Hype or heavenly? New Thomas Henry products

The soft drinks industry has diversified and boomed in recent years. Along with jute bags, smartphones and Nike Air sneakers, hip non-alcoholic drinks are now an integral accessory of modern city life. Berlin-based soft drinks and mixer manufacturer Thomas Henry has firmly established its reputation on the bar scene. Now the company is out to conquer the lucrative but highly competitive fruit-based soft drinks market. We take a closer look here.

While tonic water is enjoying a notable comeback in the wake of the current gin & tonic resurgence, there’s also been much ado for some time now in the overall soft drinks segment. No longer are consumers forced to choose between the bland, sticky brands from a few major conglomerates. More of the same, anyone? No thanks.

A Fresh, Fruity Breeze

Similar to the craft beer revolution, this market has been transformed for the long-term in the last few years. Many consumers are no longer satisfied with the accustomed over-sweetened standard choices anymore. Early upstarts like Fritz Kola and Bionade, now considered almost “old hat” by some, were the trailblazers in establishing “soft drinks with style” as an indispensable component of today’s cosmopolitan culture in Germany. This category also includes maté tea-based soft drinks.

All of this has elevated an individual’s soft drink choice to the level of a personal identity statement, with consumers eager to endorse beverages and brands like organic “Fassbrause”, Lemonaid, ChariTea, Gekko Mate, Aloha or Fentimans’ Dandelion & Burdock…anything but Coke, Pepsi or Sprite. The range of non-alcoholic beverages available to consumers today and extending even beyond fruit juices has probably never been greater.

Thomas Henry Now With “Real” Soft Drinks

Among the beneficiaries of this trend are the founders of the internationally acclaimed Berlin-based beverage manufacturer, Thomas Henry. No other company from the German-language region is more involved in all the current movement on today’s fillers market. It’s little wonder then that Thomas Henry is now introducing several new brands and, from the company’s perspective, even opening up a completely new product category.

A Step Toward the Mainstream

This move is indicative of the big plans stirring at Thomas Henry for the next few years. The company is now debuting no less than three new flavors aimed at different consumer groups.

“Cherry Blossom Tonic Water” is the first of these new additions and features an alluring light rosé color, a sprightly floral bouquet and a taste contrasted by a light, fruity touch with a gentle tonic bitterness. This new member of the Thomas Henry tonic team is clearly intended to further spice up the popular gin & tonic and highball segment. Given the rousing success of the Elderflower Tonic introduced in 2011 and its subsequent inclusion in the company’s standard product range, this expansion of the tonic portfolio makes perfect sense.

Competitors including Fever Tree and Fentimans have long shown with flavors like “Mediterranean” or “Light” that tonic experiments offering consumers more choice can be a welcome addition. Thomas Henry CEO Philipp Raddatz explains the idea behind the new Cherry Blossom Tonic saying, “This new flavor gives bartenders yet another option for surprising gin & tonic drinkers with an added innovative twist”. Like before with Elderflower Tonic, the new Cherry Blossom Tonic will hit the shelves first as a limited edition in anticipation of the response from bar pros and consumers.

Fruity Alternatives to Soda Pop

The other two new Thomas Henry flavors represent a bold move by the company onto new terrain. Up to now the Thomas Henry portfolio has focused primarily on the classic bar segment and its customers. “Mystic Mango” and “Ultimate Grapefruit” are the first flavors in the new Thomas Henry “All Day” range of general consumption soft drinks not aimed specifically at the bar crowd.

The lucrative soft drinks market is now joined by two Thomas Henry products which can be still used as tasty mixers, but are chiefly designed to be enjoyed on their own. “With our two new soft drinks we’re expanding our gastronomy segment presence and also providing alternatives for daytime business”, says Raddatz.

“Mystic Mango” sees Thomas Henry picking up on one of the most popular flavor trends of recent years and adding its own unique touch with the exotic, relatively unknown pitanga fruit for a decisive acidic kick. The manufacturer’s mix recommendations for “Mystic Mango” include spiced rum, vodka or also gin, taking a new tack on the formerly fashionable gin & juice segment.

Thomas Henry’s new “Ultimate Grapefruit” is a testament to this classic bittersweet fruit flavor’s growing popularity in the beverages sector. Equally conceived as a soft drink in its own right, “Ultimate Grapefruit” is also designed to add refreshing vitality to suitable long drinks like the widely popular Paloma, Mexico’s spicy and invigorating national drink. Time and above all the bartenders themselves will tell if these new products can stake their claim as mixers of choice.

“New is Always Better”

So says at least “How I Met Your Mother” character Barney Stinson. In principle, an expansion of the classic soft drink range to include new, creative brands is a very welcome development. Having been inundated with new products in the last 10 to 15 years, we will have to see just how much more expansion the “typical” soft drink market can accommodate.

During that period Thomas Henry was busy establishing its unblemished reputation principally as a top supplier of quality classic bar sodas, leaving the soft drinks melee to others. The question now surrounding the current portfolio expansion is whether the new brands can make a name for themselves beyond the borders of the bar world.

Bartenders and mixed drink fans alike have long regarded Thomas Henry almost unquestioningly as a staple brand on the scene. This alone is reason enough to anticipate open arms for the new Cherry Blossom Tonic in particular. As to whether the new “real” soft drinks will also enjoy similar positioning, above all in the retail and daytime gastronomy sectors, is a wait-and-see proposition. A number of other brands have already carved out their own niches in this competitive environment, and even with the help of open-minded consumers they will first have to be squeezed out.

While the new Thomas Henry products boast admirable core properties including all-natural ingredients, no artificial flavors and a discreet level of sweetness, so do virtually all of the competing products in the discerning soft drink consumer segment. We’re hardly going to make a prediction here about the ultimate outcome.

Curious bar professionals will have the opportunity at the upcoming Bar Convent Berlin to try out the newcomers and decide for themselves. For our part, we wish Thomas Henry and its new brands all the best and sweet success, with plenty of perseverance for a soft drinks market so tough it’s certain to leave a bitter aftertaste from time to time.


Original article by Nils Wrage. Translated by Jeff Collier.