BevNET’s Best of 2012

Pressing Business

Fresh is best. At least, that was the thinking when it came to BevNET’s Best of 2012 awards, where no fewer than four brands using high pressure processing (HPP) took home awards, including Evolution Fresh’s big win for product of the year.

The nascent pasteurization format, which allows products to maintain their flavor and nutritional components while extending their shelf life, is drawing lots of entrepreneurial energy within the beverage world. What’s interesting about the technology is that existing brands are actually adjusting to adopt the process: both Evolution Fresh and Blueprint started off as unpasteurized juices but they have begun using the technology as a way of delivering their products farther afield. New products like Suja (Best Functional Beverage) and Harmless Harvest (Best Coconut Water) are also using HPP as ways of innovating within their categories. Expect more companies to follow in the future, whether with new lines that incorporate HPP or with new brands that are based solely on its merits.

Meanwhile, Janie Hoffman, BevNET’s Person of the Year for 2012, knows a lot about trailblazing herself, taking the chia seed and turning it into a beverage that is the spear tip for a nutritional movement. The effervescent Californian is at the early stages of what could be a natural foods empire, and her positive attitude and commitment to values and integrity have won her a great many fans in a short amount of time. When asked if it’s hard to be the “face” of the chia movement, she responded that it felt great.

Winning always feels great as well. So check out the Best of 2012… you’ll find they’re a very fresh crowd indeed.

Evolution Fresh: Product of the Year
Evolution Fresh is the winner of BevNET’s 2012 Product of the Year award. In a year that saw significant strides toward mainstream adoption of high-pressured processed (HPP) beverages. Evolution’s decision to begin using HPP resulted in dramatic leaps in the functionality and flavor of the super-premium juice line. It was a courageous – albeit very risky – decision that forced the beverage industry to take notice of the benefits of HPP, and one that attracted the attention of Starbucks, which after seeing the rapid rise and potential of the brand, acquired Evolution late last year. Now armed with a brand name that screams the phrase “line extension,” and the vast marketing and financial resources of Starbucks, Evolution is well-positioned to head into 2013 with a mandate for growth and expansion.

 Janie Hoffman, Founder, Mamma Chia: Person of the Year
BevNET’s Best of 2012 Person of the Year Award goes to Janie Hoffman, the founder and CEO of Mamma Chia. Over the past two years, Hoffman has been at the forefront of chia’s rise from a seed best known for dog-shaped window plants to a highly sought after multifunctional ingredient that is increasingly used in foods and beverages. Her leadership and promotion of chia has sprouted a range of new brands and line extensions in the beverage space, accelerated exposure of chia into mainstream consciousness, and propelled Mamma Chia into national distribution – a rare feat for brand of its novelty and innovation. Having established solid footing for Mamma Chia in the natural channel within its first year, Hoffman has now taken her line of fruit juice and whole chia seed blends into hundreds of hybrid and traditional grocery chains across the country. And despite the rapid success of Mamma Chia, Hoffman remains focused on a patient vision for the brand, expecting even greater wins in the coming years.

MiO Energy: Best New Powder, Tablet, Mix
MiO Energy is the winner of BevNET’s award for the Best New Powder, Tablet, or Mix of 2012. The line extension, a caffeinated version of MiO’s popular water enhancing liquid, features two great-tasting flavors and a neatly designed proprietary bottle. As with the flagship MiO brand, the product dissolves in water and does not require any mixing, which the panel found a lot more practical than some of its competitors, which often require a form or stirring or shaking. Overall, MiO Energy is an impressive entry into the space.

Suja: Best Functional Beverage
BevNET’s Best of 2012 award for Best Functional Beverage goes to Suja Juice. These raw and organic cold pressed juices are high pressure processed (HPP), and as with other HPP products that we’ve covered, Suja’s juices are among the freshest tasting bottled drinks that we have ever come across. While the primary functionality of Suja’s six varieties is refreshment, the drinks also come packaged as a 1-5 day cleansing program. The panel was particularly impressed with Suja’s multi-pack offering, which enables the company to reach consumers in the rapidly emerging category of juice cleanse regimens.

