With product development activity from Coca-Cola and Pepsi to the alternative beverage market, 2003 has begun where 2002 finished - in a flurry of new launches. Mintel's Global New Products Database tracks all the latest releases and packaging innovations exclusively for just-drinks' members.

The 2002 soft drinks market was in part defined by the way the world's two carbonated powers, Coca-Coal and PepsiCo, turned to new product development to bring much needed growth to their core products. Though most of this activity was confined to North America, several of the products made their way to Europe. Most recently this has included Pepsi Blue.

Launched in the US during the Summer of 2002, Pepsi Blue carbonated soft drink has been spotted in Europe, even if only in a limited edition. Pepsi Blue is currently available in the Netherlands, Hungary and Italy. Targeted at teens, Pepsi blue is a blue-coloured, berry-flavoured cola.

The US, though, as the world's biggest market, remains central to NPD in soft drinks. Expect tropical storms to hit the supermarket shelves next month as Hawaiian Punch (Mott's North America) comes blasting into the juice aisle with Berry Blue Typhoon. Like the brand's other wild flavours, Berry Blue Typhoon is described as a non-carbonated, vitamin C-enriched fruit drink. The new beverage will initially be available in gallon sizes at a suggested retail price of US$2.89. According to sources, Hawaiian Punch is currently the number one fruit punch and is growing almost two times faster than the fruit punch category.

Canadian consumers now have access to a powerful beverage that apparently not only enhances physical stamina, but also increases vitality and alertness. Molson Canada's Guru Non-Alcoholic Energy Drink is also claimed to improve concentration, which should make this beverage a hit amongst consumers of all genres.  It will retail in grocery and convenience stores across Quebec.

In terms of packaging, making its rounds among the chic elite during an underground test at select Manhattan clubs and boutiques is Coca-Cola's slim new can, which seems to resemble the popular energy drink, Red Bull. The slender 8.4-oz. can is said to look hipper than its stubby 12-oz. aluminium counterpart, and was also seen at the American Music Awards. Coke tested the metallic red cans - which included an "original formula" note on the package but had only subtle reference to the name of the brand - in trendy New York bars. But it is not clear whether the aim is that the product be consumed straight from the can, or like Red Bull, as a mixer. Coca-Cola has said nothing about the new product, other than to confirm it was being tested in New York.

This month Mintel's GNPD features a number of new and exciting coffees in Scandanavia and the US. Whether you have a weakness for double decaffeinated skimmed macchiato, vanilla cream Frappuccino, Choccaccino or a straightforward latte, coffee tastes have moved quickly since the days of the omnipresent cup of 'regular' coffee.

More and more self-indulgent and varied flavours have been launched on the Finnish market such as Peter's Coffee Roastery mint chocolate filter coffee and J. G. Niederegger Marzipan Cappuccino, which is an almond flavoured instant cappuccino coffee. Alternatives to coffee are a marzipan-flavoured tea, almond flavoured tea and a marzipan flavoured hot chocolate.

Every year Jeremiah's Pick seeks rare and exceptional coffees from around the world to highlight the holiday season. This year, founder Jeremiah Pick created Tambari to honour Africa, the birthplace of coffee. Not only is this going to bring three of Africa's best coffees to the marketplace, it is going a step further by directly giving back to growers in one of the main origins of this blend, Ethiopia. Tambari blends coffee from Ethiopia, Kenya, and Malawi to reach a "taste as forward and dramatic as the beating of the ceremonial drums after which they are named," sources say. It is refreshingly clean with balanced acidity, full flavour, and roasted medium to dark. The beverage is available at gourmet shops, over the internet and by mail order.

Moving on from coffee to the milk sector, in the US, Byrne Dairy has launched a Vanilla Malt Milk under its brand in a single-serve plastic pint bottle available chilled in supermarkets. "With a kick of malt," a one-cup serving delivers 30% of the recommended amount of calcium; it retails for 99 cents.