The Unlimited Appeal of Limited-Edition Beverages

Tailored Experience

Of course, it’s not just nonalcoholic beverage manufacturers that make extensive use of limited-edition products.

“From our standpoint, limited-edition releases allow the manufacturer to bring innovation to the category with unique packaging, styles and flavor profiles,” says Jason Folaron, brand manager at famed beer brand Labatt, whose U.S. headquarters is in Buffalo, N.Y. “This is not only beneficial for the manufacturer, but the retailer as well. It gives the retailer a new and exciting product that can break frame during key periods of the year. It creates excitement and demand for the consumer, benefiting the manufacturer, retailer and, most importantly, the consumer all at once.”

Adds Folaron: “The limited-edition beverages that work best in the market seem to be beverages that focus on a specific time period, such as the summer and holidays, or specific occasions such as sports. Focusing on the specific consumer allows us to tailor the package, style and flavor profile that is most appealing to them.” The brand’s seasonal products include the Labatt Blue Light Flavors Summer Variety Pack, available for the entirety of the season.

“At retail, limited-edition or any kind of new product launch focuses on engaging the shopper and bringing awareness to the brand and product,” he notes. “Some ways to do this are to activate unique display opportunities, consumer experientials and economic incentives.”

Riding the Wave

Retailers can leverage the buzz created by limited-edition beverages. According to Rachel Shemirani, SVP of Poway, Calif.-based Barons Market, which operates nine stores in the San Diego area, “Offering limited-edition beverages creates excitement, especially for longtime customers that love that particular brand. Customers will often come in specifically for that new limited-edition drink after seeing it on social media.”

Noting the demand for seasonal limited-edition flavors around the fall and winter holidays and summer, Shemirani points out big sales at Barons Market of limited-edition beverages “among our kombucha or cold-brew brands such as Healthade, Brew Dr., La Colombe and Modern Times. Of course, beer and seltzers are constantly doing limited-edition beverages, which are quite popular.”

The reason that these beverages do so well is “because it’s something new, exciting and sought-after,” she explains. “Limited-edition products create a sense of urgency for the customer. They’ll often post the product on their own Instagram pages, saying something like ‘Look what I found!’ and tagging us as the retailer.”

For its part, Barons Market will “often post the limited-edition flavors on our Instagram page,” notes Shemirani. “In-store, we’ll display them in barrels of ice near the register.”

More to Come

Whatever comes next in limited-edition beverages, Shemirani is certain that there will be a greater number of them.

“More and more brands are offering limited edition flavors, and those brands who do offer them are doing it more often,” she observes. “We’re seeing that these brands are also doing more innovative flavors instead of bringing in the same limited-edition flavor year after year. Most brands start out by doing a limited-edition beverage for the holidays and then expand to other times of the year.”

PepsiCo’s Kaplan agrees with the idea of novel flavor offerings. “We can expect to see innovations that test the limits of what consumers are used to, particularly in the way these flavors are formulated,” he predicts.

Lebatt’s Folaron believes that’s just the tip of the innovation iceberg, however. “I think you will continue to see manufacturers push the envelope on limited-edition beverages when it comes to exciting new flavors, formulations and styles; unique packaging, whether it be the actual structure of the can, bottle or secondary packaging, or unique graphics that break frame; or innovating with new beverages,” he says.