SIZZLING SUMMER MAKES SALES OF WATER AND ICED TEA BUBBLE

A seemingly endless sweltering summer across much of the country spurred many consumers to dive into the supermarket beverage aisle.And sales of bottled waters, iced teas and other new age beverages were especially boiling."Our beverage sales have been extremely strong this summer. The entire new age category is just exploding. Our sales of Coke and Pepsi have also been really strong this summer,"

A seemingly endless sweltering summer across much of the country spurred many consumers to dive into the supermarket beverage aisle.

And sales of bottled waters, iced teas and other new age beverages were especially boiling.

"Our beverage sales have been extremely strong this summer. The entire new age category is just exploding. Our sales of Coke and Pepsi have also been really strong this summer," said Charlie Owen, director of liquor operations at Balls Food Stores, Kansas City, Kan. He added that sales of chilled beverages were particularly hot.

"In all of our stores we have coolers at the checkout lanes. The sales from those units have been extremely strong. People want something cold when they are going into that hot car," he said.

"Our beverage department sales are up in the double digits. All of our beverages did good this summer, including beer," said Larry Goetsch, buyer at Ingles Markets, Black Mountain, N.C.

"Sales of national brand soft drinks are up this year, compared to last summer. The weather has helped us a lot, along with some deeper discounts from the suppliers," he added.

"Water is flying out of the stores, and it looks like we might set some new records this year," said Dick Salmon, senior vice president of Melmarkets Foodtown, Garden City, N.Y.

"Our beverage sales are up at a minimum of not less than 11% in certain beers and not under 15% to 16% in other beverages. Our sales are also up in snacks and cookies, but overall business has been weak. So when the customers are coming in they are buying more beverages. On a day like today, everybody is walking out with a case of something," Salmon said when interviewed one searing August afternoon.

Some retailers have been heavily promoting beverages. For example, Tops Friendly Markets, Buffalo, N.Y., devoted a full-page in one August circular to a "beat the heat" juice sale, featuring a variety of juices, new age beverages, waters, soft drinks and powdered drink mixes. Tops officials could not be reached about the promotion's success.

Howard Hodgson, buyer of beer-wine-DSD for Heinen's, Warrensville Heights, Ohio, said, "With our hot summer, tonic water has really taken off."