Bevscape

HFCS NATURAL FATTENING

In the latest volley in the high-fructose corn syrup controversy, the Food and Drug Administration has declared that products containing the sweetener can be labeled “natural,” so long as the HFCS contains no synthetic additives and was not produced by using acids.

Natural or not, a study performed at the University of Texas found that it may be more fattening than other sweeteners. Researchers found that fructose bypasses the liver, which normally determines whether the body should burn or store incoming sugars, and instead converts directly into fat at “surprising speed.” The research also found that consuming fructose made the body more likely to store fats eaten at later meals.

FIJI (BRIEFLY) SHUTS DOWN

July proved to be an interesting month for Fiji – both the bottled water company and the country. In an effort to include the government in the native bottled water industry’s profits, Interim Finance Minister Mahendra Chaudhry imposed a 20 cent per-liter duty on all bottled water sold in or exported from the island nation.

The bottled water industry, naturally, objected. The Fiji Bottled Water Institute claimed such a tax would cripple the industry, and filed a lawsuit to challenge it. Most water companies also shut their doors in protest, leaving hundreds of Fijians out ?of work, but Fiji Natural Artesian Waters proved the exception.

The company – generally known in the U.S. as, simply, “Fiji” – kept filling bottles and putting them in storage, thereby avoiding the tax. But the company lost an estimated $3 million per week while leaving its stockpile fallow, and finally shut down its 500-worker factory Wednesday, July 23.

The government repealed the tax shortly after. But keep your eyes on this story. The government and bottled water industry representatives have entered talks on appropriate compensation for the government, and there’s no guarantee those talks won’t break down.

BEER IS BACK

Beer has regained a double-digit lead over wine as the favored alcoholic beverage of the U.S., according to Gallup’s latest poll.

Starting in 2001, Americans increasingly turned to wine as their choice intoxicant, a trend that peaked in 2005 when wine actually surpassed beer. Vino’s lead only lasted for one year, though, before beer stole its crown back, and the hops-and-grain brew has now racked up an 11-point lead – it’s biggest since 2002.BOSTON BEER SCORES TOUCHDOWN, WINS AWARDS

With stadium pouring rights all the rage for soda companies these days, it was only a matter of time before the breweries got in the act, as well.

The first to do so is the Boston Beer Company, which brews Samuel Adams. The company has launched Patriot Homebrew IPA, a new draft beer that will be sold only at the New England Patriots’ Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass. How apropos.

Meanwhile, the company’s own founding father, Jim Koch, received an award last month from the American Homebrewers Association for his “outstanding service to the community of homebrewers.”

The company has long run national promotions to encourage the practice of homebrewing, including its annual Longshot Competition.

Koch received the award as Boston Beer announced a new form of homegrown philanthropy, its Samuel Adams Brewing the American Dream program, whose mission is to partner with low and moderate income microentrepreneurs in the food and beverage industry and provide the tools they need to help them grow and succeed.

In creating this program, Boston Beer formed a partnership with ACCION USA, the country’s leading not-for-profit micro-lending organization that provides critical capital and other types of assistance to small businesses. Boston Beer and ACCION chose to pilot the program in New England.

Boston Beer donated $250,000 to the program, and plans to provide business education and financial literacy seminars to the entrepreneurs.

PEPSI JUMPS AHEAD IN THE STEVIA BATTLE

Over the past several years, Coca-Cola regularly made press announcements about its partnership with Cargill, and their joint “Truvia” stevia-based sweetener. The gist of those announcements boiled down to “it’s coming,” but now Pepsi has beaten Coke to the market.

PepsiCo will release three new flavors of SoBe Life in Latin American countries, starting with Peru. Each will be sweetened with PureVia – Pepsi and Whole Earth Sweetener Co.’s variant on stevia – and roll into the American market after the sweetener gains approval by the FDA for use in beverages.

Coke and Cargill’s variant awaits the same approval. Each company will tell you their product is best, but they’re essentially the same: a distillation of rebaudioside-A – the sweet-tasting compound in the stevia herb. And it’s nothing new. Not even to the American market.

Stevia-based sweeteners are approved for broad use in a dozen countries, and approved for use as a “dietary supplement” in the U.S. Consumers can buy the sugar substitute in natural markets, and several companies have already integrated stevia into beverages. Zevia, for one, leapt upon aWall Street Journal article about PureVia as an opportunity to point out the availability of its four-flavor line of stevia sweetened sodas.

The catch with Zevia and other stevia-sweetened brands, though, is the Seattle-based independent can’t call their product a beverage, or even a soda. They have to call it a dietary supplement – and dietary supplements don’t have a great track record for appearing next to Coke and Pepsi at your local minimart.

The expected FDA decision will change that, and enable the top-two beverage producers to market diet beverages sweetened with stevia, but the product ?may be limited by its licorice-like aftertaste.

Pepsi said citrus flavors, heavy flavors and lightly sweetened drinks perform well with PureVia. Cola is more difficult, a PepsiCo executive told the WSJ, but he added that doesn’t mean the company has ruled it out.

EXECUTIVE MOVES

Jim DePietro, a former vice president at Ideal Foods and Unilever, has joined the Steaz team as Chief Operating Officer.

bot beverages has hired John Wolgamot as vice president of sales. Wolgamot comes to bot beverages with 28 years of sales and marketing experience primarily in the food and beverage industry.

Heineken USA announced that Christian McMahan has been named the new Chief Marketing Officer for Heineken USA. McMahan was formerly a vice president of marketing for Diageo North America and responsible for Diageo’s U.S. beer portfolio.

Kevin Conrad joined Go Fast Sports, as Executive Vice President and Director of North American Sales and Distribution. Conrad is the former Vice President of Sales and Distribution for Rockstar Energy.

Boo Koo Holdings, Inc. appointed Jack Belsito, formerly President of Snapple Distributors, Inc. as Chairman.

Distributor Remy Cointreau USA, Inc., announced the appointment of Xavier Desaulles as Senior Vice President – Sales Strategy.

Bossa Nova has hired Jana Branch as vice president of brand communication.