This monthly summary highlights the most interesting product launches in August, with a focus on the direction the alcoholic drinks industry is taking in terms of innovative developments.
Powders, Pills and Ice Cubes: Thinking Outside the Proverbial Bottle
Technical and technological leaps have been historically consigned to the backstage of the alcoholic drinks innovation arena- namely production, maturation and ingredients developments referring to stills, barrels and formulas that would make little sense to the uninitiated.
It was, in essence, an academic matter, practically impervious to the masses in terms of its process and in many cases merely abstractly understood in terms of its result. Anecdotal information has highlighted consumers’ relative apprehension when asked to define terms such as ‘spin cone technology’ or ‘cold filtering’. It was an uphill battle for marketers who had to translate such concepts and procedures into unique selling points reflecting genuine consumer concerns, needs and aspirations.
And yet, the drinking ritual itself, the bottles, the mixers, the ice cubes would remain almost religiously untouched as if to placate some omnipresent but vengeful bar-dwelling deity. Change was long overdue.
The introduction of gadgets revolutionising the drinking ritual norms can be traced back to the launch of beer kegs targeting the resurgent off-trade consumption in the onset of the Great Recession and the initially hesitant embrace of Enomatic machines allowing for the provision of fine wines by the glass by virtue of preservation. While the former proved too cumbersome and expensive to become mainstream- at least in its initial stages- Enomatic machines soon became a staple of upmarket wine bars in key metropolitan centres around the globe and radicalised on-trade experimentation and premiumisation in the process.
The launch of Coravin 1000 in 2013 shifted the focus from the on-trade to –still admittedly upmarket- home consumption; a stainless-steel contraption incorporating a long needle which is inserted through cork and through, which wine is extracted while the remaining space is filled with inert argon gas from a small replaceable cylinder screwed into the system. A simple yet effective solution for transforming wine cellars from dusty museums into tasting rooms.
The beginning of 2014 saw the controversial launch of Palcohol , a powderised alcohol product that at the moment of writing is responsible for more tabloid headlines than actual sales, yet provides a glimpse of the industry’s hitherto uncharted territories.
The latest additions to the roster of radical innovation include a UV tablet cocktail mixer and a machine that turns liqueur into ice cubes. The former sits firmly within gimmick territory, there is little doubt that high-energy environments and on-trade promotional campaigns will make the most of the products’ literally glowing attributes once it becomes commercially available.
As for the latter, drinking ‘in the rocks’ instead of ‘on the rocks’ in an age where the cocktail culture has adopted an almost metaphysical aura and high-proof spirits thrive on the back of their undiluted craftsmanship sounds like a pop phenomenon waiting to happen. Much like truly radical innovation.
Yet to be launched by an independent enterpreneur, XUVO is an effervescent tablet that can be mixed with vodka or white rum and water to create lightly carbonated UV-reactive mixed drinks that glow under a blacklight. Available in four flavours; Neon Mojito, Electric Blue Hawaiian, Orange Buzz and Cosmic Apple, the tablet can be split in half allowing imbibers to combine two flavours into one drink with half of the Electric Blue Hawaiian and half of the Neon Mojito, for example, resulting in a XUVO Hawaiian Mojito. The tablet also contains energy boosting caffeine, taurine, guarana and B-Vitamins making it one of the first energy drink cocktails. The product is set to launch in the US in November with a tube of ten tablets planned to retail for $9.99, with its deal with Nestdrop alcohol delivery app allowing consumers to order XUVO and spirits on their phones and have it delivered to their door in under an hour.
A startup company in Miami is developing a machine that freezes liquor into ice cubes. Beyond Zero is currently interviewing contact manufacturers to build its namesake devices and expects commercial units to roll out in six to eight months. Public units are expected to follow in late 2015, according to inventor, founder and CEO Jason Sherman. Beyond Zero's commercial unit, which produces cubes and stores them, is expected to retail for around $10,000 - roughly the same as a commercial ice machine. The difference is that establishments can charge for the frozen liquor (ice is almost always free). Sherman estimated the cubes to increase the price of drinks by $2. He claimed that ‘cocktail purists will be fond of crafting drinks that don't dilute over time’ and said more consumers are ordering white wines with ice. ‘Beyond zero would keep those beverages cold without compromising their intended taste’. That becomes increasingly important when considering the premiumisation forces at play.