In the latest addition to just-drinks ever-expanding Full Member's Services, this week sees the launch of an exclusive review of the beverage industry's new product activity by global drinks researcher Mintel International.

Every month Mintel's Global New Products Database (GNPD) will bring you an ongoing insight into new product development in the drinks world. This edition includes launches by Red Bull, J&B, clothing giant French Connection and many more.

Red Bull launches water

The Red Bull Company, known for its successful energy drink brand Red Bull, is venturing into the growing water market. In October GNPD recorded the introduction of Red Bull's LunAqua in Austria. LunAqua is a still water bottled "under the glare of the full moon," which, according to the producer, is when the water reaches its "highest bioenergetic power."

Red Bull reports that LunAqua is only bottled 13 times a year and even the packs are flashed "with the power of the full moon." Two varieties are available, both based on pure, natural spring water: Pure Element, and Dynamic Element - the latter enhanced with caffeine at levels equivalent to a can of cola.

The products, packaged in 330ml plastic bottles claim to refresh, regenerate and support concentration.

It is a fairly new development to see fortified "energy" waters but Mintel expects to see further products of the same nature in the future.

Energy extensions

Meanwhile the ingredients used for energy drinks are becoming more adventurous as guarana and taurine become so common as to be passé in many cases. New in the UK from Intercontinental Brands is a stimulation drink formulated with red and black Asian ants. They are referred to as "herbs" in China where they are said to be used as a tonic. Whereby in the UK they claim to supply a direct source of energy to body cells, enhance the immune system and improve sexual function!

Cranberry creations

Leading cranberry producer Ocean Spray is adding innovation to the booming cranberry juices market, by including three white cranberry juices to its range of juice drinks. They are said to be the first of their kind, since it is the first time white berries have been used. Harvested a few weeks earlier in the season before they turn red, the white berries apparently give a smoother and milder flavour.

The three new juices comprise white cranberry, White Cranberry & Strawberry and White Cranberry & Peach. Packaged in plastic bottles and currently on trial in the US, the products are due to be launched in the UK and other European countries next year.

A spiked drink

New in Germany from Franken Brunnen is Limit Citrus Cactus Drink available in a multipack. Limit Citrus Cactus is a low calorie refreshing lemon cactus fig drink with 8% fruit juice and artificial sweeteners. It is now available in a plastic sleeve pack containing 4 x 500ml bottles. First recorded by GNPD in the summer of 2000, it was initially introduced in a one litre plastic bottle.

Carbonates

Further drink packaging developments include the launch of the Coca-Cola brand in Italy in a new PET plastic bottle. The product is shaped as the original contour bottle and even features the characteristic metal crown cap.

Also in the UK carbonates market, new flavours have been added to Safeway's Burst range. They include an unusual Doctor Burst variety with a marzipan-like taste. Three other new flavours include Tropical, Lemon & Lime and Orange. The range is available in two litre bottles (priced at £0.79) and 6 x 330ml bottle packs (priced at £1.69).

Functionals

Two interesting yoghurt drinks were reported on the shelves of supermarkets last month. In China, Vitalon Food Enterprises has launched, under the Snowdew brand, a canned yoghurt mineral drink with calcium lactate and many other kinds of minerals.

In Germany, where functional foods continue to be popular, Brohler Mineral und Heilbrunnen has introduced Snack-Joghurt. It is a mineral water and yoghurt drink with probiotic fibres. Packaged in a bottle, Snack-Joghurt is available in a peach & apple flavoured variety.

Also of interest is a drink made with water chestnuts. Launched in Hong Kong by YHS Foods under the Yeo's brand, this non-carbonated drink is described as a "crunchy water chestnut drink."

Alcoholic activity

1996-97 saw the introduction of several "spirit beers" which were basically beers blended with a touch of spirit such as whisky, vodka or even Tequila. Although they remain niche specialities, Mintel has recorded another such launch. Rolled out in France, from Brasserie Fischer under the Kriska brand, is a 5.9% abv (alcohol by volume) vodka-flavoured bottled beer - presumably to compete with premium packaged spirit drinks.

Another potential alternative to spirit-based flavoured alcoholic beverages (FABs) is Fruzion Cider. Fruzion Cider, a Diamond White-branded bottled cider at 5.4% abv has been introduced in the UK by Matthew Clark. It is made with added fruit juice and is available in two varieties, Citrus and Exotic Fruit. More surprising though is the entry of another player in the UK FABs market - high street fashion retailer French Connection with its fcuk Spirit range made with vodka.

Vodka forms the main base for FABs, especially in the UK. However, other spirits are slowly entering the market to liven up competition. This month we are referring to whisky and absinthe. J&B Twist, a premium packaged spirit with 5.6% abv is currently on test in Spain but is expected to be launched in the UK.

Meanwhile Sebor Absinthe has launched another absinthe-based line in the UK. The product is called Wilde Mule and is a 5.4% abv blend of absinthe, ginger and lime.

Mintel has also witnessed the launch of FABs in larger, sharing bottle sizes. New to the UK are 700ml bottle sizes for WKD Original Vodka Blue and WKD Original Vodka Iron Brew from Beverage Brands.