In this month's GNPD, research company Mintel tracks the development of the functional drinks category, which has seen the emergence of drug-based drinks, some more controversial than others. There has also been significant activity in the coffee and tea sectors and growing demand for the new "spirits beers", which get their Australian debut.

This month Mintel's Global New Products Database has tracked the emergence of the latest development in the functional drinks category - the introduction of drug-themed and -formulated beverages. In South Africa J'Wana, a 24% abv natural hemp spirit cocktail has recently been launched, having been produced under license from DGB, a company based in Rotterdam. J'Wana is set to fair better than the controversial Australian opium drink, which was labeled as "energy with opium". This product, which had been introduced by Naughty Boy and comprised a citrus flavoured energy drink with crushed poppy seeds, has now been banned by Australian authorities pending investigations to determine if it contains any illegal drugs. Hemp is however considerably less controversial an ingredient than opium, and the GNPD has seen a number of hemp formulated food and non-food products in the past.

Back in Asia, where the latest functional drinks trends often begin, the original success story in this category, Red Bull, is extending its product range. The popular energy drink has been a true success story in Europe, but its origins lie in Asia where it was introduced in Thailand in the late 1970s. It is now available throughout most of Asia where it is made by TC Pharmaceuticals. Now, in the Philippines, red Bull has launched a new brand, Baroko. Baroko is a canned ready-to-drink coffee, made with a concentrated blend and added milk. The coffee element maintains the brand's energy giving positioning and is expected to fair well in Asia, where ready-to-drink milky cold coffee is an established market.

New developments have also been made in the coffee drinks market in Spain. Café bombon is a traditional Spanish coffee drink made with sweetened condensed milk. It is normally served layered (a bottom layer of condensed milk and a top layer of plain coffee). It is then stirred before drinking. Nestlé is making it easier for Spanish consumers to recreate the drink at home with its new Nescafé branded Bombón line, made with La Lechera brand condensed milk. This liquid soluble coffee and condensed milk blend is packaged in a plastic bottle with a plastic valve dispenser. It simply needs to be squeezed into a cup and topped up with hot water or hot milk.

In the UK the demand for green tea seems to have calmed down, however the consumer's thirst for the latest flavour has not. It is therefore no surprise that another variety has been launched to fill the gap. White tea, a rare tea made only from the first spring shoots and with the highest antioxidant content of any tea, could be its super premium replacement. New white tea varieties have recently been introduced by speciality tea companies such as Dragonfly Teas and Clipper Tea. Furthermore, the variety has also made appearances in toiletry products, which could help increase consumer awareness of the variety.

Tetley is also developing new tea products for the UK market. As a well-established hot tea brand in the UK, it is once again attempting to move into the iced tea sector. In the past, UK consumers have tended to shy away from iced tea, perhaps finding it hard to associate a popular and traditional hot drink with a cold version. However, this may be changing as new RTD iced teas continue to be introduced, often focusing on the healthy antioxidant benefits of tea. Many recent launches have tended to be from niche players providing high-quality taste and content (e.g. MangaJo Anti-Ox Tea and Indian Chai Tea from Spring Fine Foods), but Tetley's new line is attempting to change this. Past attempts by the company include the Tetley Ice Blend back in 1997. The latest is called T of Life and is described as a refreshing blend of spring water, fruit juice and Tetley tea with energising herbs (ginseng and guarana) and vitamins (B3, B5, B6, B9, and B12). It is available in Raspberry & Cranberry, and Lemon & Lime flavours.

Finally, we move away from the tea and soft drink sectors to alcohol and a combination of two of the biggest categories, spirits and beer. The emergence of "spirit beers" has been an interesting and continuing development in the beer market. They are basically beers blended with a touch of spirit such as whisky, vodka or even Tequila. This is a trend that has mainly taken place in Europe, and has been predominantly developed by niche companies. But the practice is growing and has now moved to Australia were its been taken up by mainstream company Carlton & United Breweries. The product in question is called Cold Shot and is a 6% ABV beer and vodka blended drink, described as being made with the refreshing taste of Carlton Cold and the smooth finish of imported, triple-distilled vodka. The product has been developed following research highlighting that consumers no longer have one drink of choice, tending to switch from beer, wine and spirits, and pre-mixed spirits.