Are you thirsty? Sleepy? Hungover? In need of vitamins? Electrolytes? Protein?
Whatever you are, there’s a soft drink for that.
There was once a time, not so long ago, when a cold beverage was about simply providing refreshment. “Hydration wasn’t even a consideration,” says Tim Rees, UK MD of Vita Coco. Nowadays, however, suppliers are witnessing “need states evolving, evolving, evolving”.
This growing agglomeration of consumers’ desires – based on taste, occasion, time of day, health concerns and more – is why Vita Coco owner All Market is about to bring Runa to the UK.
It’s a low-sugar, ‘clean’ energy drink from the US, highly caffeinated by the guayusa ‘super-leaf’ that provides “a much smoother and sustained energy high” than traditional energy drinks, according to Rees.
The UK rollout in July of Runa, which All Market bought last June, marks an early move towards the company fulfilling its ambition of offering a portfolio of healthier soft drinks with natural credentials.
The Brooklyn-based Runa’s market footprint is currently small – it has limited presence even in its homeland – but All Market hopes to turn it into a “mega-brand on par with Vita Coco” Rees says.
It’s a lofty ambition. And it’s not one every new brand can achieve, Rees admits. “The opportunity to get massive scale that may have been there 15 years ago is a lot, lot harder. I don’t think you can say there’s one sweet spot you should throw all your efforts at.”
This pragmatic, ‘long-tail’ approach to innovation is one Coca-Cola appears to share. The soft drinks giant has indulged in all manner of launches in recent months and years. Fuze ice tea, Honest Coffee, Adez smoothies, flavoured Glacéau Smartwater, Coke Energy, and Signature Mixers are unlikely to ever be omnipresent like the company’s core soda is. But they are significant in that they are helping Coca-Cola become a “total beverage” supplier.
It’s not just Coke and All Market that are increasingly eager to please. Lucozade has FitWater, for example. AG Barr has added Le Joli spritzers and Irn-Bru Energy. Red Bull makes mixers. The list goes on.
Which, of course, highlights a potential downside: increasingly crowded shelves, leading to confusing shopping missions. That’s a need state no one needs, and it could leave suppliers vulnerable to range rationalisations.
It’s something soft drink innovators should perhaps keep in mind in their determination to become everything to everyone.
He joined the magazine in January 2016 as food & drink editor, having been at financial & legal publisher LexisNexis.
Follow Daniel on Twitter: @danielmcselwood