The soft drinks industry is driven by new product development. What used to be called premium or adult soft drinks has evolved into all manner of niche categories with a specific consumer in mind. SDI reports on new products, marketing initiatives and ingredients which offer functional solutions for both men and women.

Who would have predicted ten years ago that there would be a soft drink specifically for women suffering from pre-menstrual syndrome? This latest product PMS Escape, launched by the US-based Bay Back Scientific, contains a proprietary blend of carbohydrates and other nutrients designed for women to alleviate the symptoms of PMS. It is said that PMS Escape works naturally with the body to raise serotonin levels in the brain for an extended period of about four to five hours. During PMS there is not enough serotonin in the brain, and when women don't have enough serotonin, they can feel moody and depressed. The drink has been subjected to clinical studies, which proved that women who drank PMS Escape showed a greater degree of improvement in mood, especially anger and irritability, than when they drank placebo beverages.

Such a gender specific soft drink has yet to reach Europe, but it is only a matter of time. Claire Nuttall of Dragon Brand Consultancy, an independent consultancy with offices and associates in London, Paris, Warsaw, New York and Tokyo has recognised the emergence of gender specific trends. She said: "These drinks will probably be more functional in nature than things we have seen before, eg cranberries for women with a urinary tract health benefit and super high in vitamin C, or as we are seeing in the US, drinks such as Femme Vitale from Odwalla offering vitamins and minerals designed for women's health."

Women's health, or rather the health conscious woman, has - and is - being successfully targeted by soft drink manufacturers. Recognising the potential a new independent company named The Feel Good Drinks Company, set up by Dave Wallwork, Chris Wright and Steve Cooper (all previously senior managers within the Coca-Cola system), has just launched its first range of healthy juice drinks. These are aimed predominantly at outgoing 20- to 35-year-old women who are looking for a brand that matches their approach to life.

Dave Wallwork, managing director, explained: "We saw an opportunity to fulfil unmet consumer needs by bringing fun, personality and above all great taste to the world of healthy soft drinks. We believe this is a unique proposition and one which will open up a huge sales and profit opportunity by giving consumers a real reason to pay a little more."

The drinks range is made from 100% natural ingredients, which are designed to make consumers 'feel good', and comprise Naturally Relaxing Orange & Mango Juice Drink (with lemon balm, camomile, green tea and vitamin C), Naturally Energising Lemon Juice Drink (with ginseng, guarana, ginkgo and vitamin C); and Naturally Cleansing Cranberry and Orange Juice Drink (with aloe vera, jasmine, folic acid and vitamins A, C and E).

Chris Wright, commercial director added: "Consumers are leading increasingly pressured lifestyles which do not leave them enough time to go to the gym or to eat healthily. Because of that they want products that help restore some balance in their lives. We have tried to give them exactly that by launching a range of drinks which have additional botanical ingredients and vitamins, providing specific benefits to help them feel good."

There are numerous other brands successfully chasing the female drinker. For instance Shloer, the grape-based sparkling fruit drink, which comes in six flavours, describes itself as 'the grown up soft drink' and is targeted at 25 years plus ABC women. Sales have leapt from £9.8m to £13.1m (more than 34%) in one year in the UK. A beefy £6m is being spent on supporting the brand this year, part of which is a media spend of £1.75m for TV advertisements featuring animated female flamingos, developed by Devon agency Bray Leino.

Mike Coppard, marketing director, said that research revealed that the elegance, beauty and sociability of the flamingos appeals to this market. "This new advertisement strategy establishes the flamingo as the brand icon for Shloer, with all marketing activity following this theme."

Further potential

Nuttall believes the types of drinks we could see for women will address issues arising from a hectic lifestyle; for example, eye strain from looking at computer screens, fertility enhancers, bronzing drinks in summer ( "as they have no time to go on holiday yet want the tan"), post-sun healing drinks with soothing aloe vera and detox drinks for an instant cleanse.

"There are already yoghurts in the French market which contain aloe vera which has traditionally been a skin care ingredient. We will see much more cross-transfer of ingredients and benefits for skincare to soft drinks. Beauty drinks could become a regular treat for women and soy based drinks could combat the signs of menopause for women," she said. "At the moment in the UK, such offerings are probably niche, but in five years time there will probably be a surge of these types of drinks."

