THE PRINCE OF BEVERAGES
By Greg W. Prince
@@img1 You know milk, right? You know its assets (builds strong bones), its limitations (don’t leave it out on the kitchen table too long), that it comes with varying degrees of fat and that chocolate milk totally rocks.
But if that’s all you know about it, you don’t know milk.
I don’t necessarily know that much about milk. I started from behind.
According to my bio, I had a childhood allergy, so that was my excuse for carrying a can of nationally advertised cola to nursery school every day. When you’re four, five years old, the key to popularity is doing something totally different from everybody else-be sure to pass that on to your progeny. The other kids had milk and cookies. I got soda and stares.
While a lifelong love affair with the carbonated soft drink was hatched in preschool (never mind some angst over not fitting in), I missed the milk bus. Or did the milk bus miss me and a lot of other people, allergies notwithstanding?
The dairy industry has been trying to convince consumers for what seems like an eternity that milk is fun, so drink it already. They always point to the same two things: The milk mustache campaign and the “got milk?” tagline. The former is charming, the latter is clever. They’ve both been around for ages. Is anybody drinking more milk because of them?
Imagery like that is chicken soup for the sales-it couldn’t hurt. But I’m more moved (OK.moooooved; sorry, it was too hard to resist) by stuff like this: Mooberry Blueberry. Promised Land Dairy in San Antonio, TX just brought back what it calls its “most popular seasonal flavor.” Yeah, blueberry.
It’s not the only berry milk product that’s ever seen light of fridge. In 2003, both Coke (Swerve) and Dr Pepper/Seven Up (Raging Cow) did something in that vein. It still strikes this observer as unusual. Who knew you could mix blue with moo?
Promised Land says it starts with all-natural, hormone free Jersey cow milk and blends “the juice of flavorful wild blueberries picked at the height of plumpness,” thus giving Mooberry Blueberry “the very best of the blueberry’s natural flavor.” It’s bottled in glass quart milk bottles to keep it fresh and makes for a product said to be 20 percent higher in calcium and between 10 and 20 percent higher in protein than other milks on the market.
“It comes from only healthy, hormone-free brown Jersey cows,” Promised Land promises, which means more non-fat milk solids and a “superior” rich and creamy taste. I’m more familiar with Jersey turnpikes than Jersey cows, but that sounds mighty enticing.
Milk men and milk women have to cut through the clutter to compete as a refres hment beverage. You might say milk started from behind in this particular classroom. Whereas one could let soda be soda, milk’s mission was pedantic.
Nobody’s parents ever admonished their child to “finish all your root beer or you won’t grow up all nice and big.” For that matter, nobody’s parents ever poured pop in their coffee or all over their Special K.
Milk can’t be just milk because there’s not enough scratch in it. The same can be said for every beverage, whether it’s traditionally commercially glamo rous or a seemingly staid stalwart of breakfast tables and guilt trips.
According to Beverage Marketing Corporation, three bulwark beverages-beer, coffee and milk-have all figuratively treaded water in terms of growth. As a result, they were trampled by water, water of the bottled kind. Bottled water is now the second-biggest beverage category in the United States. Yes, water in a bottle, the major attribute of which is plainness, has stormed past a trio of categories whose sales have stood still, in part, because they’re dying for some excitement.
We knew milk is a great source of calcium, but who knew beverages contained such irony?
As a result of the twists and turns of tastes and trends, we have low-carb beer. We have a Starbucks on every corner and a couple down every cul de sac.
And we have items like Mooberry Blueberry and Sparkling Cow (bubbles meeting bovinity) and luscious flavored shakes from Hershey’s and ever more versions of Nesquik and various takes on milky goodness that fit into your local co nvenience store cold door. If milk wants to be a beverage, it has to act like one, and in 2004, that means more than simply being all wet.
Beverage Digest says sales of non-carbonated beverages-not counting water but including, most prominently, sports drinks, juices and juice drinks, ready-to-drink teas and dairy-based bevs-were up 4.7 percent in ’03. There’s too much going on in what used to be condescendingly referred to as the “all other” category to write it off to faddishness. CSDs are still bigger than everything else, even bottled water, but they barely increased their volume last year.
So here’s to you, Mooberry Blueberry. If Promised Land is right about you, dairy may become synonymous with the land of milk and money.
Greg W. Prince (firstname.lastname@example.org) has covered the beverage business as a reporter and editor for more than 15 years.