, more than a functional product.

“We have not-so-much concentrated on health, consciously focusing instead on designing the taste and appearance of the drink, which looks like it has a [beer] head,”​ he stated.

Fruit boom

Juices and fruit-based soft drinks have seen a boon in recent years amidst demand for beverages that claim to offer health or other nutrition benefits.

In Western Europe alone, consumers have increasingly turned to juices, smoothies and nectars in their hunt for a more convenient health kick pushing sales of the products up by 1.6 per cent to €23 billion in 2007, according to market analyst Zenith International.

However, the Juice Brewery says it is keen to target specific taste demands of adult consumers. Any specific functionality or health benefits have therefore occurred more as an after thought from formulation benefits such as using fruit in the range, said the com[any.

“In the back of our minds, we have made a natural drink, though any potential health benefits are more to do with cutting down on alcohol,”​ stated Dewey.

In targeting a more specific target market such as adult consumers, Dewey said that the company had initially delayed the initial launch of the Hopper for straying to near to what it considered to be fruity soft drinks.

“We made changes to the product just two weeks before launch to focus on the brewed aspect of our drink,”​ he stated. Dewey said that the company had been particularly wary of making the product too sweet back for its launch trial at markets back in September.

Marketing issues

Looking beyond functionality and taste aspects of product formulation, Dewey said that marketing was another very important issue in trying to push adult-focused alternatives to existing soft drinks and alcoholic brands.

With soft drinks such as the Hopper having to directly compete against alcoholic beverages as well as traditional soft drinks, market positioning was an area for careful consideration, especially considering products like alcohol free beer.

“The problem alcohol-free beer is that to some consumers it has the negative image of being a product with something missing (alcohol),”​ said Dewey. “[The Hopper] has never had alcohol in it and was always intended to be as you buy it.”

In attempting to convey this message to consumers though, the Juice Brewery said it has to be careful not to come across as a brewed product without alcohol as opposed to a unique alternative to existing drinks in shops and bars.

Despite these development challenges the Juice Brewery has not been the only soft drink maker attempting to cater for adult tastes with an increasing number of beverages being released in the segment over the last two years.

According to the research group Mintel, these launches have strongly focused on innovation in the packaging and functional benefits being offered.

These have included product like enhanced waters such as Well's Vitamin, a brand of drinks containing added vitamins and minerals as well as having low levels of fructose and no grape sugar or artificial sweeteners.

Mintel also pointed to the US-based Rising Beverage Company and its Activate brand of functional drinks as another example of targeting adult consumers.

“Every Activate drink is equipped with a cap that stores vitamin and mineral powder in a moisture-resistant chamber,”​ stated the analyst in a report. “Once the cap is twisted, a plastic blade cuts the seal to release these ingredients into the simplistic and chic-looking water bottle.”

Even fairly traditional favourites like lemonade have been rebranded and designed with special packaging in efforts to attract a more mature clientele.

The analyst used the example of drink maker Sunnyland’s Parasol brand of lemonade, which was relaunched in 2007 with a glass bottle and rubber stopper. The packaging also came with a free glass, said Mintel.

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