Cola wars are one thing, but “altbev” sure has come a long way since soft drink makers identified the market segment in the 90s. Coke’s Fruitopia was among the entries from the majors, but, as usual, it’s the independents that have lead the way. Water remains the leading altbev, but energy and “health” drinks are squeezing the market. Just as Coke and Pepsi were developing their bottled water brands to catch up with Poland Spring (owned by Nestle, by the way), Red Bull appeared and turned things upside down. Sure, Red Bull wasn’t the first energy drink, Jolt proved that over-caffeinated soda (how much caffein?) could sell well and Krank20 did the caffeinated water thing early on. But Red Bull found its place and took off. The small can, the list of hard to pronounce energy enhancing ingredients that sounded somehow natural and healthy, the late 90s economic bubble, and post Starbucks caffeine chasers looking for the next buzz all fell together just right.
Coke tried to follow Red Bull and Pepsi tried their own new products, but their attempts just seemed to legitimize Red Bull’s place. Importantly, however, people just couldn’t come up with a reason to switch from Red Bull. As much as they tried, nobody could differentiate between one caffein buzz or another, so the first to market had a huge advantage in field (which isn’t to say that the drinks don’t have detractors).
The real winner for any beverage, however, is when it becomes part of a popular mixed drink. Jack and Coke, rum and Coke, Seven and Seven, and now Red Bull and Vodka are part of our mixology.
With drinking and hard liquors back in fashion, nobody imagined it would take long for distillers to try to capitalize on Red Bull’s success. Enter Zygo, the “morning vodka.” I’m not sure what zygo means, but Google lists a lotta hits that aint vodka, including interferometers and augmentative communication devices.
Ken, a co-owner, appears to be a New Hampshire boy (he describes it as “north of Boston”), but the hooch is brewed from potatoes in Idaho. The 70-proof liquor boasts taurine, d-ribose, guarana and yerba mate among its energy enhancing additives. I was amused to find Ken working the drinking community with a post to ClubPlanet.com.