Trends in The Beverage Market

29 Oct 2013

Long gone are the days when beverages simply provided hydration. Beverage manufacturers are now jostling for a market edge in a crowded and vibrant market-place, which includes cold drinks, hot drinks, carbonated drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks, fruit juices, squashes and cordials, dairy-based drinks – the list goes on.  Faced with such choice, consumers increasingly […]

Trends in The Beverage Market

Long gone are the days when beverages simply provided hydration. Beverage manufacturers are now jostling for a market edge in a crowded and vibrant market-place, which includes cold drinks, hot drinks, carbonated drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks, fruit juices, squashes and cordials, dairy-based drinks – the list goes on.  Faced with such choice, consumers increasingly demand high quality, competitively-priced beverages, which deliver that ‘something extra’. This demand challenges beverage manufacturers to produce drinks that stand out from the multitude of competitor products.

Improving the consumer experience via the addition of flavourings is popular, and examples include flavoured waters, flavoured carbonated beverages, use of exotic fruit flavours, and flavoured lagers and ciders.  However, more novel concepts are also emerging, such as bubble tea (a drink invented in Taiwan containing chewy Tapioca balls), hot sparkling drinks (Coca Cola Japan) and the use of aromas (PepsiCo).

Health also remains important, but with so many light/lite product versions available, it is unlikely that this will be enough to hold consumer interest for long. The perceived healthiness of low/no calorie beverages may also be somewhat negatively influenced by recent reports that consumption of drinks containing sweeteners could make you gain weight or increase the risk of developing diabetes. Despite a lack of convincing evidence from randomised controlled trials (the gold standard in clinical trials) to support these claims, this type of media message can be enough to dissuade consumers – as seen with aspartame.

Another approach to producing healthy beverages includes the addition of functional ingredients. This might include fortification with micronutrients, or perhaps the inclusion of novel ingredients. Key advantages when using beverages to deliver functionality include regular consumption (important to deliver benefits), high bioavailability (usually no complex matrix to impair ingredient absorption) and likely consumer acceptance of drinks as a delivery mechanism for health benefits.

Sports and energy drinks are also very popular with consumers. Sports drinks, aimed at athletes, typically focus on high protein and/or high energy and electrolyte content, although the provision of light options appears popular with the female market and those trying to control their weight.  Energy drinks usually provide a high sugar content, as well as non-calorific energy sources e.g. caffeine, glucuronolactone, taurine, guarana and B-vitamins.

Consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs), such as energy drinks, sweetened fruit juice, sweetened water etc. has been linked with weight gain and other health issues. Recent scientific reviews and meta-analyses seem to support this link, perhaps prompting an ethical question to manufacturers of SSBs. Many appear to be responding with changes in advertising practices and by offering healthier alternatives – in short, offering the consumer an informed choice.

Finally, the demand for clean label products is ever-increasing. A recent trend is the release of lower calorie beverages containing steviol glycosides, which may be perceived by the consumer as a natural sweetener. However, despite the hype surrounding steviol glycosides, they pose a number of technical issues to manufacturers (in particular their taste profile), and their extraction process prevents them from being truly natural.

There is clearly still a lot of opportunity for innovation in the beverage sector, in particular in the search for new, natural sweeteners whose taste profile more closely meets that of sugar.

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