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Food & Beverage Perspectives

Mashing Up Beverages Trends: Saving Grace for Soft Drinks?

<p>Numerous trends have picked up speed and strength across food and beverage categories; demands are increasing for less sugar, natural ingredients, clean labels, craft and specialty selections, and flavor innovation. Not surprisingly, these trends haven&#8217;t sat well with some beverages in the soft drinks category.</p>

Numerous trends have picked up speed and strength across food and beverage categories; demands are increasing for less sugar, natural ingredients, clean labels, craft and specialty selections, and flavor innovation.

Not surprisingly, these trends haven’t sat well with some beverages in the soft drinks category. In the United States, the market for cola carbonates declined -3.1 percent in 2013 and saw sales of US$18.4 billion, according to data from Euromonitor.

However, it’s not all storm clouds and rainy days for these fizzy beverages—the data also indicate global soft drinks volumes grew more than 4 percent in 2013; value sales grew more than 5 percent to a retail market size of over US$531.3 billion.

For beverage manufacturers who want to play by consumers’ “rules" (i.e., demands), it appears there’s opportunity for sweet, bubbly success; some are already introducing innovative concepts to appeal to consumers. PepsiCo is one example, and recently announced plans for its new “healthier" soft drink line, “Stubborn Soda," according to Time.

The soda line will feature flavors such as tarragon, orange hibiscus, pineapple cream, and agave vanilla cream, and will be marketed as “craft" sodas. In addition, the beverages will be sweetened with cane sugar to steer clear of high fructose corn syrup.

A cleaner label, a natural sweetener and innovative flavors tied together with craft appeal—it appears PepsiCo has heard consumers’ cries, and plans to deliver. This “mash-up" of trends isn’t new. Interestingly, you could call it yet another trend—consumers want it all, and beverage manufacturers must deliver.

Fortunately for functional beverages manufacturers, many of these trends are instilled in the foundation of functional products—healthy, natural and distinctive. This could be because consumers often buy functional products because they want the healthful benefits; along with that comes the expectation that the product itself will be healthy. However, it’s still critical for functional beverages manufacturers to stay privy to the latest trends.

Take a look at the following trends to see more of what’s happening in the beverages space. The trends were identified by the Euromonitor research team, Eric Penicka, Mark Strobel and Virginia Lee, at the 2015 National Restaruant Association Show, May 16-20, in Chicago.

Dry Cider: Cider continues to have staggering growth in the United States, and cider companies are attempting to appeal to a wider group of consumers. In a bid to disprove common perception that ciders are for women, cider companies have focused on dry and bitter product development. In addition, semi-dry and dry ciders are being formulated to increase session-ability.

Ginger: Ginger appeared in multiple formats at the NRA Show, the researchers noted. Reed’s Inc introduced Reed’s Stronger Ginger Brew with 50 percent more ginger than its Extra Ginger Brew. Both PepsiCo and The Coca-Cola Company featured ginger “mocktails" in their mixology demonstrations. Pickett’s Ginger Beer concentrated syrup from Pickett Brothers Beverage can be mixed with soda water to make ginger beer, stirred into cocktails, or poured over ice cream.

Origin: The researchers noted the term “craft" is slowly being replaced with labels of origin. Alcoholic beverages producers and retailers have noted consumer confusion of the craft label and an increased interest in provenance. As such, producers are working to build an image of familiarity using their home location.

Personalization: U.S. consumers, especially Millennials, want variety and the ability to create their favorite drink. The Coca-Cola Freestyle 7000, an NRA FABI award recipient, is a mid-volume countertop dispenser that allows users to create their own beverage combinations through the machine interface as well as by linking to a smartphone app. The Pepsi Spire fountain also gives customers the opportunity to personalize beverages by adding up to three flavor shots, including cherry, lemon, vanilla, strawberry, raspberry and lime.

Premium beverages: Premium beverages made from high-quality ingredients with complex flavors made a big appearance, according to the research team. Numi Organic Tea offers a wide range of intricate teas. Numi’s new Nspire line features organic whole leaf teas and herbs, and uses hand-sewn cotton sachets instead of traditional tea bags that are mostly made from plastic. Sodas are becoming more adult-focused and upscale. Sparkling beverage makers DRY Soda and Sipp Eco Beverage Co tout their products as being the result of premium mixology and include such flavors as lemon flower, cucumber and lavender.

TAGS: Beverages
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