Smart beverage buyers have to keep current, but a crystal ball wouldn’t hurt.
Here we’ve distilled the huge number of new products coming to market into three basic trends: good-for-you beverages, the green and organic movement and the latest hot flavors.
Plus is a must
Just about every kind of beverage is available in versions enhanced with vitamins, nutrients or exotic herbs. Soft drink giant Coca Cola is reportedly funding research into traditional Chinese medicinal herbs with an eye toward creating new functional beverages beyond its stable of products like Full Throttle, Coke Blak and Enviga.
Back in beer country, Madison, Wisconsin-based BluCreek Brewing has cooked up Herbal Ale. The honey-flavored beer is hopped up with ginseng, gingko biloba and guarana. And the brewery’s Zen IPA is steeped with that natural antioxidant, green tea.Red Bull started it all. Bartenders blended the popular energy drink with alcohol to produce cocktails that provided the effects of both. It wasn’t long before producers thought to combine the two ideas in one bottle. Perhaps the most successful of this new category is p.i.n.k. vodka. Produced in Holland, it’s spiked with caffeine and guarana then packaged in a frosted pink bottle that stands out on the back bar. On the other end of the functional spectrum, San Francisco-based Delicious Brands has just released White Lotus Vodka enhanced with B and C vitamins—to help combat hangovers.
Quinoa (pronounced keen-wa), revered by the ancient Incas as the “mother of all grains” for its high protein and fiber content, is now the base for a healthy new beverage, Quinoa Gold. It comes in three flavors: Piña Colada, Berry and Mango, all of which are 100 percent organic and gluten-free. The fruity shake-like drinks are available in RTD single-serving containers.
Color it green
In beverages, the “green revolution” is led by coffee. According to an Organic Trade Association report, the U.S. organic coffee market grew 24 percent last year, thanks to increasing consumer interest in the sector in general and organic coffee in particular, as well as wider availability and high quality. Among the many examples is New York-based Dallis Coffee, which offers single-origin beans, like its Costa Rica Juan Viñas Estate and Nicaraguan Estate Vienna. This importer/roaster not only selects fine beans, it develops fair-trade relationships with growers.
New Belgium Brewing Company is a leader in energy efficiency and environmental concerns. Housed in a certified LEED-EB green building, the brewery is powered by wind energy, practices water conservation and recycles in a number of ways, including reusing heat from the brewing process and turning spent grain into animal feed. Although justly famous for Fat Tire Ale, New Belgium has just released the seasonal brew 2 Degrees Below. With a warming 6.6 percent alcohol, bolstered by Sterling and Liberty hops, it’s a cheery winter ale.
Flavors to savor
- “Sweet heat”—fruit paired with hot spices—is igniting the beverage industry. Monin’s latest beverage syrup additions exemplify this trend with flavors like Chipotle Pineapple and Spicy Mango; both marry sweet tropical fruits with hot chilies and pure cane sugar. The former has smoky notes from chipotles, while the latter generates heat from serrano peppers. Monin offers recipes for cocktails, teas, lemonades and sodas using the new syrups.
- Agave syrup, or nectar, is a sweetener made from the same plant used to make tequila and mescal. It’s sweeter than honey but is less viscous and has vanilla accents. It’s now a trendy cocktail ingredient, featured in drinks like the Agave Nectar Margarita ($15) served at Silverleaf Tavern in New York. Sugar Land, Texas-based Wholesome Sweeteners offers Organic Raw Blue Agave Syrup in both light and dark forms in squeeze bottles.
- Vodka producers have been working overtime to create new flavors. Pomegranate has been the “it” choice for awhile, but what’s next? At least one producer is betting on lychee, the Asian fruit. Hawaii-based Kai Vodka just introduced what it calls the world’s first Lychee Flavored Vodka, with the fruit’s hints of rose, sweet spice and honey.
- New from Australia is the unique flavor of wattleseeds. A long-time staple food of the Aborigines, the roasted seeds evoke a rich flavor reminiscent of coffee, chocolate and hazelnuts. Now Americans can taste this new sensation: Sydney-based Barons Brewing exports its Wattle Seed Ale—a full-flavored malty beer with notes of roasted nuts, coffee and chocolate.