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    2007: The Year of the Health Drink?

    More than a dozen new health-conscious beverages scheduled for release next year.

    NEW YORK -- Since the 1800s, beverage makers have been looking for a formula that gives users something more than just refreshment. That quest will continue in 2007 as more than a dozen drinks promising weight loss, cell-damage-reducing antioxidants and natural energy are scheduled to hit shelves, with many more in the pipeline, according to Brandweek, a sister publication to Convenience Store News.

    "The healthy beverage trend is going to accelerate wildly," John Sicher, editor at Beverage Digest, Bedford Hills, N.Y., told Brandweek. Being No. 1 in a fledgling category, like Red Bull was to energy drinks, is the goal. "[Coke and Pepsi] know they need to be ahead of the curve. They are taking a lot more risks."

    Next year, new choices will abound as Pepsi alone has at least 12 entrants on the way for health-conscious consumers, including Pepsi Natural and Sierra Mist Essence (both made with natural sugars); Tava (with chromium, which is tied to weight loss); and Tropicana Essentials with Omega-3 fatty acids, the report said.

    "We're in the business of giving consumers what they're looking for," said Chris Kempczinski, VP-noncarbonated beverages at Pepsi-Cola North America, Purchase, N.Y.

    Coming from Coca-Cola will be Enviga, a sparkling green tea that burns calories, and H2Odwalla enhanced water. BusinessWeek also said to expect from the beverage giant the debut of "nutraceutical versions of Diet Coke" and "new juices designed to help women with skincare, weight management and detoxification."

    Glacéau Vitaminwater Triple X and Snapple Out of the Blueberry, both loaded with antioxidants, are also due for 2007, according to Brandweek.

    Consumers' dollars are driving this trend: wellness and functional beverage sales grew from $41 billion in 1999 to $55 billion in 2005, per Beverage Marketing, New York. This number is expected to keep climbing as demand for sugary sodas continues to decline. Americans drank 19 billion gallons of milk, water, sports and energy drinks in 2005.

    Still, rolling out new products and actually sticking with them are two very different things, noted Gerry Khermouch, editor at Beverage Business Insights, West Nyack, N.Y. "[Coke and Pepsi] typically can't refrain from hitting the gas and trying to push the brand beyond its natural state of development. So unless one of those brands proves to be an instant and big hit, their chances of meaningful success are not that great."

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