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At the beginning it was Schweppes. Still today, the most famous tonic water in the world, born at the turn of the First World War and direct descendant of mineral water with added carbon dioxide, daughter, of Johann Jacob Schweppe, a German jeweler with a passion for inventions. If his system revolutionized the way of drinking back in 1783 by opening a market for other competitors as well, his tonic remained almost an exclusive product for a long time. Confined, so to speak, to the consumption of elderly aunts in the "Arsenic and old lace" style or to the role of accompanying a gin for the renowned, everlasting, GinTonic.
It's some years now that Schweppes, while continuing to maintain a solid position as market leader, is increasingly in good company. In fact, tonic water labels can be counted in the order of hundreds of references. Market research firm Grand View Research recently stated that "between 2020 and 2027 the world tonic water market will surge with an annual growth rate of 7.2%". And it's not just a matter of brand, tonic waters have multiplied but also differentiated themselves.
More flavors and hundreds of companies for an effervescent market
No longer, or therefore not only water, carbon dioxide and quinine, the historic antimalarial which was one of the main reasons for the birth of the product, but different flavourings, aromas and flavors which have also widened the road for "smooth" consumption, and certainly no longer confined to the "elderly aunt" target, as well as obviously multiplying the possibilities of pairing with the distillate of lasting marriage such as gin. The companies that have launched themselves into such a rapidly expanding market are therefore more and more numerous. One of these, in third place for volumes in Italy behind obviously Schweppes and Fever Tree, a British company founded in 2004, is the very Italian Bevande Futuriste, a company founded in 2014 by Alessandro Angelon, former managing director of Red Bull, Alberto Zamuner and Elena Ceschelli who, in the company, also covers the role of marketing and communication director. «When we started, the competition was actually less numerous - she explains - today, however, there are hundreds of brands, not only start-ups but also of big players who have diversified their portfolio by introducing one or more tonic waters».
Bevande Futuriste's success: +21% in the year of Covid
The strong point of Bevande Futuriste, and of their brand of Cortese tonic waters, however, is a mix of detailed knowledge of the market, intuition of a world, that of bartending, which was making a comeback and of a shrewd and close collaboration with almost all the most famous bartenders in Italy. With this mix, Bevande Futuriste closed 2019 with a turnover of seven million and approximately 6.7 million bottles of Cortese tonic sold. «We have chosen not to be present on the shelves of large-scale distribution, even if this involves sacrifices and costs obviously», continues Ceschelli. «But we have invested a lot, and we continue to do so, in events, in collaborations with bartenders, in the presence on the territory of our representatives who are not sellers but ambassadors-trainers of the Cortese brand».
The Treviso-based company actually sells to a network of specialized distributors who are however supported by Cortese. In 80% of cases, they are women. “It's obviously not a gender or feminist choice. But a kind of company style. The name Cortese is a tribute to Isabella Cortese, a Venetian doctor and alchemist, but it is also an adjective that wants to describe our philosophy, our way of working, a particular attention to kindness and refinement». Refinement which, in fact, can already be deduced from the packaging.
«Certainly the success of gin has favored that of tonics», continues Ceschelli, «however it is a phenomenon that became truly perceptible about three years ago. When we started, more than on gin, we bet on the comeback of cocktail bars and bartenders who were becoming increasingly similar to chefs in terms of preparation, image, appeal». In a terrifying year for the horeca (bars and restaurants) like 2020, the Cortese brand has grown by 21% compared to 2019. "Working practically only five months", underlines Elena Ceschelli. «Premium tonic waters and sodas are on the rise. The green, fascinating, low sugar and Italian ones even more. We can't wait to be able to start working with the horeca again, the channel in which we strongly believe. Especially in this historical moment».
And if tonics are gaining momentum, actually strong even for a "neat" consumption, other sodas seem to be making a comeback thanks to the successful trend of mixology. Ginger beer is one of the most emblematic cases. Virtually unknown in Italy until a few years ago, it has now also landed in large-scale distribution, basically for one reason only. That is the popularity of the most famous drink that involves its use: the Moscow Mule. Behind it peek out the "cousins" "ginger ale", slightly different from ginger beer but it seems ginger-flavored, and soda water", a carbonated water with a slight alkaline taste similar to seltzer.
Then there are also those who have gone further. This is the case of Selvatiq , a project that came to prominence a few months ago thanks to a gin, a vermouth and a bitter obtained through "conservative foraging" or the collection of spontaneous but somehow invasive herbs and plants of the natural environment. By allochthonous origin or by reproductive excess caused by man.
After the spirits, the team led by the young Valeria Margherita Mosca began distributing two very special canned sodas. Alpine Forest is in fact characterized by spruce, whose branches are harvested and processed in a natural way, while Mediterranean Coast finds its distinctive feature in the leaves of the wild fig. They certainly strike the attention for their singularity and for the implied value, the defense of biodiversity and the enhancement of products of nature probably never considered before, but they are also the litmus test of how much the world of soda soft drinks is under the stage lights. Not only that, but certainly thanks to the "renaissance of the cocktail" that we are experiencing in recent years.
- Il Sole 24 Ore - C’era una volta l’acqua tonica, ora si moltiplicano le bevande aromatizzate dal gusto italiano (di Maurizio Maestrelli)