Beverages: Distributor's Notebook 2014

By  Kelly Kurt, Freelance writer

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“It’s giving that consumer a value proposition while still being able to provide a functional-beverage alternative,” she says. “Our retailers are definitely grabbing onto that a little more.”

 ▶ Drinkable snacks: Premium juice smoothies, such as those from Naked, are gaining ground with a trend toward all-day snacking and consumer desire to keep some of those snacks guilt-free. “It’s not only a beverage item but also a good-for- you item,” Kuncl says. “We’re seeing that flow into that meal-replacement piece.”

Cold coffee beverages from either the refrigerated section or foodservice side also serve as meal substitutes. Consumers in the 18- to 29-year-old age range drink iced beverages as a thirst quencher and also as an afternoon pick-me-up, she says.

“The McDonald’s and the Dunkin’ (Donuts) of the world are looking at that iced-coffee customer as an all-day customer, and we should too,” she says. “I think that’s a good opportunity for stores going into this year.”

 ▶ Juiced up: Eby-Brown has seen strong sales in premium refrigerated juices, particularly orange juice. The cause might again be meal replacement.

“They’re feeling good about themselves because they’re picking up orange juice as opposed to a cupcake,” Kuncl says. In turn, pop-the-top-style ambient juices appear to be on the decline. “People are looking toward that pure premium, deli-style, carafe-style product.”

 ▶ Time for tea: Retailers will find a lot more entries competing for space in the bottled-tea section, offering flavors that are natural and fruity but less sweet than in the past.

“The movement we’ve seen has been away from more of the extra-sweet teas and more toward natural-flavored teas,” and consumers also are moving toward less expensive teas, Kuncl says.

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