Possible Additions to Your Beverage Cooler

If you want to see the cutting edge of the ready-to-drink beverage category, look no further than the annual National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) show. NACS 2004 took place in Las Vegas in October, and amid the 1,400 booths flogging everything from playing cards and nutriceuticals to cigars and gas pumps, a variety of new, improved and expanded canned and bottled drinks were on display from more than three dozen companies.

Here is a rundown of some of the more interesting products on display this year.

Perhaps the biggest news at the show was Coca-Cola finally unveiling its new FullThrottle Energy Drink. The 16-oz. lightly carbonated, citrus-flavored beverage contains ginseng and guarana extract, caffeine and B-vitamins. The company plans a major multimedia campaign next year to support the product's January launch.

Nutrition product marketer EAS was touting its AdvantEdge Coffee House products, RTD shakes made with real coffee (for a caffeine kick) while promising a low-carb profile. Coming in Cappuccino, Mocha Latte and Cafè Caramel flavors, they are packed with 15 grams of protein and a slew of vitamins and minerals while remaining 99% fat free and containing only one gram of "impact carbs."

Chaser 5-Hour Energy drink from Living Essentials promises up to five hours of quick energy "with no crash afterwards" because the beverage is a blend of B-vitamins, enzymes and amino acids rather than the sugar/caffeine-combination of traditional coffee drinks that can produce short-term highs followed by dramatic lows.

To expand the convenience of its popular Crystal Light drink line, Kraft Foods introduced Crystal Light On The Go. The powdered product is available in portable foil-sealed "sticks" that contain a pre-measured amount just right for flavoring a 20-oz. container of bottled water.

Tetley, a leading producer of traditional teas since 1837, has leveraged that expertise with its line of Shakti energy drinks, which are pasteurized, lightly carbonated and made with spring water, green tea and vitamin fortification.

Juice & Tea from Ocean Spray combines fruit juices with specialty black teas to offer consumers the refreshment associated with each of those drinks but with less calories and carbohydrates than traditional fruit juice drinks, along with a natural caffeine content a tenth of that found in an 8-ounce serving of brewed coffee. The Diet Wildberry offering has only 10 calories and three grams of carbohydrates per 8-oz. serving.

Following the successful launch of Nesquik Chocolate and Strawberry Milkshakes, Nestle Nesquik has introduced two new milkshake flavors to its bottled milkshake line: S'mores and Vanilla Caramel. S'mores combines the flavors of chocolate, marshmallow and graham while Vanilla Caramel balances vanilla and caramel for a delicious, indulgent shake.

Slim Slammers, from Bravo Foods International Corp., feature a distinctive "diet oriented" packaging, and are the only shelf stable, no-sugar-added milk in the industry today, according to the company.

Slim-Fast Foods Co. offered its Optima Smoothies, coming in four flavors and packaged ready to drink in a bottle for convenience and portability.

Campbell Soup Co. introduced a new look for its V8 100% vegetable juices, a 12-oz. PET bottle. The convenient on-the-go packaging is designed to drive growth by meeting the needs of modern consumers, especially younger ones.

AriZona's Rx Extreme Energy Shot packs 10% real fruit juice fortified with herbs and nutrients in a distinctive 8-oz. aluminum can featuring a sanitary polypropylene cap that doubles as a "shot" cup.

FUZE Beverage has added another entry to its Healthy Infuzions lineup, No-Carb Diet Pomegranate White Tea, made with no sugar and having no calories.

Just Strawberries from strawberry grower/shipper California Giant Berry Farms is fairly unique in that it is made from strawberry juice flavored with Splenda sugar substitute. Pasteurized and preservative-free, it boasts a 40-day shelf life.