Is it a soup? A drink? A meal?
Regardless, it’s a phenomenon.
After all, it was only six months ago, during BevNET Live in Santa Monica, that Duane Primozich of Boulder Brands pointed to ready-to-drink gazpacho brand Tio Gazpacho, as a sign of the times in the beverage industry.
“These nutso ideas are what everybody’s looking for right now,” Primozich said, hours before Tio Gazpacho advanced to the finals of the conference’s New Beverage Showdown. “Weirdo ideas like putting soup in a bottle and throwing it in the beverage case.”
By the look of things at this week’s Summer Fancy Food Show in New York City, the “nutsos” are growing in both number and influence.
Tio Gazpacho, who took to the Jacob Javits Center bearing new labels and a recently extended shelf life, was joined by a handful of other ready-to-drink gazpacho makers like Mucho Gazpacho, Splendid Spoon, and Gina Cucina. Unlike Tio, which utilizes the emerging cold pasteurization technology high pressure processing (HPP), Mucho Gazpacho offers a heat-pasteurized take on the Spanish staple, with Green Gazpacho and Beet Gazpacho flavors set to launch later this summer to accompany the Miami-based company’s flagship Bravo Tomato product.
Tio certainly also wasn’t the only brand present using HPP, a category that has only gained strength since early rumblings at the trade show a year ago. New York distributor Dora’s Naturals, which has even gone so far as to enter manufacturing the stuff, purchasing HPP capacity last Fall, boasted a bulked-up roster of brands using the technology at its booth, including Blueprint Juice, WTRMLN WTR, Rawpowthecary, Honeydrop, Pura Fruta and Jus by Julie, the latter of which showcased a set of 4 oz. HPP “booster shots,” which are set to begin entering retailers soon.
Outside the HPP segment, Dora’s has also picked up London-based Little Miracles, as the organic energy brand continues to expand its presence and availability across the United States. The distributor also flexed its muscle in other bubbling beverage categories with a portfolio that includes Chameleon cold brew coffee, Sap on Tap maple water (developed in-house at Dora’s), and mixer Mocked Up Mocktails.
Also distributed by Dora’s but with a nearby booth all its own was HPP coconut water brand Harmless Harvest, whose coconut water with coffee recently ended its six-month exclusive introductory period at Whole Foods Markets. Meanwhile, as the brand’s coffee-infused offering begins entering other retailers nationwide, Harmless Harvest is discontinuing production of the Namacha raw tea line it launched in 2013.
The ready-to-drink teas on exhibit promoted the unsweetened, with Honest Tea sampling its new Cinnamon Sunrise and Ginger Oasis herbal varieties. Ito En, fresh off its victories at at the North American Tea Championship, has brought back it’s seasonal RTD unsweetened Shincha green tea for a limited run in Whole Foods that will begin in August. Additionally, the company unveiled four new lightly sweetened additions to its Teas’ Tea Organic line – Pomegranate Blueberry Green Tea, Lemon Mint Green Tea, Peach Ginger Black Tea and Hibiscus Green tea, all of which contain 80 calories, a decrease from the company’s previous 120-calorie sweetened teas.
“These have really resonated strongly,” said Adam Hertel, Ito En North America’s VP of Grocery and Natural Sales. “Having organic now is opening a lot of doors.”
Cocktail mixers from all walks of life – tonics, bitters, ginger beers, even teas – also had a significant presence across the Javits center, with many of the brands featured being first time exhibitors. Powell & Mahoney, Arrowhead Farms (founded by celebrity party planner Bronson van Wyck), Cocktail Crate, Hella Tonic, Bittermilk, Owl’s Brew, Barsmith, and Q Drinks were all in attendance, representing a category that’s seen a recent influx of participants.
Often positioned as a cocktail mixer, drinkable vinegar brand Pok Pok Som unveiled an upcoming line of carbonated, ready-to-drink sodas, set for release in the fall. Introductory flavors will include ginger, grapefruit, thai basil and turmeric. Dylan Myers, Operations Manager at Pok Pok Som, called the line extension an easier entry point for consumers, both in its price point (the sodas are expected to retail at $1.99) and in easing the inherent challenges of getting people to drink vinegar.
There were new hires on hand: former Agua Enerviva/Vitaminwater/Zico hand Mike Sharman was there in a new position, running East Coast sales for Essentia Water, while a pair of coconut water executives are now in the snack aisle. Zico marketing executive Michael “Buck” Williams has gone entrepreneurial, launching a new meat-based bar company called Bricks and Vita Coco’s former head of distribution, Rob Schofield, heading over to fast-growing chia bar company Health Warrior.