Welcome to the World of Savoury Drinks: The Wonders of Cross Category Brand Innovation
What do cheese, chips (crisps if you’re British), yeast extract paste, mayonnaise, and cup noodles all have in common? The surprising answer is that their flavours have recently been reimagined as drinks flavours. But, why?!
Ever since Mountain Dew and Cheetos formed perhaps the unlikeliest of flavour pairings back in late August, with the launch of a Flamin’ Hot Soda, it seems the race has been on for other brands to bring out their own unusual drinks flavours.
Dubbed “the collaboration no-one asked for”, PepsiCo claimed to be pushing flavour boundaries with the sweet, spicy limited edition drink, available direct from the brand’s website. A sure-fire viral story, the launch spurred intrigue among fans of both brands, with suitably loud and disruptive packaging that broke all the established norms for soft drinks, again commanding attention.
Yet far from being a one-off oddity, the past few weeks have been filled with other brands launching savoury drinks of their own.
Nissin Cup Noodle Soda - Japan
The Japanese instant ramen brand, Nissin, recently celebrated its 50th anniversary with soda versions of four of its popular flavours; Original, Seafood, Chili Tomato, and Curry.
The Original Cup Noodle flavour uses a ginger-ale style base, with a salty sauce and pepper aroma; Seafood uses a cream soda base, with a hint of seafood; Curry is a cola-style soda with curry spices; and Chili Tomato uses a tomato-juice like base.
Packaged in aluminium bottles, the labels authentically depict the pack design of the noodles, but with the subtle addition of soda bubbles in the background.
According to the brand, the launch was aimed at amusing its fun-loving customer base, who are always willing to join them on unusual culinary experiments, saying: “Whether it’s delicious or not is up to you!”
Camden Love Hate Marmite Ale – UK
Moving across to full-strength products, London’s Camden Town has blurred the lines between its beers and food. As the brand puts it, “There's beer yeast in Marmite, and there's Marmite in this beer”. Brewed with Perle, the same hops used in its flagship Hells Lager, real marmite has been added to the brew, with toasted pilsner and Munich malt, said to give a smoky, bready balance. As with Marmite’s famous reputation, the brewer says drinkers will “love it or hate it”.
Champion Brewery Company x Duke's Mayonnaise - USA
Alongside savoury iterations of drinks products, brands are also increasingly collaborating on drinks designed to pair perfectly with very, very specific foods. Step forward Virginia’s Champion brewery, who has just launched a Vienna-style lager intended to pair perfectly with mayonnaise. Duke’s Mayonnaise to be specific. The beer is made with Vienna malt, Magnum, and Saaz hops, and is said to pair especially well with a BLT.
High, low pairings
Though not incorporated into a new drinks flavour, snack and cereal producer Kellogg’s, has also recently played up its Cheez-It cheese crackers flavour pairing with sparkling wine. To celebrate the brand’s 100th birthday it released a champagne coupe with built in snack bowl.
This high, low pairing, of champagne and cheese snacks – and indeed of all the drinks food pairings on this list – is intriguing and shrewd. In a climate where consumers have been seeking the familiar and nostalgic, are curious and looking for new experiences, and frankly, just want to have some fun, these pairings and bizarre new flavours seem to satisfy a number of need states.
As the craft drinks movement has gathered pace, drinks brands across all categories – from beer to lemonade – have spent many years now, asserting their quality credentials. This has usually been based on brand stories of ‘hand-crafting’ whatnot, selecting ingredients of the highest quality, and let’s be honest, fairly long-winded heritage stories, real or imagined.
But after 18 months of sitting in our pyjamas, such lofty stories just don’t feel that exciting anymore. Instead, brands that tap into the unusual flavour pairings – the wilder, the better – and acknowledge the value in taking themselves a little less seriously, are meeting the consumer mood. And assuring themselves viral coverage in the process.
These pairings, by elevating much loved snacks or foods, seem to offer accessibility, but only if you’re brave enough.