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Soda manufacturers focus on new tastes

With sales of traditional soda pop flat, the beverage giants are bringing more alternative soft drinks to market. Many of these “new-age” beverages promise more than quenching thirst; they offer extra energy, essential vitamins and more “cachet.” The biggest challenge in purchasing carbonated soft drinks (CSDs) is the wealth of choices. Over the past few years, CSD leaders Coke, Pepsi and Cadbury Schweppes have been acquiring new brands in a range of categories. Coca-Cola markets Fruitopia, Odwalla, Powerade, Dasani, Nestea and Vault, among others.

With sales of traditional soda pop flat, the beverage giants are bringing more alternative soft drinks to market. Many of these “new-age” beverages promise more than quenching thirst; they offer extra energy, essential vitamins and more “cachet.” The biggest challenge in purchasing carbonated soft drinks (CSDs) is the wealth of choices.

Over the past few years, CSD leaders Coke, Pepsi and Cadbury Schweppes have been acquiring new brands in a range of categories. Coca-Cola markets Fruitopia, Odwalla, Powerade, Dasani, Nestea and Vault, among others. Coke, whose most recent acquisitions were alt-bev pioneer Fuze and Mexican juice company Jugos del Valle, also plans to sell bottled coffee under an agreement with Caribou Coffee. Pepsi’s lineup includes SoBe, Gatorade, Propel and Aquafina. Cadbury Schweppes owns Mott and Snapple. And both Coca-Cola and PepsiCo recently announced plans to introduce “healthy sodas” fortified with vitamins and minerals: Diet Coke Plus and Pepsi’s Tava.

Just as Coke and Pepsi are diversifying their portfolios, you, too, should broaden your mix. The fact that big bottlers are getting in on alternatives helps—you can buy many of these beverages from your regular CSD distributor. But don’t think you can just add another dispenser head to your fountain—virtually all these new wave beverages come in bottles or cans. Some of the fancier drinks are in glass bottles rather than plastic, which means greater case weights and the possibility of breakage. You might also need to swap out cooler inserts because container sizes and shapes vary wildly.

Sparkling Stars

More and more people are getting away from standard sodas and all that carbonation,” says Spiro Baltas, CEO of Starwich Salads and Sandwiches. The New York-based, eight-unit upscale sandwich chain does carry a few of those standards—Coke, Diet Coke and Sprite. But most customers ordering Starwich scratch-made
signatures like the Roast Turkey and Camembert Sandwich or a Citrus Duck Salad, are looking for something different when it comes to beverages, too.

“We sell a lot more bottled water and juices than anything else,” says Baltas, citing natural juices like Naked and Odwalla. Also very popular are Starwich’s housemade sparkling lemonades and iced teas. The drinks are made to order from fresh fruit and the lemonades are spritzed with just a touch of carbonation. Flavors, which change regularly, include cranberry-lemonade and pomegranate and blood orange iced teas—all promoted via in-house marketing.

Starwich’s freshly made drinks are not just about image, but about what consumers are looking for nowadays, says Baltas. He doesn’t know if they are more or less profitable than canned sodas, but “they are a better option for our customer.”

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