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    Relaxation Drinks Somewhat Slow to Take Off

    The beverages are trying to capture a piece of the market, but not all c-stores are quick to add them.

    By Melissa Kress, Convenience Store News

    It is a basic tenet of life: everything has a counterpart. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. What comes up must come down. And so, continuing with that theory, relaxation drinks are the natural follow-up to energy drinks. But when it comes to consumer demand, can relaxation drinks pack the same punch as the alternative beverage leader?

    Harry Balzer, chief industry analyst and vice president of The NPD Group, believes there could be a place for relaxation drinks in the national marketplace, but does not see a lot of Americans consuming them at this point. "Energy drinks are a small part of the beverage story and relaxation drinks are even smaller," he explained. "But both are part of a much bigger story."

    Balzer, author of The NPD Group's annual report "Eating Patterns in America," said even though carbonated soft drinks are still king, consumers are looking for other options. "For now, relaxation drinks are not part of the national drinking habits, but the country is looking for an alternative to carbonated soft drinks so it is not surprising you are seeing energy drinks and relaxation drinks right now."

    He may be on to something. Bebida Beverage Co. (BeBevCo) has been making great strides this year getting its product Koma Unwind into the retail distribution channel. In mid-July, it inked a deal with Ultimart convenience stores to put the relaxation drink in its coolers across Wisconsin. Just days earlier, BeBevCo's signed a distribution agreement with Boomtown Distributing of Reno, Nev., to deliver Koma Unwind to convenience stores, travel centers and service centers throughout Nevada.

    Customers at Dennis Lane's 7-Eleven store in Boston continually express interest in relaxation drinks. Lane, who is president of the New England 7-Eleven Owners Association and past chairman of the National Coalition of Associations of 7-Eleven Franchisees, added the relaxation shot iChill to his product lineup more than two years ago. "I was intrigued with the concept," he said. "Selling products in shot-sized bottles has been successful for energy drinks."

    Relaxation drinks have not just piqued his interest; his customers express the same wonderment, he said. "I am very surprised how many new customers are intrigued by relaxation drinks," Lane said, adding that they always pick them up at the counter at ask if they work.

    After successfully adding iChill to the mix, Lane began stocking another relaxation drink, Dream Water. "I liked the concept of having an almost anti-energy drink. Now you have a product at the end of the day you can use to relax," he explained.

    "I also liked that it is a new category," Lane added. "In the convenience store channel, one way of reinventing ourselves and remaining relevant to our customers is by trying new things."

    But as with any new product or category, Lane did his homework before bringing relaxation drinks into his store, which he has owned for 37 years. He met with the senior management team of iChill and Dream Water when the products were introduced, he said, noting that c-store operators have a responsibility to educate their staff so they can educate the customers.

    Lane also believes relaxation drinks, though seemingly off to a slow start, should not be ignored. "I think relaxation drinks are here to stay," he said. "The category continues to grow, and I recommend convenience stores get into the business."

    Not all convenience store operators, though, are getting on board just yet. Several retailers, such as Cenex Zip Trip and United Refining Co. of Pennsylvania, told Convenience Store News that there has not been much buzz around relaxation drinks from their customers or vendors.

    However, Kevin Hall, manager-store merchandise for United Refining, which owns Kwik Fill/Red Apple and Country Fair stores, said the company may revisit its decision not to carry relaxation drinks in 2012. For more on relaxation drinks, check out the September 5 issue of Convenience Store News.

    By Melissa Kress, Convenience Store News
    • About Melissa Kress Melissa Kress joined EnsembleIQ's Convenience Store News and Convenience Store News for the Single Store Owner in November 2010. Her primary beats include alcoholic beverages and tobacco. Kress has been a professional journalist since 1995. A graduate of West Virginia University, she began her career in community journalism before moving to business-to-business publishing in 2000, covering commercial real estate.

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