Leftovers: Sonic debuts in hard tea and slushes; Vanilla Ice collaborates on energy drinks

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. 

Sonic gets boozy with hard tea and slush

While Sonic Drive-In is a favorite of many kids, with roller skating waiters and fun music, the brand also has many adult fans.

Oklahoma brewery Coop Beverage Works has been tapping into the restaurant chain’s popularity through a licensing deal that began with the 2021 launch of Sonic Hard Seltzer. It is now expanding the Sonic brand into two new alcoholic products: Hard Southern Sweet Tea and Hard Slush.

Sonic Hard Southern Sweet Tea contains an ABV of 5% and will be available in 12-ounce slim can 12-packs and 24-ounce cans this fall in at least 38 states.

Sonic Hard Slush, with a 6% ABV, will be packaged in ready-to-drink frozen pouches and available in the restaurant chain’s popular slush flavors Cherry Limeade, Blue Raspberry and Watermelon. The slushes will initially be launched in 15 states, with a wider rollout in March 2023.

The launches follow up on the Sonic brand’s entry into the seltzer space with Sonic Hard Seltzer, which Coop Beverage Works launched in 2021 with eight flavors, and should be available in most of the U.S. by the end of 2022, according to the brewer. Coop Beverage Works President Sean Mossman said that the entry into hard tea and slushes is a logical next step. 

“After tremendous support and response from across the country for Sonic Hard Seltzer, it became clear that the Sonic fan is enjoying the experience of their favorite Sonic beverages in adult form,” Mossman said. “Adult Hard Tea and Adult Hard Slush are natural brand extensions, and we are all excited for our fans to be able to try these amazing flavors.”

It makes sense why Coop Beverage Works would tap Sonic to capitalize on a drink like sweet tea, since the beverage has a strong foothold in the south, where the restaurant chain has locations across the region.

Sonic Drive-In is also no stranger to alcohol. In 2011, after Burger King found success in selling beer at some of its locations, Sonic announced that select “Sonic Beach” locations in Florida would sell wine and beer.

The Sonic brand has appeared in other CPG products through licensing deals. Last year, Jel Sert introduced Sonic singles-to-go drink mix packets, which allow consumers to capture the taste of their favorite Sonic drinks by adding the flavored powder to water. And earlier in 2021, the restaurant chain partnered with Conagra’s jerky brand Slim Jim for meat snacks with the flavor of Sonic’s Chili Cheese Coney hot dog.

— Chris Casey



Rapper Vanilla Ice stops to collaborate on new energy drink

All right stop, collaborate and listen: Joyburst is here with Vanilla Ice to create a new addition to the energy drink space.

The No Sugar Company’s Joyburst brand is partnering with Vanilla Ice on a flavor that, of course, is vanilla. The “Ice Ice Baby” rapper-inspired drink will join the other Joyburst flavors — Elderberry, Frosé, Grape, Lime and Peach — on shelves at select Walmart and Costco locations.

The plant-based energy drink highlights its use of all-natural and easy-to-read, straightforward ingredients. Joyburst also has zero calories and is keto verified and gluten free. 

“For over a decade, we have been working on creating the perfect recipe — naturally derived green tea caffeine, infused with amazing flavors and refreshing carbonation, without using sugar,” Brad Woodgate, founder and CEO of the No Sugar Company, said in a statement. 

As part of the rollout with the rapper, Woodgate and Vanilla Ice recorded a single named after Joyburst that is touted as “a nostalgic nod to the 90’s with funky beats and sing-along lyrics.”

The global energy drinks market was valued at $45.8 billion in 2020, according to data from Allied Market Research. It is projected to more than double to $108.4 billion by 2031, with a compound annual growth rate of 8.2% from 2022 to 2031. 

Joyburst has joined what is a very crowded energy drink space that includes smaller upstarts and offerings from more established players such as Celsius, Monster Energy, PepsiCo’s Rockstar and the recently launched Baya, a partnership between the soda giant and Starbucks.

— Christopher Doering


Courtesy of PepsiCo


PepsiCo puts Pasta Roni in a pouch

Meal kits like Quaker Foods’ Rice-A-Roni and Pasta Roni are not meant to be a time suck. With preportioned rice, pasta and seasonings, the products are designed to help cooks save a little extra time in the kitchen. But here’s where the PepsiCo division is taking the convenience a step further — with its heat-and-eat meals for the two brands.