Manager of trends Ian Hare told an industry audience at the research outfit's Big Conversation event in London last Thursday that so-called ‘category blurring’ could unlock new opportunities.
In his presentation Hare pointed to eye-catching recent food launches including Dr Oetker’s pizzaburger (a bacon cheeseburger wrapped in a pepperoni pizza and cooked like a calzone) and ‘pizza on a stick’ ice cream Hasta La Pizza, and said such blurring also extended to drinks.
For instance, Nestlé Waters’ Sweet Leaf Coffee Tea Blend with organic coffee and rooibos tea is sold as a refreshing RTD drink, and debuted last month at Expo West in California.
Launching such products is always risky, but Hare said they can be useful to grab attention – perhaps the primary aim – and provide a new role for the consumer and/or the category.
Addressing category blurring cues in more detail, Hare started with flavor, and referenced celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal’s Earl Grey & Lemon Gin – a London dry gin with botanicals and Earl Grey tea.
'Frozen Pints' – 3.2% ABV ice cream
Across consumer packaged goods (CPG) more generally, the Mintel analyst said one pattern was to blur the boundaries between savoury and sweet, alcoholic and non-alcoholic and spicy and non-spicy products.
One example he gave was Frozen Pints – an 'craft beer ice cream' at 3.2% ABV that offers flavors including Peach Lambic, Honey IPA and Pumpkin Ale; another was Buddy’s Bourbon Flavored Beer in the US.
Spicy flavors are also colonising non-spicy drinks, Hare said, with San Pellegrino SanBitter’s ‘spicy and seductive’ chilli-flavored aperitif in Italy, and Schweppes’ tonic water in Germany with ginger and cardamom.
Color as well as flavour can shake-up a beverage category, Hare explained, pointing to blk – an all-natural, black mineral water with fulvic minerals (see photo, bottom left) that uses the marketing tagline ‘Enjoy the dark side’.
Disruptive packaging – Turbo Tango
Beyond the product itself, packaging can also help brands blur boundaries, and here Hare used the example of Turbo Tango in the UK, with its aerosol-style spray bottle (see photo) that catches the eye of younger consumers.
Even quite simple packaging mores traditional to other categories can help grab attention, Mintel’s analyst explained. For instance, Bob & Stacy’s Ultra Premium Vodka in the US is packaged in pouches, while 90H20 spring water is sold in an attractive bottle synonymous with spirits.
Flavor and color crossover is one thing, but Hare said that wholesale category mergers are also underway, with energy brands, for instance, using more health-focused categories such as juice – Monster Khaos is a 50% ‘energy juice’ with taurine, ginseng and B vitamins.
Moving in the opposite direction, ‘juice’ brands such as Tropicana Energy are appropriating ‘energy’, in this case by using guarana berries and natural caffeine to fuse two different categories.
Introducing Teagurt with tea, yogurt and juice…
Hare said that other new launches are mixing fruit juice, tea and dairy – these include Berry White’s white tea with super fruits (UK, France), Tea Parlor’s Peach Milk Tea (Japan) and Teagurt, which fuses tea, yogurt and juice for satiety/wake up benefits in Japan.
Diving down onto the ingredients level, Hare said that ingredients perceived by consumers to be healthier (chia, soy milk and superfruits) are emerging, and Rockstar’s Recovery Tea and Lemonade Energy Drink uses milk thistle, ginseng and electrolytes to provide energy and hydration in a low-calorie offering.
Finally, Hare said that the concept of ‘snackifying drinks’ was gaining ground – where products in this sphere include Maltesers Shake ‘N’ Snack (a milkshake with Malteser bits), and Coca-Cola’s Fanta Shake in Japan – a CSD with Vitamin B6 and jelly.
Only in Japan perhaps, or a sign of the (future) times?
What do these disruptive insights mean?
As always, this country outstrips all others in terms of global beverage innovation, with other recent market innovations including a Caramel Brulee & Coffee Dessert Beverage (caramel flavored with coffee jelly), and a dessert drink with crushed coffee jelly.
So what do these myriad insights mean for brands?
“Category blurring innovation can be used on a short-term basis to get attention by using novelty and surprise, but can work in the longer term if a genuine benefit is provided…to bring people back to the product,” Hare said.
“In the even longer term, once a brand is established it can continue to blur categories by taking a familiar brand into an unfamiliar space…helping to bring fans of the brand into new categories,” Mintel’s analyst added.