’s “Best of 2003” Awards

CAMBRIDGE, MA — 2003 was an interesting year for the soft drink industry. Sales of carbonated soft drinks were pretty flat in terms of growth, energy drinks boomed (to almost $750 million), and many healthy products continued to emerge.

Here’s our look back at the Best of 2003:

Best New Product / Best Carbonated Soft Drink – STEAZ GREEN TEA SODA
Steaz is truly one of the more impressive stories of 2003. Starting from scratch in 2003, Steaz (originally “Steap Green Tea Soda”) cofounders Eric Schnell and Steven Kessler expected to finish at about $2 million in sales for the year. Using an organic formulation of carbonated water, green tea, and traditional soft drink flavors, Steaz is extremely refreshing in both taste and in what it offers to the industry – a true soft drink with a conscience. In addition, Steaz has taken a path that is often frowned upon in the soft drink industry and proven that it can work. Specifically, they’ve ignored DSD for the first year of operations and instead chosen to work with master-distributor Liberty Richter, locking up highly sought after accounts such as Whole Foods. Overall, an extremely impressive first year and we believe much better things are to come in 2004. @@img1
Best Non-Carbonated Soft Drink – INKO’S WHITE TEA
Inko’s White Tea is one of our favorite products of 2003 for its unique and light approach to bottled tea. It earns the Best Non-Carbonated Soft Drink simply on the quality of its taste and brand. For starters, white tea is extremely delicate and needs very careful brewing and Inko’s has created a product that should give established tea companies such as Honest Tea and The Republic of Tea something to think about for 2004. Inko’s two varieties – Inko’s White Tea and Inko’s Hint O’Mint (a third is coming in early 2004) — feature flavors that perfectly complement the light body of white tea and give it a taste that has mainstream appeal. In addition, the recent press on white tea gives this product a huge opportunity in 2004. @@img2
While this category may seem very difficult to pick a winner for, the choice to us is very clear: Hansen’s Monster deserves to be selected as our Best Energy Drink for 2003. Why? Many reasons factor into this decision. First of all, Monster made huge progress on the sales front in 2003 making it one of a handful of companies that are putting pressure on Red Bull. In addition, Hansen’s team of industry veterans has created a stellar industry reputation for this company. A reputation that is, in our opinion, unmatched in the category. We feel that this, in the end, will continue to propel this product towards the top. @@img3
Best Dairy Based Beverage – SPARKLING COW
Sparkling Cow gets our nod for the Best Dairy Based Beverage of 2003. In a year that featured many new dairy products, we felt that it was necessary to give this product line some recognition for its ability to balance great taste, an appealing brand, and a unique concept all at the same time. We’re not really sure that carbonated dairy products will be the next big thing, but Sparkling Cow is definitely one to watch in 2004. @@img4
Best Packaging – POM WONDERFUL
When you walk into a store that sells POM Wonderful, you can’t miss it — consumers love to walk the aisles holding the beautiful bottle. The proprietary bottle is molded so that almost all surfaces are rounded – a unique bottle that sets the tone for the complex adult flavor of POM Wonderful. This product again proves the value of creative proprietary packaging. In our opinion, POM Wonderful would not succeed in penetrating the market with its unique formula and often $3+ price tag if it were packaged in a stock bottle. We commend whoever designed this bottle – it is truly the work of a packaging genius. @@img5
Most Outrageous Product – JONES TURKEY & GRAVY
This award easily goes to Jones Soda’s Turkey & Gravy Soda. The name says it all. Jones Turkey & Grave is one of the most impressive PR stunts to be pulled off in this industry in recent years. @@img6

Reader’s Choice

Best New Product – STEAZ GREEN TEA SODA – 11,521 votes

Best Energy Drink – Pimp Juice – 34,904 votes

Strangest Product – Jones Turkey & Gravy Soda – 20,087 votes