Herbal water range launched in US

Pennsylvania-based start-up Ayala's Herbal Water has launched a range of herb-infused beverages aimed squarely at the health channel and the increasing numbers of mainstream consumers looking for natural alternatives to staples such as sugar, additive and preservative-laden beverages.

While not the first of its kind — herbal-infusions exist in North America and other markets — Ayala's Herbal Water's range includes an atypical selection that should at least pique consumer interest for a first-time purchase. Whether the products have the taste profile to acquire repeat buys remains to be seen.

The Ayala range includes lemongrass mint vanilla, lavender mint lemongrass thyme, jasmine vanilla, clove cinnamon cardamom, cinnamon orange peel and ginger lemon peel and can be bought from the website for $1.58 per bottle.

Dr Ayala Laufer-Cahana, the Philadelphia-based paediatrician behind the range, said the zero-calorie, sweetener-, flavour-, colour- and chemical preservative-free range took its mild flavouring from the herbs infused in each variety. She said the herbs were a good source of antioxidants and touted other potential health benefits including digestion, blood glucose levels, immunity, insomnia, stress and LDL cholesterol levels.

"In addition, most health officials agree that natural antioxidants such as those found in the herbs used in Ayala's Herbal Water are more effective than those found in supplements," the company said in a statement.

The company has established a website (www.herbalwater.com) where nutritional and other information is available.

A range in the UK called funkinwater is similarly infused with herbs, but it is flavoured and contains sugar. It has been selling well in UK urban markets where it retails at a similar price point (about $2) to regular waters in convenience and lunch outlets.

The range includes cranberry & echinacea, lemon & siberian ginseng and tangerine & ginkgo biloba, and all are sweetened with three per cent natural sugar. It is aimed squarely at under-35 urban professionals.

A recent Mintel report found UK food and beverage manufacturers were rejecting additives and preservatives. The researcher said 24 per cent of new food and drink launches in the UK claimed to be 'additive- and preservative-free' (up from eight per cent in 2004). "Manufacturers are tapping into the nation's growing desire for a more natural lifestyle, as consumers take a greater interest in what really goes into their food," comments David Jago, director of Mintel GNPD Custom Solutions.

"Additive- and preservative-free" became the number one UK health claim in the food and drinks market, overtaking "low fat" for the first time in 2006. Mintel puts the global enhanced water market at about $10 billion.

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