By Ray Latif
What a difference a year makes.
Yes, most of the big beverage players were present at the 2013 NACS (National Association of Convenience Stores) Show; The Coca-Cola Co., PepsiCo, Dr Pepper Snapple, Red Bull and Monster Energy all featured the usual mega booths that attendees are used to seeing at the event. But unlike years past, the NACS show in Atlanta was notable for what it was missing: many of the natural and functional brands that we saw in 2012. Where was the dynamic innovation in ingredients and formulation represented last year by coconut water brands, Hain Celestial, even NACS constants like Rockstar Energy and AriZona Beverages?
“I think it’s just a sign of the times,” said BevNET CEO John Craven. “At this point, this isn’t a show where people are really launching new products. That happens probably more in the natural channel than it does in convenience nowadays. That’s part of it, otherwise we’re seeing tons of ‘more of the same.’”
More of the same meant line extensions, packaging updates and reworked brand approaches in stalwart convenience categories like energy and CSDs, all of which were quite easy to find at the show. And in place of groundbreaking innovation, it was clear that the astounding growth of Sparkling ICE had the biggest impact on new product introductions and launches at the event. NACS attendees saw a veritable deluge of new similarly-positioned zero-calorie carbonated drinks, including several packaged in the same 17 oz. bottle as the Talking Rain-owned brand. With names like “Sparkling Fruit2O,” and “Sparkling Frost,” it’s clear that many of these beverage companies are attempting to pull from the same consumer base that Sparkling ICE has rapidly cultivated.
In this video, Craven and BevNET Managing Editor Ray Latif offer their take on the new wave of Sparkling ICE-style brands as well as some major revamps and relaunches that could be seen at NACS, including new initiatives by Vitaminwater, SK Energy and Neuro. They also take a look at Coke’s continued foray into liquid water enhancers, and new packages for the brand, including a cold-activated 16 oz. can. Finally, Craven and Latif note a couple of the more eye-opening product launches at NACS, which, as might be expected, came from non-CSD/energy brands.