While the major carbonated beverage manufacturers invest significant sums of money to introduce their products to younger consumers, smaller companies are working to gain ground with adults by introducing unique, premium positioned products. Amid the overwhelming number of cheese, chocolate and confectionery exhibitors at this year’s Winter Fancy Food Show, a number of beverage companies stood out.

Points of differentiation promoted by many of the beverage makers focused on clean label, low calorie and natural. One such brand is GUS – Grown-up Sodas, New York, which is a business unit of Utmost Brands, Inc. The company introduced a dry blackberry flavored soda during the show.

“Blackberry has been a hot flavor for the last several years and our loyal customers have been clamoring for blackberry soda in our trademark less-sweet GUS style,” said Steve Hersh, co-founder of the company.

The flavor, like other GUS products, is marketed as natural and contains less sugar than many mainstream carbonated beverages. The product is available in 12-oz glass bottles and joins other flavors in the GUS lineup as ginger ale, cola, root beer, Meyer lemon, Star Ruby grapefruit, Valencia orange, cranberry lime and pomegranate.

Along the same lines, Hotlips Soda, Portland, Ore., stood out among the beverage exhibitors during the Winter Fancy Food Show. Marketed as a “real fruit” soda available in raspberry, marionberry, pear, lemon, ginger ale, black raspberry flavors, the Hotlips products are made with real fruit. Seeds are filtered out during the production process, but not pulp, according to the company. The fruit provides the flavor and the products are sweetened with cane sugar to give the Hotlips line a natural positioning in the marketplace.

Bruce Cost Ginger Ale received a shout out from the Specialty Food Trade Association, the group that puts on the Winter and Summer Fancy Food Shows, for its ginger ale flavored with turmeric. The product joins the company’s line, which includes such other flavors as passion fruit, pomegranate, original, jasmine tea and 66, which is sweetened with cane sugar and monk fruit.

Marketed under the tag line “Soda can be spectacular,” Q Drinks, Brooklyn, N.Y., exhibited the company’s line of carbonated beverages at this year’s show. Available in eight flavors ranging from tonic and club to ginger beer, ginger, kola, grapefruit, orange and lemon, the products are available in 12-oz bottles or 12-oz slim cans.

For consumers seeking a truly different carbonated beverage experience there is Borgnine’s Coffee Soda. Like other companies trying to stand out in the premium soda category, Borgnine’s is marketed as natural and clean label. In addition, it capitalizes in the trend for premium, coffee-oriented products.