Hiball Energy: Best Energy Drink or Shot
Hiball Energy is the winner of BevNET’s award for the Best Energy Drink or Shot of 2012. The panel loved Hiball’s decision to move from 10 oz. glass bottles to 16 oz. “cold-activated” aluminum cans, and its reformulated blend of organic energy ingredients and caffeine made a strong concept even more on-trend. The rebranding was potentially a risky move for Hiball, but ended up being a largely successful move for the energy drink line, which has gained access into a much wider range of retail channels, and garnered praise from new and existing consumers alike.

Just Chill: Best Relaxation Drink or Shot
Just Chill is the winner of BevNET’s Best Relaxation Drink or Shot for 2012. The brand, which recently added two new flavors to its line of natural stress relief products, has gradually distinguished itself from the growing number of products in the category with its crisp and clean packaging and an all-natural formulation that does not include melatonin. The panel feels that Just Chill has put itself a very good position to establish a strong foothold and take a leadership position in the relaxation segment.

 Guayaki Sparkling Yerba Mate: Best Carbonated Soft Drink
Guayaki Sparkling Yerba Mate is the winner of BevNET’s award for the Best Carbonated Beverage of 2012. The line of drinks debuted at the 2012 Natural Products Expo West show in March and, almost immediately, the panel knew that it would be a top contender for BevNET’s Best Of awards. Overall, Guayaki has done an excellent job of melding its signature ingredient – yerba mate – into a carbonated drink. Packaged in sleek 12.5 oz. slim cans, the drinks come in three extremely flavorful varieties each packed with natural caffeine content from yerba mate: Classic Gold (a cola), Cranberry Pomegranate – both sweetened with organic cane sugar –  and Grapefruit Ginger, which is sweetened with stevia. We believe this well-executed line has potential to introduce yerba mate to a range of new consumers in mainstream channels.

BluePrint Juice: Best Juice or Juice Based
BluePrint Juice is the winner of BevNET’s award for the Best Juice or Juice-Based brand of 2012. Modeled after the popular direct-to-consumer BluePrint Cleanse, BluePrint Juice is a five-SKU line of high-pressure processed (HPP) juice blends. The super-premium products have an extremely fresh flavor profile and are packaged in clear PET bottles with minimalist labeling that are perfectly suited to showcase the colorful juices. Despite a price point that ranges from $6-11, the panel believes that as HPP continues to develop, the upside for BluePrint is tremendous – particularly considering growing recognition for the brand within the natural channel, and its potential for a range of line extensions and new package sizes.

 Sambazon Protein: Best Smoothie or Meal Replacement
Sambazon’s new line of protein smoothies is an impressive line extension for the company. The panel was particularly impressed by Sambazon’s ability to meld its flagship ingredient, acai, into a protein-infused drink. And unlike many meal replacement and protein drinks, Sambazon’s smoothies are light and airy, and quite flavorful without being overwhelming.

Sparkling ICE: Best Enhanced Water
The winner of BevNET’s Best Enhanced Water of 2012 is Sparkling ICE. Although the line of lightly-carbonated drinks has been around for over two decades, Sparkling ICE has rapidly ascended into a nationally-distributed brand through a focused sales and marketing effort targeting the brand’s revamped, vastly improved flavors. The drinks are now the fastest growing non-alcoholic beverage brand in the U.S., and as consumer buying habits continue toward health and wellness, the panel believes that Sparkling ICE is well-positioned remain on an upward trajectory.

AQUAHydrate: Best Product Revamp
BevNET’s Best of 2012 award for Best Product Revamp goes to AQUAHydrate. In a breakout year for high alkaline bottled waters, AQUAHydrate’s sleek new look and branding gives the product instant credibility and distinction among a growing range of products in the category. Moreover, its new light blue cylindrical PET bottle and tagline of “supercharged hydration,” give AQUAhydrate a more modern feel than its previous iterations, and is already allowing the brand to gain easier access into new retail channels.

