Friday, April 3, 2009

Blackcurrant - A Divisive Berry?

G crossing borders, reconciling differences...

Yesterday Gatorade announced that it would launch a Blackcurrant flavor in the UK. An interesting move t0 localize the flavor profile in the UK (and probably subsequently in other English influenced countries... Australia, New Zealand etc). It's not the first time a US brand has attempted to appeal to local tastes (we launched a Snapple Blackcurrant Tea once upon a time), but Gatorade has been a one-size fits all brand for so long, taste localization for the brand is interesting by itself.

But the real interest for me is in Blackcurrant itself - and its application in the US market. When I moved to the US back in the 80's, I figured that Blueberries and Blackcurrants were the same thing (a "tomato, tomatoe" kind of thing), until I tasted Blueberries.

But having grown up on Ribena (the English cordial derived from Blackcurrants) and its restorative properies for a hangover, I often thought there was an opportunity for the berry in the USA.

Blackcurrant regularly gets onto a Juice Brand Manager's radar because it is a high antioxidant berry with a distinctive flavor. The issue is that Blackcurrant (at least to American consumers) has an aroma and flavor similar to Body Odor... Sit through enough focus groups and even the most evangelical English marketer has to accept that making Blackcurrant a mainstream flavor in the USA is an uphill task.

So, it is always with interest that I look at the different products that enter the market seeking to use the flavor. For example, the recently deceased Bombilla Gourd attempted an energy drink using Blackcurrant.

But the most interesting product in this area is Currant C.

Currant C is a Hudson Valley-based, health food store focused brand in a variety of Black Currant plus other fruit flavors. I sampled them at Expo East last summer and enjoyed them - they masked the BO taste well, and have created an interesting product line.

Is this a revolution that will take the beverage industry by storm - probably not: But will Blackcurrant gradually become part of the US mainstream? After the recent success of high antioxidant fruits like Pomegranate and Acai, Blackcurrant has an interesting niche it could fill.

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