Though convenience store traffic has dipped in 2017, you couldn’t tell from looking around the packed floor at this year’s National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) show, held Oct. 17-20 in Chicago. Exhibitors from across the spectrum of food and beverage took over two halls of the McCormick Place for three days, showcasing a range of new products and innovations that will be rolling out to c-store coolers over the next year. BevNET was there to bring you the highlights.
The prodigious growth of ready-to-drink coffee products – the fastest growing non-alcoholic beverage category over the past half-decade, according to Wells Fargo – was on full display at NACS 2017, as exemplified by new innovations from PepsiCo and The Coca-Cola Company. The two soda giants are each stockpiling an arsenal of brands and lines with distinctive offerings and use occasions as they vie for ultimate supremacy in the c-store cold coffee set.
Reps at the PepsiCo booth poured samples of two new Starbucks Frappuccino flavors, vanilla and mocha, made with almondmilk, marking the company’s first foray into using non-dairy “alt-milks” in the line. April will also see the launch of a new coffee smoothie subline for the more energy-forward Starbucks Double Shot with Almondmilk, available in Dark Chocolate Banana and Vanilla Honey Banana varieties. Starbucks Iced Lattes will see several new flavors added in February 2018, including White Chocolate Mocha, Pumpkin Spice and the rich and indulgent Molten Chocolate. The two new flavors of Starbucks Cold Brew also showed a shift towards sweeter offerings, with Black Sweetened and Vanilla with Fig and Cream both on display.
At the Coca-Cola booth, the beverage conglomerate highlighted coffee products produced under two high-profile partnerships with Dunkin’ Donuts and McDonald’s McCafe. Next year, Dunkin’ will add a Cookies ‘n’ Cream flavor to its existing four-SKU iced coffee lineup. The McCafe Frappes, which Coke VP and GM Diane Wallace noted was a more millennial-focused and lower priced option than Dunkin’, were available for sampling as they prepare to launch next year in Caramel, Mocha and Vanilla varieties.
Monster Energy is also poised to make a bigger push into the premium coffee set with two new innovations set to launch in February 2018. With its slim black 8.4 oz. can and “triple shot” callout, Espresso Monster has a more than subtle nod towards Starbucks’ Double Shot line, offering a similar potent coffee energy boost in two flavors, Vanilla Espresso and Espresso and Cream. In contrast, Caffe Monster is an “energy coffee” in a glass 13.7 oz. bottle that looks to compete with iced coffee lines from both Coke and Pepsi.
Other brands at NACS showcasing new coffee products included Forto Coffee Shots, which launched two new flavors, including Hershey’s Chocolate with milk, a co-branded release with the iconic confectionary company. Stok, Danone’s cold brew label, showcased a 13.7 oz. glass bottle format for its unsweetened black flavor, currently only available in a 48 oz. multiserve. Los Angeles-based brand Bowery Coffee Co. poured samples of a shelf-stable cold brew line that will be launching next year.
Innovations in energy drinks, an evergreen staple of the convenience store beverage set, were plentiful at this year’s NACS show. Red Bull revealed Coconut Twist, the latest entry in its Summer Edition line, in a striking silver/white can. Similar to previous Summer Edition releases, the flavor will be available as a national limited time offering April 30, 2018 through Labor Day.
5-Hour Energy, meanwhile, showcased Citrus Lemonade, which will launch in November, as the newest addition to its Extra Strength line (230 mg of caffeine per bottle). On the “regular strength” side, the brand will launch Peach Tea, made with natural caffeine from green tea extract, in the first quarter of 2018.
Monster Beverages had a range of new energy drinks at its sprawling booth. This year, the Mutant “super soda” line will be getting a new clear, sugar-free, zero-calorie SKU called White Lightning to complement the bright green original and Red Dawn varieties. Meanwhile, Mango Loco was showcased as the newest addition to the Juice Monster energy juice line in a bright blue can stylized in the aesthetic of Mexico’s Day of the Dead holiday.
SPORTS & PROTEIN DRINKS
In sports drinks, BodyArmor continued to expand its set with new flavors and formats. Pineapple Coconut was presented as the newest addition to the brand’s core 16 oz. bottled line, while two flavors from the its 20 calorie Lyte line – Blueberry Pomegranate and Orange Citrus – will be launching in 28 oz. bottles. Meanwhile, Knockout Punch, a 28 oz. SKU co-branded with the popular mixed martial arts competition Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), will be a c-store exclusive.
Next year, Coke will launch Vitaminwater Active, a new sub-line positioned as direct competition for BodyArmor. Aimed at dedicated fitness enthusiasts, all three SKUs of Active use a coconut water base and offer naturally sourced electrolytes and antioxidants. Roar Organic, which produces an electrolyte infusion water, sampled two new flavors– Blueberry Acai and Georgia Peach – at their booth.
WATER & KOMBUCHA
Bai showed a mix of consistency and change amongst its product set. An overhaul of Anti Water, the brand’s antioxidant-infused “super-purified” water line, features revamped packaging that presents the brand simply as Antioxidant Water. Meanwhile, the company’s “superteas” have also been cleaned up to more clearly indicate the product offering, with different bands of color to distinguish among flavors. Bai Black and Bai Bubbles also saw a packaging redesign, switching from black to white cans in order to streamline the brand’s aesthetic, along with a new Bogota Blackberry Lime flavor.
In sparkling water, Norwegian premium spring water brand VOSS introduced Lime Mint as the newest SKU in its carbonated lineup, packaged in the company’s signature 12.7 oz. glass tube bottles. Rapid hydration water Hoist had samples of its new watermelon flavor, which contains 35 calories. Talking Rain Beverage presented two new items: Ginger Lime, a new flavor for its Sparkling Ice line that will begin rolling out to retailers in early 2018, and the new premium mineral water line Himalayan Natural.
Coke-owned coconut water brand Zico will be adding some spice to its core lineup with a mango-jalapeno flavored SKU which will be launching early next year in 16.8 oz. bottles. Over at the Dr Pepper Snapple booth, Vita Coco showed off coconut water made with pressed coconut as its newest innovation, which aims to give consumers a more coconut-forward experience with a different texture that incorporates the fruit’s fleshy meat.
Elsewhere, KeVita showcased Pineapple Peach as the newest addition to its Master Brew kombucha line. Teasing an early 2018 launch at retail, Koe is a new line of shelf-stable kombuchas that reps indicated are positioned to capture soda consumers with a more palatable, fruit flavored lineup with 5 to 10 percent juice in each.