Boxed Water is Better: Best Packaging Design
Boxed Water is Better is the winner of BevNET’s Best Packaging Design award of 2012. The water brand, which uses a 500 mL screw top carton that looks like a miniature version of a quart of milk, impressed the panel with an intentionally stark design that seems like a very subtle, but effective, way of calling out its eco-friendly benefits. The panel feels that through brand’s unique elements and positioning, Boxed Water is Better has achieved breakthrough appeal amidst a sea of competing water products.

Coco Cafe: Best Coffee or Coffee-Based Beverage
Coco Cafe is the winner of BevNET’s award for the Best Coffee or Coffee-Based beverage of 2012. Over the past 12 months, the brand has had a remarkable run from its win at New Beverage Showdown 2 at BevNET Live Winter 11, to its acquisition by Vita Coca only a few weeks later, to national distribution in June. This brand’s innovative blending of espresso and coconut water has helped breathe new life into the coffee category while also helping energize its appeal as a complementary ingredient.

Runa: Best Tea or Tea Based
BevNET’s Best of award for the Best Tea or Tea-Based beverage goes to Runa’s line of bottled Guayusa tea. Runa has done an excellent job of taking a relatively unknown ingredient and creating a beverage line that showcases its flavor and functional benefits in an eminently drinkable format. And considering that the drinks – which are packaged in neatly labeled 14 oz. glass bottles – contain only 50 calories per bottle, the panel feels that Runa has a solid path to success within the natural channel, and perhaps beyond.

Harmless Harvest: Best Coconut Water
As a first time category for BevNET’s “Best of” Awards, the panel had dozens of brands to consider as the best coconut water of 2012, yet, it was Harmless Harvest that was on tip of everyone’s tongue. As one of the earliest adopters of high-pressure processing for a beverage product, Harmless Harvest’s 100% Raw Coconut Water is the closest thing we’ve tasted to the liquid inside a freshly opened, young coconut. The quality and freshness of the coconut water has garnered a fervent and passionate following among consumers in the natural channel – where it is now distributed in over 1,000 retail locations – and compelled the company to introduce a new 16 oz. bottle earlier this year.

82Go: Best Packaging Innovation
The winner of BevNET’s Best Packaging Innovation award of 2012 is 82Go Water. 82Go stores its eight ounces of purified water in a plastic pouch which is opened by tearing – or biting – a corner off the package. 82Go is portable, easy to use, and environmentally-friendly; the pouch uses the same amount of plastic as the cap on a bottle of water. With the product positioned as one for runners and other active individuals, we think that 82Go has the potential to make a big splash.

Red Bull Stratos: Best Marketing Campaign
It was breathtaking, audacious, exhilarating, and remarkable – and we’ve barely scratched the surface in describing Red Bull Stratos. the winner of BevNET’s Best Marketing Campaign of 2012. Calling it a mission “to transcend human limits,” Red Bull – which is known for attaching itself to a range of extreme sports and eclectic athletes – began its sponsorship of the Stratos project nearly seven years ago. The goal? To launch daredevil Felix Baumgartner 24 miles into the stratosphere, where he would make a freefall jump toward Earth and reach supersonic speeds before parachuting – and safely landing – back on the ground. While the mission was undoubtedly expensive and loaded with risks, Baumgartner’s recordbreaking leap was an incredible success, in more ways than one. The live feed of the jump, which took place in October, was broadcast by 40 television networks in 50 countries, and watched by eight million concurrent viewers on YouTube, the largest in the website’s history. In the words of one media analyst, Red Bull’s sponsorship of the project “transcended sports and entertainment into Pop Culture, hitting new consumers that [the company] does not usually capture, and on a global scale.”