hot stuff for 2005

Next month rings in a new year, bringing with it plenty of never-before-seen product innovations.

The low-carb fad that swept the U.S. market in 2004 sparked the launches of more than 3,100 new food and beverage items through late November. But the trend has begun to wind down, leaving the door open to new developments in 2005, ranging from beverages in metal bottles and new types of disposable products, to allergy-free foods and indulgent pet items.

Some trends industry watchers are following for 2005, according to Productscan Online (www. productscan.com), a database published by Datamonitor, include:

Aluminum bottles:

Already a hit of Godzilla-size stature in Japan, so-called aluminum ” bottle cans” have just begun to hit U.S. shores. Pittsburgh Brewing Co. made a statement in August when it rolled the bottles into selected markets for its Iron City Beer, boasting of their ability to keep beer colder for up to an hour longer than glass bottles. The cans, many of which are resealable, could have a big impact on the U.S. beer market in 2005.

Disposables: Over the last few years, consumers have learned of such newfangled inventions as disposable versions of the hearing aid, the digital camera and the DVD. Being able to toss a product after using it is a convenience that most seem willing to pay for, thereby inspiring a wave of new disposables—toothbrushes and underwear among them.

“Friendly bacteria”: Foreign companies have given rise to so-called “intestinal health” drinks packaged in tiny bottles as part of a multi-million dollar market. The success of yogurt-based beverages and smoothies domestically alludes to their potential at home. Shortages of flu vaccine across the country may also make the case for beverages with the ability to strengthen the immune system and stave off sickness thanks to “friendly bacteria.” Ocean Spray Plus Probiotic Yogurt Drink, which made its debut in the U.K. this year, may represent a candidate for a future U.S. launch.

Energetic alcohol: Europeans have no trouble finding alcoholic beverages infused with ingredients like guarana in c-store coolers. Now American beverage heavyweights led by Anheuser-Busch are flirting with the trend. Budweiser B-to-the-E, a beer infused with caffeine, guarana and ginseng, may have company in coolers next year.

Biker chic: Some of the hottest licensed properties available today center around the custom chopper craze popularized by outfits like Orange County Choppers and West Coast Choppers. Merchandise like Orange County Choppers energy drinks and mints, for example, have begun to make the rounds.

Dissolving strips: A revolution in paper-thin dissolving strips that started with breath strips has spawned legions of new products that could revolutionize their respective categories. Strips expanded this year into dietary supplements, cough medicine, oral pain relief and blotters for shaving nicks. The strips even found their way into the soap category with Pocket Suds Soap on the Go Dissolving Soap Strips. Retailers can expect further “strip” expansion in 2005.

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