This past weekend, New York City was in all its glory, and we residents were enjoying it to the fullest. There is nothing like the city in the fall. We had the World Series playing out in Queens. As a Yankee fan, the loss for the Mets wasn’t exacgtly the heartbreak for me that it was for their fans, but hey, it’s a shame. I also felt bad for the Dodgers, for that matter. Still, the foliage was at its peak, and the warm summer prolonged this annual spectacle to November.
You have to be in the Northeast to truly see the leaves changing – it’s one of the greatest miracles of Mother Nature. Central Park was breathtaking.
We were also treated to the New York City Marathon. This is a transcendent event: 50,000-plus runners, with millions more cheering them on, throughout the five boroughs, is a sight to relish. And the weather contributed to it all, making it ideal for runners and spectators alike.
I figured this would be the ideal opportunity to make my now-annual observe-and-report mission on the latest beverage trends. Over the years, I’ve camped out in Times Square, stopping people imbibing about their beverage preferences. With the Marathon and the drinking weather at my back, I figured I had the perfect timing and crowd in which to conduct my truly un-scientific focus group.
First and foremost, water was the overwhelming choice of the masses – a big change from 10 or 20 years ago, when the colas dominated. We’ve all seen the stats that show the rapid decline of CSD’s. Seeing it first hand is always an eye-opener, though. Aside from the obvious Poland Spring, which is on every food cart and kiosk in the city, I was struck by how often Fiji, Voss, Volvic and other super premiums were the go-to brands. Core Natural was a surprisingly frequent selection for such a new entry. Their distinct packaging has made an impact in my city. I cannot forget about Smartwater, as the brand associated with the fitness obsession in NYC.
Sparkling Ice – and the brands trying to make a move on them – were the choice of many, as alternatives to the pure water brands. La Croix and other sparkling drinks, especially in cans, have made tremendous inroads. Consumers’ tastes for flavor and variety continue to determine where beverages are going. People are looking for enhanced and functional brands much more often, and I saw a lot of coconut waters and protein shakes out in the crowds. Move toward the nicer neighborhoods, and HPP drinks seemed to be the choice of a distinct, higher end demographic. I saw that price point ring often.
AriZona and Snapple, the standard bearers of RTD, and New York grown to boot, still dominate here, but I saw Honest Tea and Honest Kids everywhere. Added to the mix were so many of the boutique brands. Bai has also become a major player. Their penetration at retail was evident and I saw it frequently, in-store and out on the street.
The reality is that beverages continue to evolve, and what was new and exciting just a few years ago, is mainstream now. That’s a good thing. Hopefully, it’ll open up to a new, exciting generation of brands that are joining the fray.