Fundamental Functional Decisions

It’s hard to imagine that a business once regarded as being just a few parking lots removed from the impromptu “Shakedown Street” trinket-and-chemical mart outside a Grateful Dead Show is now the preferred enterprise of the nutritionist and the MBA alike, but there you have it. The natural foods market has arrived. Its West Coast incarnation is one of the biggest food and beverage shows in the country, and even a not-so-careful eye can discern the trends and products that are soon going to break big.

At the last last Natural Products Expo West – with nary a patchouli-scented Guatemalan hoodie in sight – I noticed that the natural foods business had gotten dangerously close to being the fuctional foods business, as well. What would have been a cooling juice had now become a Super Fruit, and what would have been simply a tasty treat now offered health, clarity, practically the moon by way of the Amazon Rainforest.

Meanwhile, every other beverage was promising the moon, as well, but it didn’t seem to be through any kind of juice product. Rather, there was a collection of nutritionally-enhanced products that might have come from a premix laboratory. Naturally sourced, to be sure, but nevertheless the blend was the key to the function, not so much the natural juice.

That’s where I’ve started to look at the functional drinks business right now – it’s at a fork in the road between the rainforest and the lab. The differences are by no means so sharply drawn, but it seems to me that there’s going to be a long discussion in the marketplace over what consumers ultimately want from their functional beverages: either a taste of nature or a taste of nurture. We explore that divide on page 32, but it’s not the only divide we delve into during this issue of BevNET Innovation.

As you can tell from the cover, we also look hard at the division between energy and calm, and try to find out if there’s any money to made on the relaxed side of the line. That’s on page 26. Additionally, Assistant Editor Matt Casey spent some time looking at another divide between ingredients and packaging – in this case a divide built directly into the packaging itself. His exploration of the new breed of reservoir caps is on page 30. Matt also explored cutting edge packaging design, on page 22.

BevNET Innovation is always working to point out hot, cutting edge packages and flavors that might fuel your creative fires. Our explorations of functionality are just another way that we hope we can help you make interesting beverages and expand the market. Shakedown Street might have moved on to the Anaheim Convention Center, but the profit margins are better there, after all.