Bevscape Innovation

Simplify, Simplify

As consumers have grown frustrated with food labels listing ingredients that they can’t identify – or, sometimes, even pronounce – many marketers have reduced their products’ ingredient list and signaled that shift on the front of the pack.

Put simply: simplicity is on the rise.

Datamonitor reported that, between 2005 and 2008, there has been a 64.7 percent increase in the number of new products using the words “simple” or “simply” in product or brand names. Haagen-Dazs launched an ice cream line marketed as “simply Five,” a nod to its five ingredients, and Starbucks redesigned its entire food line around keeping the ingredient list for each product small.

But the trend has appeared in beverages as well. Ready-to-drink tea marketers have long emphasized simplicity, and sparkling juice companies have taken a similar tack. Fizzy Lizzy, in particular, boasts “No Gunk, No Junk” on its label, and coconut water firms have regularly boasted that their banner products include just one ingredient.

Seasonal Soft Drinks

Craft brewers have long used seasonal beers to spice up their port- folio. Now, a craft soda firm is taking a similar tack.

Maine Root, best known for its root beer, debuted its Pumpkin Pie Soda at Natural Products Expo East in Boston. The soda uses natural cane sugar and traditional pumpkin spices and will be available through the end of the year.

Maine Root isn’t the first soft drink to employ limited-edition releases. PepsiCo has augmented public interest in Mountain Dew by rolling out a long series of limited-time releases, including Pitch Black, Livewire, and Game Fuel, and Jones Soda famously used limited releases – in the form of holiday packs – to raise its profile.

But Maine Root’s tack differs from both of those. Jones favored often-unpalatable – and sometimes disturbingly accurate – novelty flavors, and Mountain Dew’s string of short-lived extensions have been one-offs. Maine Root president Mark Seiler said he plans to revisit his Pumpkin Pie soda next year, in the fashion of a beer company, and is working on new seasonal flavors – possibly for an announcement at Natural Products Expo West in March.

“The sales of Pumpkin pie soda have exceeded our expectations by a long shot,” Seiler said. Even before the product had completed its roll-out, Seiler was surprised by retailers’ response. Stores cleared space for the drink, he said, and at least one store has completely emptied its stock.

Given that success, it might be a smart time for beverage marketers to consider their own seasonal flavors. Retailers appear ready to listen.

What all the Twitter is about

Beverage marketers know that micro-blogging service Twitter can be a powerful force for brand promotion, but now researchers at Penn State have quantified that potential impact. About 20 percent of all “Tweets,” those 140-charcter dispatches to the web, are brand-oriented.

The team reviewed more than 500,000 tweets, with an eye on when brands were mentioned and why.

“Personal use is all over the board,” said Jim Jansen, associate professor of information science and technology at Penn State. “It may be right up there with e-mail in terms of its communication impact.”

Unlike email, though, most tweets are publicly available on the web, giving brand builders a rich source of feedback on their products and promotion.