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The PLMA (Private Label Manufacturers Association) hosted its Private Label Trade Show from 13-15 November this year in Rosemont, Illinois. Over 1,300 exhibitors from 40 countries representing the global alcoholic drinks, beauty and personal care, consumer health, home care, hot drinks, packaged food, pet care, soft drinks, and tissue and hygiene industries were present to show the latest products available for a retailer’s private label programme. This article will focus on trends seen in coffee, drinking vinegars, and juices.
Cold brew coffee is one of the fastest growing segments of the US$2.3 billion RTD (ready-to-drink) coffee category. Unlike traditional iced coffee, the cold brew process involves steeping coffee grounds in water for 10+ hours to produce coffee that is naturally sweeter and less acidic. After getting its start in “third wave” coffee shops such as Stumptown Coffee Roasters, cold brew coffee has become better known since Starbucks introduced cold brew coffee in its shops in 2015, and companies, including Califia Farms, Chameleon Cold-Brew, and High Brew Coffee, introduced RTD varieties into supermarkets. Coffee companies serving the private label market see a growth opportunity in cold brew coffee. At the PLMA Show, a number of companies showcased cold brew coffees. Heartland Food Products Group offered Java House Premium Cold Brew Ready To Drink Coffee, with the packaging touting its “smooth feel” and “rich taste”. Kohana Coffee offered its cold brew RTD coffees sweetened with monk fruit as well as its organic cold brew coffee concentrates. For consumers who want to make cold brew coffee from scratch, Massimo Zanetti Beverage USA offered its Cold Brew Blend of ground 100% Arabica coffee with cold brewing instructions on the package.
Busy consumers who are leading on-the-go lifestyles and having difficulty getting adequate sleep are looking for an additional energy boost from their coffee. Trilliant Food & Nutrition introduced Ignitor coffee pods that contain twice the amount of caffeine. The Ignitor line featuring Cappuccino, French Roast, and other varieties is targeted at millennials who are looking for caffeine options beyond energy drinks and colas. TreeHouse Foods, a producer of non-dairy creamers and coffee pods, launched functional coffee creamers. The cremora caffeinated coffee creamer contains caffeine, ginseng, and five B vitamins while the protein variety contains 5g of protein. Protein continues to be popular with Americans as they view it as a healthy way to provide satiety (a feeling of fullness). Functional Foods Company launched two protein-enhanced RTD coffees at the PLMA Show with the Classic Café RTD variety offering 11g of protein in a 13.7 oz (405ml) bottle.
Few people in the US are familiar with the concept of drinking vinegars though consumers in Asia, including Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan, have been consuming them for years as a health drink. However, drinking vinegars have come into the spotlight as bartenders reintroduced “shrubs”, drinks prepared with fruit-infused vinegar that were popular in colonial era America. Drinking vinegars are now moving beyond cocktail bars and Asian restaurants into supermarkets as US consumers, especially millennials, move away from carbonated sodas into other beverages that are perceived to be healthier. Andy Ricker, Chef/Owner of Pok Pok Restaurants, introduced drinking vinegar-based drinks into his Thai restaurant in 2005 and launched a RTD Pok Pok Som Soda in 2015. He said in an October 2016 email interview that “while it [drinking vinegar-based drinks] is still considered a ’bleeding edge’ category, it is gaining popularity and awareness amongst the natural food and beverage world” and has the “same audience that might be interested in low sugar soda, kombucha, natural foods”. Bigger players are now entering the drinking vinegar category. Suja, partly owned by The Coca-Cola Co, launched Suja Drinking Vinegars in September 2016 while Hain Celestial launched Raw Vinegar Drinks under its BluePrint brand. Private label producers seek to capitalise on the interest in drinking vinegars as larger companies start to educate consumers about the health benefits of these alternatives to soda. At the PLMA Show, LiDestri Food and Drink showcased their pomegranate cranberry and honey flavored apple cider vinegar beverages. Vinegar producer Mizkan Americas, Inc served samples of passion fruit infused switchel made with its Mizkan apple cider vinegar.
The latest trend in juices is drinkable soups. Spaniards have long enjoyed gazpacho, a chilled tomato-based soup, while Americans love their hot chicken noodle soup. As consumers in many developed markets have concerns about the sugar content in juices and juice drinks, juice producers need to offer products that are perceived be healthier and fresher than orange juice and apple juice. Offering drinkable soups that contain vegetables may be a way to reach health conscious consumers who want to eat more vegetables in a convenient manner. Tio Gazpacho’s launch in 2014 and Sonoma Brands’ July 2016 launch of ZUPA NOMA have brought awareness to the drinkable soups category though it remains a niche segment so far. At the PLMA Show, Lassonde Pappas showcased its line of organic chilled vegetable soups in varieties, including gazpacho, avocado mango lime, and butternut squash Thai red curry. Lassonde Pappas is promoting its chilled soups as a “ready-to-sip multi-daypart solution” to expand consumption of juices beyond the morning daypart.