It's the Taste, Stupid!

Many people in the industry consider this a golden age for beverages.

For decades, it was simply classic carbonated soft drink flavors, juices, plain and chocolate milk, full bodied beers and tap water. In the 1980’s we all witnessed the first steps toward innovation – aside from light beers – taken by New York Seltzer, Clearly Canadian, Quest and others who dabbled in adding different flavors into the tried and true. Following those early pioneers came some of our most creative and revolutionary brands, including Snapple and AriZona. The flood gates had opened.

Soon, hundreds of products were being launched and consumers were exposed to a myriad of choices. SoBe, Jones and vitaminwa­ter became headliners for a new generation of exciting products. And the range and variety has only increased with the discovery of new fruits and functions.

So now we are in what should be the best of times for beverages. Combining years of innova­tion with functionality should make for bever­age nirvana. But I’ve got to tell you, someone keeps screwing up one of the fundamentals.

See, every day, I speak with beverage market­ers who extol the virtues of this brand or that one that will be the next great thing. They detail their position, packaging and marketing com­mitment to making it a success. Frequently, a picture of Lindsay Lohan sipping the drink in question is enclosed. Excitedly, I ask to be sent a sample of their labor of love. I receive the shipment, immediately put it in my refrigerator, (note: readers of this column are aware that my refrigerator is a favorite perk!) and look forward to tasting it when chilled.

That’s when my anticipation runs smack into sour, bitter reality.

See, more often than not these days, the fi rst sip, and the next and the next are just plain dis­appointing. These products, they aren’t drink­able. I cannot tell you how many times I try a product and say, “what were they thinking?”

I have a simple credo when it comes to bever­ages, and I can assure you that the consumer is in lockstep with me on this. THEY MUST TASTE GOOD. When I look at the brands that have become standards in the industry, they all had one thing in common. Taste.

To those of you who actually read my col­umn, you know I constantly promote all the in­novation, the functionality, effi cacy, the health benefi ts, and the natural ingredients that manu­facturers are using to invigorate their beverages.

Eventually, I know they will take the industry to the next level. Yet in their zeal to create the cutting-edge brand, many marketers are leaving out the most important part of the equation: their beverages must be a joy to drink.

I write this column as a beverage magazine publisher and, more importantly, as a con­sumer. There is nothing better that a great tast­ing drink. Create them and we will truly have a golden age for beverages. Otherwise, we’ll all just be drinking our medicine.