Our review of all that is new in the world of drinks, courtesy of Mintels Global New Product Database, this month tracks the emergence of futher developments in the energy drink sector, while reviewing the latest trends in the flavoured beer and low calorie markets.

This month's Global New Product Database has tracked the emergence of another new energy drink

Juice company Hero has previously introduced isotonic and hypotonic sports drinks (in Spain), but has now entered the energy drinks market in the Netherlands with a new stimulation beverage, Multifruit Energy. As might be expected from a juice drinks specialist, the product contains 50% juice - which is relatively unusual in this segment - in this case a blend of apple, orange, grape, kiwi and lime. In line with other leading brands of energy drink, it is formulated with guarana and taurine and also contains sugars and sweeteners. It is described on-pack as offering "the taste and goodness of juice, with an extra energy boost".

In Mexico, Grupo Empac has introduced OK Light, a super-concentrated beverage mix. Five 10ml ampoules of flavour come packed in a carton, each thermo-formed ampoule makes 1.5L of product. Flavours include tamarind, orange, grapefruit, and lime.

Foreign brands are now increasing their product placement in the US.  New in the US is Kagome Live True Juice, originally from Japan. These 100% juice drinks are packed with vegetables and vitamins and are said to have a significant lycopene content. True Vegetable Garden, Sweet Summer Tomato, and Carrot Ginger Zinger varieties are available in health food stores.

Wildly Delicious Fine Foods, who had an eclectic mix of products on display at the Fancy Food Show in New York earlier this month, have launched some more alcoholic beverages, which mostly feature its Twilight Cocktail line. Each of the products are in some way infused with the flavours of alcohol. Cocktail cherries are infused with amaretto, cocktail onions have brandy in them, a plum dipping sauce is infused with sake and pineapple, and a cocktail sauce features vodka and wasabi flavors. The line is packaged in a classic swingers style and are available in gourmet stores.

Product Trends - Flavored Beer
Fruit flavoured beers entered the market many years ago, with a number of basic fruit flavours such as lemon, lime, orange, and grapefruit. In general, citrus-flavoured beer has been an important area for development in the European market - a region that typically displays the greatest amount of experimentation. In the future, other regions will therefore turn to Europe for new ideas, which will also lead to the emergence of new, innovative products in other markets.

  • In Sweden, Kopparbergs/Sofiero introduced the Kopparbergs Mixed Malt Cactus/Lime, a 3.5% ABV premium cactus & lime flavoured beer.
  • Slottskällans Bryggeri introduced Julöl Lager in Finland, a 5.3% ABV Swedish dark lager beer with a dark brown, aromatic, sweet, softly bitter flavour. The company states that the beer is flavoured with ginger, cinnamon, orange peel and cloves.
  • Also in the Netherlands, Grolsch has added both lemon and pink grapefruit beers to its range. Both products have 2.5% ABV, positioning them as light, refreshing summer drinks. Introduced in 2001, the line was repackaged in early 2003 in a bottle reminiscent of FAB packaging.

While citrus flavours are certainly popular, many other fruit-based beverages have surfaced. Recent examples include:

  • Tempo Beer introduced Malt Star strawberry flavoured 'black' beer in Israel.
  • In Russia, Baltika Brewery introduced Baltika Party Mix 2.8% ABV beer, in three different varieties: cherry, lemon, and orange.
  • In the UK, Young's introduced Acclaim Champion Beer, described as a refreshing beer with the subtle flavour of passion fruit. The company claims that the beer has a flavour that is "Understated but worth shouting about" and "refreshingly different."
  • Sabmark introduced its Redd's Premium Dry Fruit Ale, a 5% ABV apple flavoured beer in South Africa.

Energy Ingredients and Spirit Based Beverages
The popularity of energy drinks in the Spirits & Liqueurs and Flavoured Alcoholic Beverage categories spilled over into the beer segment many years ago. Major brewers such as Carlton & United Brewers and Bass introduced products formulated with caffeine and guarana, undoubtedly to compete with the ever-changing FAB industry. Notable examples include:

  • In Germany, Gilde introduced Wilkenburger Der Rote Curt, a beer with lime and guarana. The company claims that the product contains 60% beer and 40% of a "refreshing drink with caffeine."
  • Distell introduced Extreme Energy under the Hunter's brand in South Africa, an apple ale with added caffeine, guarana and taurine and 5% ABV.

A number of beer products are also mixed with cola, offering consumers the necessary caffeine to jump-start the night. For example in Spain, Damm has a product called Damm Soda, a 3.8% ABV beer blended with sparkling soda water. The product is also low in calories as it is claimed to offer a blend of the best beer with a calorie-free soda. In Germany, Stuttgarter Hofbräu introduced B Mix + Hyper, a refreshing wheat beer & cola drink with sweeteners and a lime flavour.

In 1996-97 there were numerous introductions of "spirit beers" - beers blended with a touch of spirit, or spirit flavoring, such as whisky, vodka, or tequila. As with the energy segment, gnpd also witnessed an increase in spirit based products, which will likely compete with the top flavoured alcoholic beverages in many countries.

  • In Australia, Carlton & United Breweries introduced the Cold Shot Beer & Vodka beverage, a 6% ABV beer and vodka blend, made with the refreshing taste of Carlton Cold with the smooth finish of imported, triple-distilled vodka. The company developed the product following research highlighting that consumers no longer have one drink of choice, tending to switch from beer, wine and spirits, and pre-mixed spirits.
  • ASLE introduced Mexos in Germany, a 5.9% ABV beer mix drink consisting of 81% beer and 19% refreshing juice with a natural flavour of lime and imported tequila.

Alcohol Free and Low-alcohol
The very low alcohol and alcohol-free segment of the beer market has not seen a great deal of development in the last two to three years - however the situation may be changing with recent activity from key players within the industry. The segment is particularly profitable in regions where beer is viewed as a refresher rather than an alcoholic beverage. In particular, countries such as Spain are experiencing increased activity as products with a higher alcohol content have recently lost share to standard beers (4.7%-5.6% ABV) and to the alcohol-free sector. For example the beer giant Heineken recently launched Buckler 0% Alcohol in Spain, an alcohol-free 100% malt beer. Cervezas Alhambra also introduced a 2.3% ABV low calorie beer product named Alhambra 2°. Other notable examples include:

  • Sapporo Breweries introduced Sapporo Super Clear in Japan, a 0.5% ABV, low alcohol beverage that is positioned more as a beer-flavored carbonated soft drink. It has a refreshing, clear taste, created by the technology of the engineers who created Sapporo Light in 1969.
  • In Canada, Labatt Brewing introduced the Labatt Nordic Low Alcohol Premium Beer with 0.5% ABV.

Reduced-alcohol, or so-called mid-strength, beers have also emerged as a segment in some countries, following trends towards more responsible drinking and stricter drink-driving laws. Australia, for example, has some established brands of 2-3% ABV. In the Netherlands, Grolsch's lemon flavoured beer and Heineken's Lingen's Lemon product both have 2.5% ABV.