If you want to experience the ongoing wave of new product introductions, especially when it comes to malt-based, energy-enhancing and non-alcoholic beverages, then the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) annual convention is one event certain to zing your taste buds. I spent a couple of days in Las Vegas attending the show in October and I’m still buzzed from the dozens of new energy drinks, both alcohol and non-alcohol, that I tasted. Reputedly, the show included 140 beverages you could put in the energy drink category, which is a massive number even for that testosterone-pumped segment.
Besides the Big Daddy, Red Bull, which finally bowed to the trend toward larger-size packaging with its new 12-oz. can, there were many of the already established carotid-pulsing regulars like Monster and Rockstar and Coca-Colas’s Full Throttle, which debuted a line extension to the clan, Full Throttle Blue Demon in 16-oz. cans. Coke also added to its hybrid energy/soda Vault line, announcing the launch of Vault Red Blitz, due out in March 2007.
Anheuser-Busch introduced the non-alcohol energy drink 180 Blue, made with the acai berry, guarana and juices and vitamins. Miller Brewing showcased its newly acquired, fast-growing, energy-enhancing Sparks line, with 6.0% to 7.0% ABV, depending on the version.
Then there were Hydrive Energy Drink, made from spring water, available in four flavors and boasting “50% more caffeine than the leading energy drink;” and Kronk Grind, trying to appeal to the skateboarding subculture with the tagline, “Momma Ain’t Gonna Like This;” and Rip It Chic, a lo-cal energy beverage targeted at female consumers in two fruit flavors (Sin-a-Man and Berry In-o-Scent); and just plain Freek Energy, billed as “the most Evil Energy known to man,” available in four mind-shattering flavors: Maniac, SF Maniac, Rage and Psycho, to name a few of the newcomers.
And from Socko Energy: Socko, Raw Attitude and Hogan Energy (named for Hulk Hogan), all of them in regular and sugar-free versions.
The wrestling icon’s vein-popping image adorns the cans and the brand’s debut was supposed to be highlighted by an appearance of renowned muscleman. But I couldn’t wait around to get a live glimpse of the Hulkster, since my eyeballs were already spinning from the wall-to-wall heavy metal imagery.
At the Diageo booth, they weren’t serving any Johnnie Walker, but they were displaying the new Source, a 3.5% ABV spring water, which comes in Citrus, Orange and Berry flavors. It is testing in Dallas. Diageo was also showcasing its line of malt-based teas, tabbed Raw Tea, which launched in New England over the summer. The FMB line consists of brewed tea with caffeine and natural flavors. It includes Lemon, Raspberry and Peach versions, is 5.0% alcohol by volume (ABV) and comes in 12-oz bottles. A fourth flavor, Raw Tea Green Tea, just debuted in tests in Las Vegas and North Carolina. Indeed, tea drinks seemed to be everywhere, including the already established Twisted Tea family (Original, Half & Half, Raspberry, Peach; 5.0% ABV), from Boston Beer.
This is just a small sampling of the beverages on display at the NACS show. It was entertaining and informative, but I was glad to get home and open up a bottle of wine.