Functional Mix

By Ray Latif

Long overlooked in favor of their ready-to-drink counterparts, powdered drinks have benefited from a spate of innovation in recent years with manufacturers launching a range of new products and formulations specifically targeted to meet consumer demand for functionality. Armed with an array of novel ingredients and flavors, powder drinks have gradually emerged from the doldrums of dusty corner store shelves and are now aiming for prime placement and wider distribution in mass market and grocery chains.

For a number of existing beverage companies, including FRS and Kraft Foods, powder drinks have been a formidable conduit to new consumers who are seeking out specific functional benefits, such as weight loss and energy. In many cases, powders offer manufacturers greater flexibility than RTD products when it comes to delivering new and innovative ingredients, and, in turn, a more potent and efficacious functionality. Consumers are not only responding to these new formulations, they’re driving the path for what’s next.

“The innovation is in the consumer,” said Gregory Drew, who is the director of food and beverage for PharmaChem, an ingredient supplier and contract manufacturer of powder beverages. “The smart beverage companies are the ones able to react to the demands of customers.”

Drew noted that consumers are continuously becoming more aware and interested in what they are drinking, and are particularly drawn to “legitimate” health and wellness claims, which he called a powerful way to market powder drinks.

“Legitimate claims [will drive] consumers to buy a product once, and if the drink tastes good, they’ll buy it again,” Drew said. “Manufacturers should not only abide by government policies regulating these claims, they should take advantage of and exploit the regulations by utilizing several different types of claims that are at their disposal.”
One such company that utilizes a range of health and benefit-related claims is Zipfizz. The energy drink mix is advertised as one that delivers “a powerful charge of micronutrients to the body’s fuel system,” and a “rush of vitamins, minerals and key amino acids to protect the immune system.” With a steady mix of marketing claims and aggressive sampling, Zipfizz has found placement in 2,000 Walmart stores across the country and is aiming for distribution in all Walmart locations by the end of 2012.

Another powder drink manufacturer touting a range of functional benefits is Phix. The company claims that its all-natural Phix Energy product is a “sophisticated energy drink powder blending green tea antioxidants, energy-restoring NADH and yerba maté for enhanced vigor.” Phix, which does nearly all of its business online, lists a bevy of research documents on its website to educate consumers about its ingredients and marketing claims.

However, not every manufacturer has to convince consumers of the advantages of health and wellness benefits associated with its products. Reva, an all-natural coconut water powder derived from young coconuts, has benefitted from a deluge of positive press and word-of-mouth marketing about coconut water and its natural electrolytes. Reva’s challenge is in convincing consumers – and retailers – that its products are preferable to an RTD coconut water in having a longer shelf life and their ability to be mixed with carbonated without losing flavor and nutrients. The young brand has found some success with distribution on GNC.Com and select GNC stores in New York City and New Jersey.