Superfoods, superfruit and Superman all offer potential when it comes to new product development in the soft drinks sector.

Increasing numbers of manufacturers are introducing so-called "superfruits" - pomegranate, blueberry and whatever other flavour of the month scientists identify - into their ranges.

There is an argument that this exploitation of the health message should embrace superfoods as well.

"If I were to invest in any sector of the soft drinks market, it would be in beauty foods - that is, foods good for the skin, the eyes, the hair and such," says Claire Nuttall, client director at brand agency Dragon.

Nuttall argues savoury foods have yet to be exploited to the extent of fruits and cites seeds, nuts, oats and Omega-3 fatty acids as items with potential in soft drinks.

Such products will appeal not just to adults seeking beauty benefits. Parents, too, will be attracted to the products as beneficial for their children.

"Right now it's tricky to get good, natural children's drinks," she says.

Cartoon and film superheroes could also be developed further as a powerful tool for marketing functional healthy drinks to children.

"I do wonder how much a fantasy element would boost sales," she says.

"Companies have tried this before but nobody has cracked it. It would be interesting to see somebody really embrace it and push it forward."

More traditional themes for new product development have been based on the health message and a greater range of flavours.

Mintel, the research organisation, says the most frequently made claims for new soft drinks launched in the past 12 months have been low, reduced or no sugar; vitamin or mineral-fortified; and additive or preservative-free.

Other common themes include age-specific advertising for adults, youths and children; the introduction of more exotic flavours and ingredients; an emphasis on a healthy, more natural image; the introduction of limited-edition flavours; a trend towards still rather than fizzy drinks; and packaging and rebranding.

Packaging developments are focusing on convenience and that tends to equate to smaller sizes.

"The government has raised awareness of the notion of 5-a-day and research suggests consumers get two-and-a-half portions of fruit and vegetables a day," says Will Ghali, marketing director at Tropicana.

"With 100ml juice bottles, they know they can get a portion in one hit and without the waste of a

250ml bottle."n