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Beverage Innovation at this years NRA Show
The National Restaurant Association Show (May 18-21, 2013 in Chicago) showcased a handful of innovations in terms of beverages. The overall theme this year was a shift toward better-for-you beverages. This spanned from Aloe Vera juices and fresh squeezed orange juice vending machines to sparkling and natural sodas. Many of the beverages featured at the show are pre-packaged and ready-to-drink, which can appeal to on-the-go consumers at restaurants who are looking for grab-and-go options that can be resealed. These options are increasingly being found in places like coffee shops and fast casual restaurants.
Aloe Vera Juice
There were a handful of beverage manufacturers featuring Aloe Vera fruit juices that combined aloe pulp and juice together. The juice flavors were light and crisp, more similar to flavored water, and contained bits of Aloe Vera pulp which gives consumers a refreshing feel. Positioned as better-for-you, functional beverages, many of these drinks are low in calories. ALO Drink, an all-natural Aloe Vera juice brand, offers nine varieties, with names like Awaken and Enrich; each with different health benefits and nutritional content depending on ingredients. Aloe Vera King, another brand, has an extensive line, including vegetable drinks, teas, and yogurt beverages that are aloe-based, showcasing this ingredient’s diversity—it works well in many types of drinks.
Orange Juice Machines
A few manufacturers showcased juicing machines ranging in size from tabletop applications to large vending machines. Orangfresh, an Italian-based company, sells its vending machines primarily in Europe, but hopes to branch out into the United States within the next few years. Their machines can be pre-loaded with either oranges or apples, with each load serving approximately 70 glasses of juice. The machine will dispense a cup and then slice and juice whole pieces of fruit, creating a fresh, all-natural beverage. With consumers becoming increasingly concerned with additives and other ingredients in beverages, this type of machine allows consumers to see their drink being made from scratch. However, with the seasonality of fruit, there may be obstacles in terms of consistencty of taste.
Sparkling Sodas and Ginger Ales
As consumers become more health-conscious, they are increasing their awareness of artificial sweeteners, additives, and other chemicals in their beverages. There is a general trend toward more natural beverages, even if it is mainstream options with natural flavors or real sugar. Spindrift combines fresh fruit with sparkling water and cane juice to create a new kind of natural soda. These sodas are available in grapefruit, blackberry, orange mango, lemonade, half and half, and cranberry raspberry with the amount of fruit contained in each bottled featured on the label. For instance, the cranberry raspberry flavor is made with 16 raspberries, 9 cranberries, and fresh squeezed lemon juice. The company also sells low-calorie, flavored seltzer water as a no-sugar added alternative.
In terms of craft sodas, there were a lot of ginger ales featured at the show by many manufacturers. The rise in ginger ale can be attributed to many health claims related to ginger, such as its ability to improve digestion, cure motion and morning sickness, lower cholesterol, decrease cancer risk, and help arthritis. Reed’s Ginger Brews, sold in gourmet and natural food stores, carries six varieties of craft ginger ale including raspberry, cherry, and spiced apple, showing how a manufacturer can take one type of beverage flavor and expand it into its own line using fruit flavors as a way to innovate. Experimenting with flavor combinations like peach-mango may be an option to fuel further growth within this segment.
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