NACS Review

During this year’s NACS show, entrepreneurial brands weren’t afraid to make news. Hint Inc. showcased two new still flavors – Lemon and Mango – as well as a brand-wide label redesign. In changing from its current sleek plastic label to a textured paper label, Hint COO Theo Goldin said the new look is intended to resonate more with millennial consumers and communicate “the fun of drinking Hint” with “a more tactile feel.”

The new innovations comes as Goldin explained that Hint is close to doubling its sales this year. While much of its business to date has been in grocery and e-commerce, the convenience channel is a target growth space for the company, he said, The brand is currently in about 1,000 c-stores nationwide and maintains a low all-commodity volume (ACV) by design, Goldin said, but that if the company chooses to grow its ACV next year they will focus on improving same store sales.

The ongoing migration of kombucha from niche stores to mainstream retailers has been a slow process, but Portland, Ore.-based Brew Dr. Kombucha is looking to cans as the way to unlock shelf space in C-store coolers. After launching three flavors in 4-packs of 12 oz. cans at Whole Foods in June, the brand is now looking to build in C-stores with a channel-exclusive 16 oz. can. The cans – available in Mint Lemonade, Ginger Turmeric and Strawberry Basil flavors – will be sold as singles ($3.99 SRP) and in 4-packs starting in January, with initial launched focused on the company’s backyard in the Pacific Northwest.

CBD beverages were not allowed on the show floor at NACS 2018, but that didn’t stop functional beverage company New Age Beverages from unveiling a new line of CBD products, set to launch this fall with a wider release next year, during an invite-only gathering at a nearby hotel suite. The company shared several new CBD-based product lines, including CBD Tea, CBD WTR, and CBD Shot by New Age. Each is infused with 25 mg of hemp-derived, full-spectrum CBD per serving.

“The way we see it, would you rather invest in a cannabis company that can source the products, or the brand that can reach consumers through 400,000 retailers?” Willis told BevNET.

The CBD Tea line includes Hibiscus Lemon, Lavender Mint, Pure Green, and Grapefruit Thyme varieties and will retail for $4.99 per 16 oz. bottle. CBD WTR, a sparkling water line, includes Strawberry Clementine, Raspberry Lime, Mango, and Grapefruit flavors and will retail for $3.99 per 16 oz. bottle. CBD Shot by New Age will include a single Lemon Green flavor and retail for $2.99 per 2 oz. bottle.

As Red Bull debuted several new flavors at NACS 2018, the iconic energy drink brand’s decision to shift a handful of its most successful flavored SKUs into its 8.4 oz. can format underscored its desire to balance innovations that appeal to loyal consumers with efforts to continue bringing new consumers into the category. Red Bull’s White Edition (coconut), Green Edition (kiwi), Blue Edition (blueberry) and Yellow Edition (tropical) flavors will soon be available in 8.4 oz. single-serve cans, in addition to its current 12 oz. can format. The company currently only offers its Original, Sugar Free and Zero Calorie SKUs in 8.4 oz. cans.

The brand hopes next year’s Summer Edition – the tropical themed Beach Breeze – can continue upon that success when it launches on April 29, 2019. Next year’s Summer Edition – the tropical themed Beach Breeze – will complement the launch of two new core flavors, Peach Edition and Pear Edition Sugar Free, in January. In October, the brand began offering a limited-edition can honoring the classic arcade game PAC-MAN, available in 8.4 oz. single serve, 4-pack and 12-pack options. At Red Bull’s NACS booth, the brand showcased the collaboration with a special PAC-MAN arcade unit featuring a built-in fridge.

As consumers continue to steer away from carbonated soft drinks and sugary beverages, low- and zero-calorie sparkling waters stand to be one of the beneficiaries of that shift. Both new entrants and established players in the category shared a variety of innovations at NACS.

Two of Nestle Waters’ most recognizable premium imported water brands – S. Pellegrino and Perrier – each showcased new lines that embrace fruit flavors. The former shared samples of Essenza, a four-SKU line of naturally flavored essence waters (Dark Morello Cherry, Pomegranate & Lemon, Lemon Zest, Tangerine & Wild Strawberry, and Original) packaged in 11.2 oz. slim cans priced at $1.49 each, as well as in 8-packs. The line has been softly rolled out since August, with national expansion slated for end of January 2019. Meanwhile, Perrier’s new innovation for next year is its new juice-added line of sparkling waters, available in three flavors (Peach & Cherry, Pineapple & Mango, and Strawberry & Kiwi). Each 8.5 oz. can contains 13-17 percent juice and 45-60 calories per 8.5 oz.slim can, depending on the SKU.

The growth opportunity in sparkling water has given brands multiple angles with which to attack. Mexican soda brand Jarritos shared Naturagua, its new line of naturally essenced sparkling waters. Packaged in the same 12.5 oz. glass bottles as its sodas, the line – available in flavors like peach, pomegranate and mandarin – recalled Coke’s premium sparkling import Topo Chico in some ways. Elsewhere, Polar showcased a variety of playful seasonal seltzer flavors – Hibiscus Cloudberry and Vanilla Zen – in 12 oz. cans that are due to launch in November, as well as SKUs like “Minotaur Mayhem” and “Pixie Lights” in its kid’s line, Seltzer Jr., which is sold exclusively in 6-packs of 8 oz. cans.

Confirming a successful first eight months on the market, Bubly, PepsiCo’s much-hyped zero-calorie sparkling water line, shared both new flavors and new packaging. Early next year, the brand will debut three new SKUs – Strawberry, Cherry and Mango – and a 20 oz. PET bottle that will carry a suggested retail price of $1.49.