BevWire On Vacation Until Labor Day

Vacation

Apologies for skipping a post last week – BevWire is away on vacation with the family and won’t return until Labor Day (September 6th).  The vacation post was supposed to have come out last week but I was tied down by work deadlines and could not put something out in time.

In the meantime, feel free to check out the following links for some news on beverages:

Beverage World: Andrew Kaplan writes about packaging technologies for bottles and cans here.

Beverage World: Jennifer Cirillo discusses product plant flexibility as product variations increase here.

BevNet: Jeffrey Klineman reports on New Leaef Tea’s company restructuring to remain competitive and grow in key marketing areas here.

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How a Bottled Water Plant Operates

Ever wonder how a bottling plant operates?  The International Bottled Water Associate (IBWA) has put out a YouTube video titled “The Inner Workings of a Bottled Water Plant” that gives viewers an inside peek into the how bottled water is produced – from its sourcing, to purification, labeling, and finally readying for delivery.  Bottled Water Matters (IBWA’s consumer website) sends a correspondent to visit IBWA member Robert Smith’s “Grand Springs” bottling facility in Alton, Va. The video provides an insightful look at the numerous steps involved in producing bottling water—both single-serve and home and office delivery (HOD).  Click below to see the video.

The video is designed to help explain that many steps are involved in producing bottled water, from sourcing the water through to delivering it to the customer.  “In this video, we wanted to give a quick but straight forward tour of how bottled water is produced—thus revealing the care, scientific oversight, and pride water bottlers take in producing a safe, convenient, and healthy product,” said Tom Lauria, IBWA vice president of communications.

After watching the video, a few questions are raised about the bottled water’s production system.  This production facility appears to be very machine intensive (non-labor driven) thus driving down costs for production as everything is automated.  On the purification process, it’s fascinating to see how stringent the process is for inspection and testing to make sure the water is safe for consumers.  And on the packaging and labeling side, it’s quite easy to see just how inexpensive and generic bottled water really is as this facility produces water for over 1000 different companies.

Though we have not see water recalled regularly for production issues, there’s always room for error.  Maybe they mention is as a process, but I did not notice production being halted until inspection and testing is completed.  Therefore, if the quality assurance analyst finds a problem the bottled may already be packaged and shipped out.  Furthermore, how are batch production numbers identified in case such a problem occurs?

On the labeling aspect, it’s quite easy to see just how important branding becomes.  Once the label is stripped off, these bottles all look identical.  That’s why companies are now looking for innovations beyond the label and onto the bottle themselves.  For Canada, there are a few central bottled water brands (Nestle Waters, Dasani, Aquafina, Evian, etc) and all of their bottles look different from one another.  This serves as their point of differentiation so that even without the label, the brand of water can be recognized (think of how even without the label people can still recognize Coca-Cola by the shape of their contour bottles).  Even Evian has invested in limited-edition designer bottles each year to differentiate themselves from other bottled water companies.  What comes next? Maybe innovation and branding on the bottle cap themselves since people generally collect the bottle caps.

Through it all, this video by IBWA gives a good inside look at how water is produced and raises some more questions and observations on not only production but marketing as well.  At the very least, consumers sensitive to price rather than branding can just go and pick up the cheapest generic water they want since it likely came from the same production facility as the more expensive one down the aisle.

Monster Java Original Phased Out?

Monster Java

Sources say that Monster Java Original is being phased out from their Canadian coffee line-up soon (when they sell off existing stock).  Can’t say that the flavor is going to be missed or not since I have not tried this flavor myself.  What I can say is that the coffee line-up is likely over-extended and too similar in packaging to other flavors.  With the exception of the Irish Cream, the other flavors’ packaging are all shades of brown, making it very hard to distinguish between them.  Even when the store employees restock these cans, they aren’t sure which flavor they are really restocking!  Phasing out the Java Original was probably the best thing Monster could do with their coffee portfolio.  However, this doesn’t mean they won’t be introducing another coffee flavor soon.  The Monster Nitrous were supposed to hit store shelves this summer and have yet to be seen in cooler or beverage aisles.  The Monster X-Presso Hammer has been rumored to be making a Canadian entrance.  At least those drinks will have different packaging so consumers can easily differentiate between the different flavors.

Another point of interest is the ready-to-drink cold coffee market has many players and Monster’s offerings are not competitive enough.  The leader cornering this category is Starbucks with their frappuccinos.  After that the category gets a little muddled with Rockstar, Monster, Master Cafe, and many smaller regional players.  Starbucks’s success on the frappuccinos are most likely a result of their specialty in coffee (what else do people know Starbucks to be famous for?), and Master Cafe is similar in their coffee specialty.  Rockstar and Monster are mainly energy drink brands, while their coffee portfolio’s price points, packaging, and formula are very similar to one another making it hard to tell them apart.  Monster clearly was a follower in this category, and has not put in enough resources to make this a good product or to heavily promote it to make it succeed.

And when you’re a follower with a less appealing product, you’re likely to meet the same fate as the Monster Java Original.  If the Monster X-Presso Hammer is going to be coming to Canada, let’s hope Monster does a better job with it than the Java Original.

Energy Drinks Are a Health Risk

BevWire’s newsfeeds pulled an article (link here) from The Globe and Mail titled “Energy drinks pose serious health risk to kids: Canadian medical journal” reporting that these beverages contain a much higher caffeine level than the suggested portion for kids.  Kids.  Not teenagers. The article says that the suggested caffeine level for kids aged 12 or under is 85mg but energy shots and energy drinks contain more than that amount.  What can be done about this situation?  Why are kids buying these drinks in the first place?  Should these beverages contain a warning label similar to alcohol and tobacco?

Kids should not be consuming energy shots or energy drinks in the first place, so it is a curious situation as to how they get hold of these drinks.  If older siblings have left these drinks open on the table or in the fridge, then there needs to be some more communication to warn against their younger siblings.  It might come down to a parenting issue but that’s a totally different topic that is out of this blog’s context.

My focus is on what should be done about energy drinks.  Should there be a warning label placed on the packaging to warn of the health affects similar to alcohol and tobacco?   BevWire believes that will help but it is only part of the solution to prevent kids from buying these beverages.  Putting a warning label may deter some consumers, but it acts more as a communication awareness piece instead (link here).  That said, has anyone stopped buying tobacco just because there is a warning label on it?  In fact, it has had the opposite effect in getting people to quit smoking (link here); they are aware of the negative consequences but still continue to do it anyway.  The other half of the equation may be to treat it age-restrictive purchase item.  Health Canada should not only start putting warning labels on, but also impose a minimum age to buy the product.  This will at the very least limit younger kids from actively being able to buy the drink themselves (save for bypassing this law illegally).

Will this effective stop kids from being exposed to energy drinks?  Of course not.  There are always ways around the system to get what you want.  However, it does increase the government’s involvement in educating consumers about the health affects with warning labels and age limits.  With the right communication dedicated to bringing consumers’ attention to this issue and parenting (mentioned briefly earlier), the health risk energy drinks pose to kids will be decreased.