This week, Red Bull confirmed rumors it was launching a line of premium mixers, named Organics by Red Bull. The new range will be made available to both consumer and hospitality customers in Austria later this month.
The seemingly endless list of companies jumping on-board the premium mixer trend just got a new member: $8.7 billion behemoth, Red Bull. The company unveiled its new Organics by Red Bull range this week, putting an end to speculation sparked by leaked images of the product line published by Austrian newspaper Kurier.
Organics by Red Bull marks a turning point for the energy drink giant, which until now has steered clear of making traditional soft drinks, apart from the moderately successful Simply Cola, launched in Europe in 2008. Simply Cola will join the Organics by Red Bull range, which also includes Bitter Lemon, Ginger Ale, and Tonic Water.
RED BULL GOES ORGANIC
As the name suggests, the entire Organics by Red Bull range is certified organic under EU definitions and made from 100% natural ingredients. It may seem strange that the maker of a beverage so notorious for prompting health concerns is now pushing natural, organic soft drinks. In fact, Red Bull has been appealing to the health-conscious consumer for some time, but under another brand. The Carpe Diem range of flavoured kombucha and other teas launched over a decade ago, but it hasn’t quite packed the same punch as Red Bull.
That may explain why the company has decided to keep the new range of mixers under the umbrella of the Red Bull name. The clear association with the energy drink could be both a blessing and a curse, as it has been for Simply Cola. Sold in the same slim 250ml can as the energy drink and using the same colors, Simply Cola could easily be mistaken for ordinary Red Bull, or worse, some unholy mixture of cola and Red Bull.
RED BULL WANTS BARTENDERS TO CAN IT
The new packaging for the Organics by Red Bull range should help to avoid confusion for consumers, but it may not be enough to win bartenders over. Unlike most premium mixers, which target the hospitality sector first, Organics by Red Bull is aimed at both consumers and hospitality customers. Although Simply Cola proved to be popular with consumers – including a few members of the MIXOLOGY team – it met with mixed success amongst bartenders. The award-winning Klaus St. Rainer in Munich is a fan, but many bartenders who praise the flavor of Simply Cola don’t use it in their venues.
No doubt Red Bull thinks the cola will do better as part of a range of essential premium mixers, but they may be missing the point. Many bartenders running upscale venues didn’t stock Simply Cola because of the packaging. Especially in comparison to other premium mixers like Fever Tree and Fentimans, the Red Bull cans don’t look so classy behind a bar. Well-known bartender Bert Jachmann from Vienna’s Heuer am Karlsplatz, sums it up, commenting on the new range: “One small drawback: the can. I’d rather have a bottle.” The company experimented with glass bottles in Austria, but the new mixer range comes with a new ‘one package, one price’ mantra. All Organics by Red Bull products will come in cans and cost the same as the energy drink. Having gone this long without abandoning its iconic can – even in pfand-happy Germany – perhaps it was unrealistic to expect Red Bull would compromise on the packaging of its new range, either.
BUT HOW DOES ORGANICS BY RED BULL TASTE?
Red Bull has been keeping this new range under wraps for some time, and they’ve been very careful to avoid tipping anyone off. Even those leaked product shots were not widely circulated after their publication. The word in bartender circles is that Red Bull employees would visit any bars and restaurants which were involved in early product testing and methodically collect all the empty packaging.
Bert Jachmann was one of the testers and he shared his impressions. “The Tonic Water had a wonderful quinine bitterness and a nice acidity. Slightly sweeter but well balanced. So tastefully done,” he said. His only concern is whether the drink is sufficiently carbonated: “I have not yet been able to drink it mixed with gin, but I think it could quickly turn too flat.”
He was also “very impressed” with the Ginger Ale, where he says the gentle carbonation is less of a problem. “The typical Ginger Ale flavors are strong. It has a powerful ginger note, of the kind one would usually expect from a Ginger Beer. Nevertheless, it is not nearly as spicy,” he says. Jachmann is convinced the drink would make “fantastic Horse’s Necks.” He says the Bitter Lemon is also “a very good lemonade, which is perfect for mixing.”
Whether Organics by Red Bull turns out to be a genius business decision or an awkward misstep, it’s a clear sign of the coming battle for the premium mixer market. The small upstarts who defined the space, like Fever Tree and Thomas Henry, will have to compete with much larger soft drink producers. And with Red Bull pouring all its efforts in, the glass may be about to overflow.
Written by Kit Kriewaldt