Category Review: Drink Mixes -- Sugar Shake-Off

August 7, 2008
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Breakfast is out and kiddie refreshment is in.

Breakfast is out and kiddie refreshment is in - at least that’s what recent sales data from Chicago-based Information Resources Inc. (IRI) suggest.

IRI data show dollar and unit sales for the total breakfast drink mixes category down a whopping 79.9 percent and 74.8 percent, respectively, during the 52 weeks ending April 20, 2008 (excluding Wal-Mart, club stores and c-stores). In contrast, dollar sales for the total fruit drink mixes category - a child favorite - rose 7.5 percent during the same timeframe (but unit sales fell 3.1 percent).

Private label breakfast drink mixes also posted dollar and unit sales declines - of 9.3 percent and 15.5 percent, respectively. But fruit drink mixes were up, posting 23.5 percent and 26.9 percent gains in dollar and unit sales, respectively.

Linda Bender, who works in the business support group of Fort Worth, Texas-based Marketing Management Inc., suggests that breakfast drink mixes - as well as hot drink mixes (also down) - have lost some points recently with convenience-minded consumers.

“Most consumers are looking for the convenience factor, which is more of the ‘add to bottle water’ style,” she says. “Hot drink mixes and breakfast drink mixes are just now starting to touch this segment within the category.”

But the overall drink mix category is growing, Bender stresses.

“Convenience and healthy trends right now are the strongest,” she says. “Most retailers are doing their best [to meet] the innovative trends within their private label programs.”

Larry Hamwey, vice president of marketing for Sturm Foods, Manawa, Wis., agrees with the trends toward convenience and health, adding that the sugar-free and reduced-sugar segments are growing most significantly. (See the sidebar.)

“Private label is outpacing store brands,” he says. “Unsweetened [has] declined.”

Interest in drink mix sticks also is up as more consumers embrace sugar-free formulations, Hamwey says. In addition, consumers are looking for more functionality in their beverages.

“Powdered drink mixes are a billion dollar category - and one of the fastest-growing center-of-the-store categories,” he says. “New products that deliver more functionality to the consumer will bring new users to the category.”

Bender agrees, noting that new launches touting sugar-free, energy, protein and vitamin-enriched formulations have helped expand the drink mix category and win over new consumers who want to improve their overall health.

For retailers hoping to capture a larger share of the drink mix market, Bender has four words: innovation, convenience, sampling and educating. And, of course, packaging also will continue to play a role, with eco-friendly designs becoming more critical.

“Consumers will demand more stronger and bolder flavors with a health benefit,” she says, “such as the superfruits. By far, less sugar within the children and adult choices to aid the obesity and diabetic consumer groups.”

Hamwey notes that successful retailers make a commitment to developing their store brand programs via expanding product offerings and promoting the brand in key selling season.

“Off-shelf displays will generate significant incremental sales due to the impulse nature of the product,” he adds. PLB

New on the Shelf

Need more proof that sugar-free formulations are on the rise? Here are just a few of the latest store brand drink mixes to hit the shelf:
  • Price Chopper Rainbow Light To Go Drink Mix, a sugar-free product sweetened with Splenda that comes in Lemonade, Lemon Iced Tea and Fruit Punch Varieties. The zero-calorie drink mix is also certified kosher and is gluten- and lactose-free.
  • Food Club Thirst Splashers To Go! Drink Mixes (from Skokie, Ill.-based Topco Associates). The sugar-free, 5-calorie mix comes in Raspberry Ice with lemon and other natural flavors, and is certified kosher.
  • Target’s Market Pantry Sugar-Free Drink Mix in a Raspberry Green Tea variety. Kosher-certified, the 5-calorie product is naturally and artificially flavored, and is said to be a natural source of antioxidants and a good source of calcium.
  • Kroger In An Instant Fitness Sugar Free Drink Mix, which now comes in a 1.7 oz. pack that makes 12 quarts of prepared beverage. Varieties of the kosher-certified product include Wild Berry and Lemon.

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