Beverage innovators: hit consumers with your best shot

Beverage innovators: hit consumers with your best shot

It seems like everybody’s got a beverage for sale these days. From energy and relaxation drinks to 3-step Gatorade for your entire workout routine and every kind of kombucha, tea or protein smoothie you can imagine. Some are fantastic additions to the consumer consciousness and to the market at large (Mamma Chia comes to mind).

Then there’s those empty innovations like Mio—products that seem to offer something truly new and useful, but that fall far short of their potential. Color isn’t a function. Where’s the vitamin? Where’s the energy boost?

Based on the attendance in the Beverage track of Nutracon 2012 alone, you can tell that this is a massively popular segment of the market—bursting with potential, innovation and consumer demand. According to David Sprinkle, publisher of Packaged Facts, 21 percent of shoppers purchase a refrigerated convenience beverage while at the supermarket. And in the natural channel that percentage is 47! That means that—like me—nearly half of all shoppers at natural retailers stop by the beverage case to pick up their favorite tea, water or functional beverage before leaving the store.

So how does an aspiring beverage manufacturer get someone like me to pick up a product? And, more importantly, how do they get me to pick it up again?

Based on what I’ve learned from Nutracon speakers David Sprinkle, James Tonkin of Healthy Brand Builders, Mike Springsteen of Virginia Dare and Donald Wilkes of Blue Pacific Flavors, you’re looking at two (maybe three) key elements—marketing and taste. Functionality and/or nutritional value factor in for some consumers (particularly Baby Boomers), but to a much lesser degree. Marketing gets someone to buy your product. That’s half the battle. Taste is what makes her come back or move on.

As more and more consumers are trending toward natural beverages and naturally functional beverages—think coconut water—what can beverage formulators and marketers do to get the attention of consumers? So far the answer revolves around segmentation. Know your customer, target your customer, and keep it simple.

We love to use 5-Hour Energy as a shimmering example of a start-up company successfully using market segmentation to its advantage, and they deserve full credit on that score. But Red Bull, Ensure and Coca Cola are all great examples as well. Each company has a clear understanding of who their customer is and what that customer wants—and delivers it in a simple, reliable format that the customer can count on again and again, in Texas and Tokyo alike.

These may be examples from the mass market, but the same holds true for the natural channel as well. Beverage brands like Honest Tea, Guayaki and Naked Juice have made a mark on the industry by appealing to a clear segment—the health- and earth-conscious consumer.

It takes time to get there—Chip Marsland, food scientist and Food-Supp-Drug Convergence speaker, jokingly refers to 5-Hour Energy (which got its start in the ‘80s) as the longest overnight success in the industry. But as soon as the product is ready for the market and the market is ready for the product you’ll have an explosive success.

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