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1. D.I.Y. Flavor. Flavored waters have proliferated on grocery shelves in recent years, and now many of us are taking flavor matters into our own hands. We’re adding a touch of floral or citrus to H2O and (mostly) leaving out the sugar—creating refreshing and light beverages such as watermelon-infused or basil-mint drinks using garden-fresh produce. We’re adding powdered and liquid flavor enhancers, such as Crystal Light powders and Kraft's new MiO liquid. We’re also expanding our coffee palate, using creamers in new flavors like honey-vanilla crème and white chocolate caramel latte (from Nestle Coffee-Mate). The customization craze even extends to vending, where new Coke machines let us hem and haw over a choice of 125 flavor variations.
2. Parental Discretion Advised. We’re still seeing lots of buzz around beverages and kids. Bowing to pressure from parents (and Jamie Oliver), the L.A. school district has banned chocolate and strawberry milk from the cafeteria, and restaurant chains are striving to offer more healthy kid drink options such as 1% milk and fruit juices instead of soda. On the other side of the coin, there are new fun things for kids like Magic Milk Straws that turn plain milk into a chocolate or strawberry treat without adding a lot of calories and sugar. Speaking of buzz…for adults who never outgrew their love of chocolate milk and are looking for something with a kick, there’s new Adult Chocolate Milk, a 40-proof, vodka-spiked beverage that aims to mimic the taste of your favorite elementary school beverage. Gives new meaning to the term "chocoholic."
3. Iced Coffee Is Scalding Hot. Consumption of this cold caffeinated beverage in restaurants has heated up to the tune of a 20 percent gain in the last five years. Premium beans and advances in cold brewing technology have upped the flavor quality and fueled the trend—iced, frozen, and slushie coffee drinks are available everywhere from Starbucks to McDonald’s to the local java joint. Now the trend is coming home with the introduction of new single-cup home brewing systems and special blends. Starbucks just launchied its Via Iced Coffee Blend, now in supermarkets nationwide. We’re even starting to see cold-brewed “Joe” in bottles.
4. For Medicinal Purposes Only. There’s so much going on in the category of health-related beverages, we could probably do a whole top ten list on that alone. We could start with enhanced waters that continue to flood the market, offering choices with added vitamins and targeted nutrition. We’re seeing fortified waters that make claims for anti-ageing, bone health, cardiovascular health, diabetes, digestion, cognition and mood. In the “energy” category, you can choose a shot that keeps you going for five hours, or one of the new anti-energy drinks that make you mellow and relaxed. Then there’s the “sugar reshuffle” that finds some people switching back to drinks sweetened with pure cane sugar, while others opt for the natural zero-calorie plant-based sweeteners like stevia and agave nectar, both now commonly found in low-calorie drinks like Oogavé. There’s certainly no shortage of ways to “drink to your health.”