Clean labels and sophisticated flavors
Tractor Beverage Co., the line of organic drinks sold at Chipotle Mexican Grill, was displaying its wares at the Keurig Dr. Pepper booth, since that company has taken a minority stake in the brand, including six new drinks (starting in the back from left to right): Peach (with the addition of a little cinnamon and blackstrap molasses, mango, Farmers Punch (made mostly of dark cherry, grape and blueberry), clementine, strawberry-dragon fruit, and lemonade.
Dragon fruit has a strong presence in beverages at the show with Red Bull having come up with a new dragon fruit flavor — “flavor” being used loosely, as dragon fruit has an extremely mild flavor, generally overpowered by other components in a drink. But it’s a pretty fruit that enjoys a reputation for being very healthful.
With the increase in takeout and delivery, fountain drinks have taken a backseat to RTD beverages, which don’t spill or get diluted by melting ice when being delivered. So companies like Lavazza are displaying them prominently, including RTD cold brew coffee, nitro cold brew, cappuccino and double-shot oat milk cold brew.
Many labor-saving items are being showcased at the show, including Blind Tiger’s line of drinks that can either be enjoyed as ready-to-drink spirit-free cocktails, or grown-up-tasting mixers ready to be shaken or stirred with a spirit of the drinker’s choice
Complex hard seltzer
Hard seltzer, which is essentially ready-to-drink vodka & soda, has taken the drinking public by storm, and some exhibitors, such as Owl’s Brew, has decided that the category is ready for an upgrade with sparkling “Boozy Tea” with combinations such as English Breakfast tea with lemon and lime, Darjeeling & hibiscus, jasmine with blueberry and lemon, white tea with raspberry and watermelon and matcha with chamomile and pineapple, all at sessionable alcohol-by-volume levels of 4.8%.
Talented bartenders are in short supply, so Cocktail Crate, among other companies, is offering the solution of drinks like a classic Old Fashioned in a bottle. Just pour and garnish, possibly with the cocktail cherries that the company also sells.
Alcohol-free beer and wine
There’s no shame in choosing not to drink, nor is there shame in offering customers premium and profitable zero-proof options such as Better Rhodes’ line of alcohol-free beer and wine.
Drinks and a show
The smoking gun — not the murder weapon but the bartender’s tool for quickly adding smoke to a drink with dramatic effect — has been around for years, but Flavour Blaster has an enhanced one capable of forming a bubble made of an edible vegetable glycerin-based solution that traps the smoke, and then burst with a puff of flavor available in multiple aromas. A flavorless smoke is also an option.
The sometimes chewy, sometimes bursting tapioca pearls known as boba are a trend that is spreading — Dunkin’ and Sonic Drive-in have both offered them.
So does coffee and tea company Westrock, which exhibited a drink made of cinnamon black tea concentrate mixed with shake base and finished with thin-shelled boba that burst, filling drinkers’ mouths with cinnamon and poppy flavors.
Nitrogen has long been the source of bubbles for stout beers such as Guinness, and nitro cold brew swept the coffee world before pandemic (although it’s possible that its popularity has peaked), but PepsiCo is seeing if nitro has legs in the realm of soda with the launch of Nitro Pepsi, which is nitrogenated rather than carbonated, providing smaller bubbles and a somewhat creamier mouthfeel (although the effect is less pronounced than in coffee or beer).