From hop to hip: Craft moves to the mainstream

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05 Jun 2018 --- Craft beverages, functional and botanical ingredients and clean label have long been dominating NPD in the beverage space for some months. Contributing to this is the world of social media, which backs the current wave of food and drink related content as a form of self-expression and the debate around beverages – what’s in them, what’s new and so on – continues to dominate the sector.

The craft scene looks set to expand into other beverage categories, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic as well as different food categories. Cold-brewed coffee, tea and baby food have all shown steady growth for craft launches and now big companies are turning to craft and this is evidenced in NPD.

Click to EnlargeAccording to data from Innova Market Insights, there has been a 40 percent increase in CAGR in craft food and beverage launches tracked from big companies (2011-2016). There has also been a 22 percent increase in CAGR craft food and beverage launches tracked from small/medium sized companies (2011-2016).

The way consumers interpret the concept of “natural” food can be expanded even wider. The current craft-beer movement has drawn attention to other products that people view as the result of honest artisan manufacturing – as authentic and natural in the broadest sense of the word. 

In keeping with this development, WFSI (an ADM business) has applied the craft-beer character to beer-mix beverages. The company recently presented new concepts with especially well-balanced nuances of hop flavors.

“When we discuss the question of products with additional potential for the brewery industry, there is no way around the topic of craft beers. There is no official definition of what constitutes a craft beer. That does not matter, however: they have grown to become a significant movement in and of themselves. The trend began in the US, and in the meantime, it has conquered Europe and is spreading at a nearly exponential rate,” Jochen Kistner, Head of Product Management Beverage, WFSI tells FoodIngredientsFirst

“For a long time, the only sources of craft beers were individual small breweries that wanted to establish a new market segment with newClick to Enlarge creations. Nowadays, though, breweries of all sizes are now focusing on the 'craft' sector. It has long since become standard practice to sell them through all the regular channels of distribution, and sales are no longer merely regional or even local. Now even discount retailers have special campaigns in which they showcase craft-beer products so they can keep up with current trends,” Kistner explains. 
WFSI offers natural extracts, flavors, colors and juices for pure craft beers. These ingredients can be integrated during the brewing process or added to the beer before or after filtration. This opens up opportunities, not only in the field of traditional artisanry but also regarding efficiently testing innovative products and leveraging new market opportunities. Sophisticated nuances of honey, barrique and caramel give these concepts a finishing touch that will help breweries reach new and especially premium target groups. 
The ingredients specialist WFSI has a portfolio with multiple options for attractive product developments with a craft-beer character. Its “hops shandy” concept is a blend of several strong components: beer mix in general, shandy in particular, and the current favorite, craft beer. Borrowing from the idea of traditional dry-hopping beer production, WFSI uses premium hops oils to create new flavor accents without bitter notes. “Hops shandy” can be positioned on the market in different ways: either pure, authentic as a premium alternative, or as an original trendy drink served at pubs and clubs. The choice of adding a fruity nuance in lime, grapefruit or black currant creates opportunities for appealing fruit

Bell Flavors & Fragrances do not see the craft movement as a one-hit wonder either and are strongly convinced that this trend has come to permanent. 

“We continuously develop new solutions and concepts for craft beers but also for other beverages, such as lemonades or ready-to-drink iced teas, that are adopting the craft movement. On this account, Bell has created a very successful concept for refreshing craft lemonades, which completely meets the needs of today’s consumers, such as combining premium ingredients, like botanical extracts with inspiring natural flavor varieties. The concept also combines the desire for more authentic recipes and a homemade character with new and innovative taste varieties, such as Rose & Blackberry including a Rose Blossom extract or Pomegranate & Mint, using a Mint Extract,” Julia Hübner, Marketing Specialist for Beverages at Bell tells FoodIngredientsFirst

Furthermore, Bell is currently working on a continuance of our innovative beer building block concept. This concept provides technical solutions for breweries thanks to the use of natural hop and beer type flavors to round off lower or non-alcoholic beers or to simplify the brewing process. “With a special focus on craft beers, our flavorists have developed a range of characteristically natural craft beer flavors, e.g., Gueze or IPA to create a unique taste experience for beer lovers. Due to the expertise of our beverage flavorists and application technologists, we were able to create a range of innovative hop-type flavors, mimicking the latest craft beer hop-types, such as Simcoe or Cidra. The launch of this concept will be this summer and we are looking forward to showcasing our novelties soon,” she reveals. 

In times of an increasingly fast-moving, modern society, growing globalization and the universal availability of consumer goods, consumers often are drawn to points of the past. The past is associated with authenticity and reliable quality and creates a feeling of familiarity and security. Origin, nostalgia and trust nowadays count as a seal of quality and form an emotional bond between consumers and products or brands. This becomes visible in the continuing vintage/retro trend and above all in the craft movement, which is now spreading from the beverage category towards other food sectors, such as sauces or snacks, according to Hübner. 

“The DIY mentality of today's consumers, the use of local ingredients and old recipes and the desire for independent products as well as regional ingredients and production characterize this movement. The consumers desire for individual products with a unique character and the will of manufacturers to bring a huge variety of craft-inspired products to the market are the main drivers of this trend.”

Thanks to the enormous versatility and taste innovation of craft beverages, Hübner believes this trend will have a long life expectancy in the beverage industry. “This is reflected in a constant stream of new beverage concepts and innovations on the market, mainly driven by growing NPD-activity within non-alcoholic beverages, next to beer and Western European countries, next to the ever-growing market of NorthClick to Enlargeern America. Consumers will continue to be offered a similar diversity as in the non-craft segment,” she notes. 

“With regard to new flavor varieties, we continue to expect a strong focus on regionality and naturalness, e.g., with the use of botanical extracts. Examples include fresh and intense herbs, such as rosemary or thyme, superfruits such as ginseng root or goji berry, or floral notes like rose blossom.”

For Agneta Hoffmann, Team Leader Marketing for Flavors at Bell, the momentum of the craft megatrend is also putting up the focus on other categories, such as sauces, condiments and snacks. She says: “We see those categories evolving around authentic, intense and culinary-inspired flavor-varieties. Using individually selected spice mixes or inspirations driven by new street food concepts within product developments offers numerous opportunities to pick up on this trend. This can be seen in a growing demand for rich, intense smoke type flavors or combinations of popular classics, such as caramelized onion and smoke.”

The craft trend also creates a lot of novelties around BBQ varieties. Bell also pushed the whole topic a bit further and created a Craft Beer & BBQ seasoning for snacks, combining aromatic-hoppy beer notes and smoky BBQ sauce. 

“Looking into the culinary area, there are numerous taste varieties, combining the taste for authenticity with gourmet-inspired dishes. We see a lot of potential in truffle flavor, as truffle creates a very rich intense and unique taste experience,” Hoffman concludes. 

By Elizabeth Green

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