When it comes to health, consumers are concerned not only with their insides, but increasingly with their external health and appearance as well. Soft drinks manufacturers are responding to this trend with zeal, and the past 12 months have seen many new products with all kinds of weird and wonderful heath promoting and beautifying qualities hit the shelves.
Launched at the beginning of the year, V Water is vitamin-enhanced, and allows shoppers to select the drink that best suits their mood and health needs. It comes in five chilled variants and provides all the essential vitamins and nutrients required in a day.
Beauty boosting drink Sip is another new entrant to the market. Aimed at busy women between the ages of 25 and 50, the fruit flavoured mineral water promises to improve the texture of the skin. The company says that it's on track to generate a targeted £1m in sales in its first year, and is said to be planning for the launch of a new product for beauty-conscious teenage girls later in 2007. Another new entrant to the market is Infuzions new Zipp brand - a fusion of natural juices with antioxidants, vitamins and herbal extracts. The company estimates that there is a £245m annual off-trade market opportunity for healthy soft drinks in the UK.
The last 12 months have also seen high profile new product launches from some of the UK's already well-established brands.
Rubicon revealed its latest offer, Rubicon Papaya, in April. The new juice drink contains lutein - a powerful antioxidant that has been shown to help maintain good eyesight. As part of the launch Rubicon partnered with the Eyecare Trust, an independent charity that provides information on all eye-related issues. "Papayas have also been shown to help alleviate and even prevent a number of health conditions from arthritis to cancer, due to their high vitamin and mineral content, so the new drink will appeal to the growing number of health conscious consumers," says Barbara Down, Rubicon's head of marketing.
Meanwhile, Welch's also launched two new 'superjuice' flavours in May, which it claims are packed full of beneficial antioxidants, and leading juice brand Ocean Spray announced that it was to invest in a total relaunch of its Cranberry Classic brand this summer. The brand has been given a new strapline, 'Helps protect you inside'.
Andrew Richards, sales director at Britvic, believes that the 'nutraceuticals' category will continue to offer manufacturers and retailers major opportunities for growth over the next few years - particularly as health conscious consumers move away from the carbonated drinks sector.
He also predicts that pro-biotic and super-food ingredients such as goji berry, green tea and ginger will continue to grow in importance.
These types of ingredient have already had their profiles raised by their use in leading smoothie brands Innocent and PJ's, which have both invested in new flavours, packaging and marketing support in recent months.
With the speed of change and innovation in the market at the moment, industry observers agree that the soft drink of the future will look and taste very different to what's on offer today.
As consumers' desire for health fixes grows, drinks are likely to become more targeted at specific ailments and parts of the body.
The only challenge, says Juice Doctor Pure Hydration director Matt Crane, is for retailers to devote enough chilled space to satisfy demand.

Know your customers

sound advice from Hancocks' purchasing director Richard Brittle.
"Hancocks has grown its soft drinks category by almost 4% in 2006, which highlights the potential that still remains for independent retailers, especially in the 'drink now' sector, where they hold a 33% share (more than the multiples, which hold 31%).
While the market is under a bit of pressure from health issues and schools taking action to ban certain products, consumer demand remains strong for a wide variety of drinks, and 500ml bottles continue to perform well. The trick is to know what your customers are looking for and to plan your range well in order to account for this."