Say Hello to the Enhancers

Ginny’s been my friend since junior high, and she and I have always had many interests in common. First amongst them is our passion for the US Open tennis tournament. Every year we catch a few sessions, in addition to the ones we go to with our families. It’s a ritual: I meet her at Penn Station when her train from Princeton arrives. We then take the Long Island Railroad to the Open. Before we enter the grounds we stop at a kiosk and buy a few bottles of Poland Spring. After all, we get five bottles for the price of one inside.

Once seated, Ginny proceeds to open a bottle, take out a tubular sleeve, and pour the contents into her bottle. She’s been doing this for years, and I never really took notice, or connected it to my life’s profession, beverages. After all, I’m good at separating church and state. She would always describe it as her enhancer.

Over the past few years, though, I’ve become more aware of the “enhancers” that are taking a larger role in our industry. “Enhanced beverages” have been a major part of the industry for many years now. From the original SoBes and Vitaminwaters to present day functional products, these drinks now dominate the retail landscape. They are major drivers of volume in many categories – the addition of vitamins, herbs, aloe, and electrolytes is a major factor in the growth and excitement surrounding beverages.

With this explosion of brands, the inevitability of taking the next step was obvious and we’re now seeing the consumer embracing concentrates, powders and liquids, in many formats, that give them the choice to mix to their delight. I am a big fan of the concept. When I order an Arnold Palmer at a restaurant, I always request the mix at 2/3 lemonade. Why shouldn’t we all have that capacity, to formulate our drinks to our heart’s content?

Once, the enhancer category was relegated to large containers of powders, with economics the driving factor in the purchase. Now we’re exposed to a plethora of brands in fancy packaging of all shapes and sizes. The cap delivery system drinks are a great example of this. Look for them to explode over the next few years. The portability factor, which I’ve written about many times over the years, is also a huge driver for this category.

There’s still a philosophical question – if you take away the liquid, is it still a drink? I think Ginny would say yes.