August 18, 2009 in Business

New drinks aim to soothe

Ylan Q. Mui Washington Post
BusinessWire photo

Drank is an extreme relaxation beverage with melatonin, valerian root and rose hips to help you “slow your roll.”
(Full-size photo)

WASHINGTON – Every action must have an equal and opposite reaction, or so the laws of physics say. Push and pull. Proton and electron. Gravity and levity.

And now, Red Bull and Drank.

Drank falls in an emerging category of “relaxation beverages,” concocted to soothe the overextended, overbooked and overworked masses that have been hopped up on energy drinks for the past decade. Drank’s slogan? “Slow your roll.”

“I wasn’t the only person speaking 50 miles per hour,” said Peter Bianchi, who invented Drank. “It was my personal quest to relax the world.”

Drank and similar nonalcoholic beverages are hitting the market just as Americans are being beaten down by the longest recession since World War II, and industry marketers have seized on the drinks’ purported calming properties as the antidote for a stressed-out society. Vacation in a Bottle calls itself “the happy relaxation drink.” For Superliminal Purple Stuff Pro-Relaxation Formula, the name says it all. And iChill, a relaxation shot, urges users to “unwind from the grind.”

Relaxation drinks are still only a drop in the bucket of what research firm Mintel estimates is a $50 billion market for nonalcoholic beverages. Soda remains the liquid staple of our diets, commanding about $13.1 billion in sales for 2008. Energy drinks are the fastest-growing sector by far, accounting for about $896 million in sales. But sales are starting to level off after years of triple-digit percentage growth earlier this decade. Consumers have been overwhelmed by the number of new brands; more than 300 energy drinks appeared on store shelves between 2003 and 2008.

“There is room for so much diversification within the beverage market,” said Harry Balzer, an analyst with consumer research firm NPD Group. “The one thing we do like as humans is new things.”

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