While attending the 2010 National Restaurant Association show here in Chicago, I had the chance to chat with Lamont Seckman, the Owner & CEO of Inspiration Beverage out of Denver, CO… the company behind Petey's Bing Energy Drink. While providing me with a sample of his beverage, he also explained what he felt was different about Bing vs. other energy drink offerings on the market today.
Bing gets its name from the use of bing cherries and not the Microsoft-owned search engine formerly known by a bunch of unmemorable names like Live Search, Windows Live Search, and MSN Search. In fact, Bing includes 5% cherry juice in its formula, which would explain the emphasis on red in the packaging color scheme.
Bing comes in 12 oz. slim cans packaged in 4-Packs. The can design features a dark red color with a black "B" logo that contains a cherry-shaped outline. The pitch on the front of the can notes that this is a "delicious energizing beverage with Ginkgo Biloba, Ginseng, and Vitamin C."
It's also only 40 calories per 12 oz. can. How do they pull that off? Well, even though the sweetener is cane sugar, it's complimented by the one-two punch of sucralose and acesulfame potassium (Ace-K) as artificial sweeteners (though the marketing materials claim that there is less than 0.02% of sucrolose content).
In talking with Mr. Seckman, he mentioned that the inclusion of the artificial sweeteners to cut down on the calorie count was intentional to broaden the appeal of the drink. Bing is being positioned not against the likes of Red Bull and other energy drinks. Rather, it's going up against standard soft drinks, while also walking that line between full-calorie and sugar-free. Thankfully, it does seem to succeed better than other hybrids we've seen in years past such as Coke C2 and Pepsi Edge.
By being cherry-flavored, Bing is hoping to be more demographically appealing to a broader audience, especially females. Traditionally, energy drinks tend to skew towards young males with cash to burn. The lower calorie count, use of real juice, inclusion of various nutrients, and natural colors/flavors also are being aimed at the more "health conscious" energy drink-type customer.
Upon opening a can, you are greeted with a tart cherry scent, thus supporting the branding of the beverage. Bing possesses a very sweet, cherry flavor that is quite a break from what you'd come to expect from an energy drink. The dark-but-translucent red color of the beverage reminds me of something you'd see in a Jones Soda bottle. The initial "wow" of cherry flavor is quite refreshing if the drink is chilled well.
We did detect that "artificial sweetener aftertaste" with the drink. If you are used to low- or no-calorie soft drinks, this should not be an issue. However, if you are more adverse to the sucralose/Ace-K combo, this might turn you off. Consistent with other energy drinks, there's a bit of syrupy flavor combined with what we assume are the supplements packed into the beverage, producing an expected taste for the genre. Speaking of what's inside, let's take a closer look, shall we?
Bing Energy Drink
Water, dark cherry juice (from concentrate), cane sugar, natural flavors, citric acid, grape skin extract (color), potassium sorbate (preservative and potassium source), sodium benzoate (preservative), sucralose, acesulfame potassium
As previously mentioned, a 12 oz. can contains 40 calories. It also features 10 g of carbs (10 of which are sugars), 20 mg of sodium, 60 mg of ascorbic acid (Vitamin C), 1.7 mg of riboflaven (Vitamin B2), 20 mg of niacin (niacinamide), 2 mg of pyridoxine HCl (Vitamin B6), 6 mcg of cyanocobalamin (Vitamin B12), and 10 mg of d-calcium pantothenate (pantothenic acid). Caffeine is 10 mg/oz.
As far as your added energy drink-oriented supplements, they include 1000 mg of taurine, 100 mg ginkgo biloba left extract, 100 mg ginseng root extract, 100 mg beta-glucan, 10 mg guarana seed extract, 0.01 mg acai berry extract, and 0.01 mg of flax seed extract.
Being both beverage connoisseurs and Web enthusiasts, if there is anything we'd advise the folks at Bing, it would probably be in their positioning on the Internet. It's got to be a challenge to maintain any easy search engine ranking now that they share a name with a Microsoft property (in the drink's defense, it came first!)
The promotional materials point to no less than 3 web addresses for the product (getbinged.com, bingenergydrink.net, and bingme.net — all which point to the same location), which is rather confusing when you want to share information. As for the official site, it's loaded with images and Flash objects that make it really hard to read, very difficult for search engines to index, and seem to bring into question the target market. On the social media front, an associated MySpace page reflects the drink's usage in bars as a mixer. We like the drink, but if we were to tell a friend about it by providing them a web link, it probably would be hard to take the marketing seriously. The Internet is probably low on the radar of a brand trying to establish itself, but perception goes a long way. Getting involved with Facebook and Twitter would be very low-cost venues to spread the word.
Overall, I really liked the refreshing cherry taste of Bing. It's the type of drink that you wish more folks knew about because of the unique approach it takes on the energy drink category. It's not "scary" like the marketing of a lot of energy beverages, which are very in-your-face and alienate anyone not in the targeted demographic. While I'm not totally sold on the artificial sweetener-influenced aftertaste, it's rather hard to argue with just 40 calories per can!
Official Website: BingEnergyDrink.com