Men only

Energy drinks, sports drinks and stimulation drinks have particular appeal for young men, so it's not surprising that men are used to front the launch of such drinks, for example UK distance runner Steve Cram has fronted Fitwater in the UK and football star Micheal Owen has appeared in Lucozade adverts.

Now a new company G4ce has linked with Formula 1 motor racing to promote its new G4ce Apple with a Kick drink. The company says it is aimed at 10- to 18-year-olds with a secondary market of 18+ due to its flexibility as a mixer. Despite the imagery being all male, the company says it is a 21st century drink. A not so soft, soft drink for male and female consumers. "We at G4ce feel the 21st century girl tends not to fit into the stereotype of delicate housewife anymore. Girls of the 21st century love football, getting their hands dirty, even motor sport has an audience which is 40% female. And the 'Apple with a Kick' adds spice and excitement for both the male and female audience," said Kathryn Peden from G4ce.

It would be a bold company to completely dismiss the fairer sex from its marketing plans, but as Nuttall points out there are male specific drink opportunities. "We have seen Yorkie successfully relaunch its chocolate bar with the 'Not for women' strapline. We could see more macho style drinks for men to challenge the softer marketing messages we have seen which tap into the emotional side of the male psyche. The Viagra drink with a Viagra effect for men? What about drinks which defy the visible signs of ageing and combat male hair loss!"

Industry response

Functionality is key to such niche markets and the ingredients and flavourings suppliers have not been slow to respond; in fact, many like Döhler, Haarmann &Reimer and Rudolf Wild have been at the forefront in devising new categories of drinks around the theme of 'wellness' and the promotion of nutrition.

The UK-based Duckworth Group has recognised that functional beverages are far out-pacing the total soft drinks category and says it can create products to appeal to virtually every major demographic category from snow boarders to pregnant women, or toddlers to senior citizens.  Using essential oils and botanical extracts it has developed a range of 'high juice dilute to taste drinks' which contain extracts, essences, vitamins and minerals  to address topical health issues such as bone health, gut and digestive health, heart/circulatory problems, emotional well-being, vitality, sensual and general well-being.

The nutraceutical efficacy of cranberries has been well documented. Ocean Spray Ingredient Technology Group points out that the belief that cranberries possess health-giving properties is supported by folklore stemming from their use as a medicine by native American Indians. And word of mouth has long recommended that drinking cranberry juice and eating crushed cranberries decreases the risk and helps alleviate symptoms of urological infections.

However, recent scientific evidence also supports the fact that the phytochemical-rich cranberry helps maintain good health. Most significantly a range of clinical, mechanistic and epidemiological studies have shown that cranberry juice contains compounds which inhibit the adhesion of E. coli bacteria to urinary tract cell walls.

Orafti, a world leader in the marketing and production of prebiotic ingredients from chicory, is marketing its Raftiline and Raftilose products as a 'FeelGood Factor' claiming that they have a positive effect on the health of the digestive system. Orafti has undertaken scientific research into the benefits of Raftilone and Raftilose as well as consumer research to understand how these benefits can be communicated.

"The findings from the research programme put Orafti in the unique position to share knowledge and provide support to customers in developing and marketing successful products containing Raftiline and Raftilose," said a company spokesperson.

Expert Analysis

Growth Strategies in Soft Drinks to 2006

This report is an assessment of the key opportunities in developing markets, focusing on the real growth drivers within these major developed markets -particularly health, convenience and other 'added value' benefits such as fashion and novelty.

 

Elsewhere, Cognis Nutrition & Health claims to lead the way as a natural business partner for dietary supplements and functional foods. Its products address health concerns, for example Betatene natural mixed carotenoids, which contribute vitamin A to sports drinks; Generol natural phytosterols to help keep cholesterol levels in health balance; and Xangold natural lutein esters, particularly for eye health products.

The Beghin Meiji company's Actilight short-chain fructo-oligosaccharides claims to be the first functional food ingredient to be recognised by the European Union. It has obtained GRAS status from the FDA in the United States as well as FOSHU status in Japan. According to the company, regular consumption of Actilight brings about all the benefits of healthy intestinal flora. It also stimulates absorption of magnesium in our diets. This is relevant as a large percentage of the population - growing adolescents, the elderly and (a gender-specific opportunity) menopausal women - do not meet their magnesium requirements.

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