Please Help

It’s been a pretty expensive summertime, or as I am starting to call it, the July/August Thon-a-Thon. The requests are rolling in for various friends’ and acquaintances who are walking, biking, running, knitting, selling or just plain asking for money for causes. I’m both a big believer in do-gooder actions and an obvious sucker, and as such, my bank account is reeling.

So far this season I’ve done my part to cure cancer, muscular dystrophy, hunger, homelessness, global warming, and elect a new president.

And as I write this, it’s still early. My wife is making noises about a half-marathon, with yet another sponsorship from yours truly.

As this Thon-a-Thon creeps on, however, I’ve become reminded of the importance of one of the great pleasures of summertime: the opportunity to enjoy drinks in their most welcome state, as the pleasant counterpunch to a sweaty activity on a hot day. And I know that for all the Thon-ers out there, finding the right drink – either mid- or post-race – can sometimes be as important as finding the right pair of shoes.

So it’s particularly relevant for this issue to focus on one of the great summer beverages, iced tea and the next one, which will discuss the new wave of sports drinks. It’s interesting because tea is one of the oldest of summer drinks – it was commonly served iced almost as soon as there was ice to be had – while sports drinks, with high-tech ingredients like electrolytes – are among the newest.

For retailers, it’s particularly relevant as well because as the CSD side of the business slows down, RTD teas and sports drinks are becoming even more important to the beverage aisle. Along with water, they have been the fastest growing, most consistently innovated product sets. Teas have the advantage of offering the taste and lift that soft drinks have had in the past, as well as a kind of historical grounding and an association with food that leaves them a versatile alternative to higher-calorie products, while sports drinks fit in with the ever-important functional side of the industry.

Thus it’s no surprise that the major beverage companies are investing heavily in both categories, and that they want you to devote a lot of space to their products, and it’s also no surprise that there is a lot of innovation taking place. What we’ve done this issue is look at how the big, dominant tea companies are trying to change their major brands to fit the times, particularly in the face of a new crop of nimble young whole-leaf competitors. Next issue, we’ll be looking at how a bunch of new sports drinks are changing the game for the old guard, and how big brands like Gatorade and PowerADE are changing to fit in to changing consumer expectations.

To do both of these stories, we set new assistant editor Matt Casey on something of an extended series of assignments. We think you’ll find the stories he came up with highly informative and useful, but, well, it’s been hard on the poor guy. If you’d like to contribute to a vacation fund we’ve set up for him – the Matt Casey Report-A-Thon Relief Fund – please contact us as soon as possible. Our operators are standing by.

Otherwise, enjoy the issue.