Leftovers: Pure Leaf tea gets sweet on less sugar; Opopop goes global with wasabi-flavored popcorn

Leftovers is our look at a few of the product ideas popping up everywhere. Some are intriguing, some sound amazing and some are the kinds of ideas we would never dream of. We can’t write about everything that we get pitched, so here are some leftovers pulled from our inboxes. 

Pure Leaf tea is sweet on less sugar  

With temperatures heating up, Pure Leaf is bringing down the amount of sugar in an extension of its popular tea.

Pure Leaf Lower Sugar comes in three flavors — Subtly Sweet Black Tea, Subtly Sweet Peach and Subtly Sweet Lemon. Each 18.5-fluid-ounce bottle contains 20 calories and 5 grams of added real sugar — 85% less sugar than the brand’s Sweet Tea offering. 

“We know that many of our Pure Leaf consumers want lower sugar alternatives that don’t sacrifice on taste,” Julie Raheja-Perera, general manager in North America with the Pepsi Lipton Partnership, said in a statement. “With the help of our expert tea masters, we’re excited to broaden our Pure Leaf iced tea portfolio with three refreshing lower sugar iced teas that give consumers what they are looking for.”

Pure Leaf is one of the tea offerings, along with Lipton Iced Tea and and Brisk Iced Tea, sold by the Pepsi Lipton Tea partnership — a joint venture between PepsiCo and Unilever.

Tea is the second most widely consumed beverage in the world after water. In the U.S. alone, Americans drank more than 85 billion servings of the liquid in 2021, with roughly half of the population enjoying it on any given day, according to the Tea Association of the U.S.A.  

But the drink, which already has a natural health halo, hasn’t been immune to some of the trends infiltrating the food and beverage space. With consumers’ focus on eating and drinking healthier, companies are calling out their products’ use of alternative sweeteners or reduced sugar content.

Pure Leaf’s new low-sugar beverage touts that is “subtly” sweet. It’s a similar tag line to one of the early pioneers in the category, Honest Tea — now owned by Coca-Cola — that promotes it’s “Just a tad sweet.”

— Christopher Doering


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Courtesy of Opopop


Opopop goes global with wasabi-flavored popcorn

As millennials and Gen Z continue to seek new and exotic flavors, snack makers with an eye toward the future are heeding the call.

Popcorn brand Opopop has launched a new Wasabi flavor of its popcorn as part of its Flavor Wrapped line. Wasabi, the bright green pungent condiment known as “Japanese horseradish,” is typically served with sushi, and known for its strong and spicy taste.

The brand called the new popcorn “globally-inspired,” touting what it recalls the savory umami taste of the condiment. The aim of the new flavor, Opopop said, is to “give a rich base flavor while still delivering a great wasabi nose-tingling kick and a delicious salty finish.” Each bag of kernels makes four to six “poppers worth” of popcorn, and sells for $13.99 on the company’s web site.

Alec Hopkins, the vice president of product and insights for the brand, said that debuting the new flavor furthers Opopop’s plan to innovate the space.

“Here at Opopop, we are always looking for new and different flavors,” Hopkins said. “Wasabi snacks continue to rise in popularity, but no one has done it in popcorn. We knew we could meet a growing demand by introducing the first Wasabi popcorn.”

Over the last decade, interest in global flavors has grown, and wasabi has proven to be one of the more popular varieties to appear in snacks. In 2014, Lay’s debuted a limited edition Wasabi Ginger flavor of its chips, while Hapi sells wasabi peas coated with the flavor.

Opopop launched its flavor-wrapped kernels in June 2021, presenting itself as an “innovative, gourmet” popcorn brand, with a goal of reinventing the sector. Beyond its flavor technology, one way Opopop aims to stand out is by turning popcorn into an experience for the consumer. For example, for every bag of Wasabi Opopop ordered, consumers will receive a pair of gold chopsticks, or “popsticks,” to eat the snack with, evoking the feeling of eating at a sushi restaurant. And earlier this year, the brand debuted Peel + Pour Popcorn Cups, kernels prepackaged in small cups with a chunk of flavoring. The consumer dumps the contents in Opopop’s silicone popper to pop the kernels in the microwave, and then tosses the popcorn to distribute the flavoring, providing an interactive snacking experience.

— Chris Casey


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Courtesy of Laird Superfood


Laird Superfood turns coffee into coffee pods

Ever since the single-serve coffee brewing pod was invented in the late ‘90s, many sustainability-minded people — including K-Cup inventor John Sylvan — have worried about the waste that piles up from the miniature brewing pods. Laird Superfood is the latest to propose a solution to this problem: making coffee pods from coffee.

The publicly traded plant-based superfood company has developed its first coffee pods — called Bright Cups — that can brew single cups of its Focus Mushroom Coffee. The pods are made up of 85% coffee chaff, which is the natural skin of the coffee bean and a byproduct of the coffee roasting process. The coffee pods are certified compostable by the Biodegradable Products Institute, and include other plant-based materials.

“As a brand and as consumers, we’ve spent years searching for a convenient single-serve coffee option that doesn’t cause harsh environmental impact,” Chief Commercial Officer Andy Judd said in a written statement. “Aligned with our eco-conscious values, we wanted to provide consumers with a sustainable alternative to plastic pods without compromising high-quality functional coffee that’s good for you and the environment.”

While consumers are becoming more aware of sustainability issues from packaging waste, coffee pods are becoming more popular than ever. According to statistics compiled by private label coffee company Intelligent Blends, there was a 7% increase in weekly average single-serve coffee sales during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. About 42% of homes in the United States have a single-cup coffee brewer. And Mordor Intelligence expects sales of coffee pods and capsules to increase at a 3.1% compound annual growth rate between 2020 and 2025.

Coffee companies have been working to make single-serve coffee pods more eco-friendly for years, and there are many partially recyclable and industrial compostable pods on the market today. However, consumers may not take the steps needed to recycle the pods, which often involves opening them and removing different components. Compostable pods generally need to be taken to an industrial composting facility; they will not break down in a backyard compost pile. But there are relatively few facilities across the country where this service is available.