“Searching for a story”: Authenticity, craft offerings and botanicals are key in premium beverages space
26 Mar 2019 --- The adventurous consumer seeks inspiration, excitement and authenticity and when it comes to beverages, everything, from the format, texture, added benefits and flavor, matters, that is according to Chris Whiting, Category Manager, at Synergy Flavours. Consumers are now more interested in the “story” as a point of difference for the products they buy, and the provenance of ingredients is something they are now on the lookout for.
“Pioneers in this market have paved the way for a raft of healthy, premium beverages touting superfood ingredients and exotic flavors,” Whiting tells FoodIngredientsFirst. “Adventurous consumers can satisfy their thirst for something new while on-the-go and without compromising on nutrition. The added health benefits of drinks like superfruit smoothies, coconut water and kefir drinks offer even more to well-traveled and health-conscious consumers,” he notes.
According to Whiting, “provenance and authenticity are key,” but that doesn’t mean brands are limited by only using locally-sourced ingredients in each market. The use of regional flavors, such as Sicilian lemon, can provide authenticity and a premium feel while offering something a bit new or different, he says. “Interesting flavor pairings in beverages, such as yuzu and white tea, or lemon and basil, can also create adventurous experiences, without radically altering a product’s format or brand,” Whiting adds.
Moreover, botanicals are helping soft drinks to become one of the fastest growing drinks categories in Western Europe, reveals Whiting. “The use of botanicals transforms a soft drink into something more grown up, exuding sophistication and a premium feel that is typically reserved for alcoholic beverages,” he continues. “Botanical flavors allow soft drinks to replicate the occasion associated with alcohol while offering an exciting taste experience.”
As consumers become more mindful about their alcohol consumption, zero proof drinks containing flavors such as rosemary, pink peppercorn, geranium or nutmeg are also tipped to become increasingly common.
The whole industry has a role to play and only by collaborating throughout the supply chain, will it begin to impact the negative health consequences of over-consumption. As with all sectors, there needs to be a choice available to consumers so that treating themselves occasionally remains their prerogative. However, the increasing availability of reduced or lower sugar products that still deliver on taste can only be helpful.
As a flavor company, Whiting believes that Synergy Flavours can help manufacturers to create refreshing and tasty beverages that offer cleaner labels and a better nutritional profile. “Our sensory and analytical experts can use a range of technologies to profile beverages and create flavor solutions that deliver the same great taste and flavor, without any compromise on the sensory attributes,” he explains.
Synergy Flavours’ market research has identified five consumer profiles which are driving innovation across the food and beverage markets. As well as the adventurous consumer, Whiting says the company has profiled the “mindful consumer,” the balanced consumer, the connected consumer and the revolutionary consumer.
• The mindful consumer is concerned with where their food comes from and chooses wholesome and natural products.
• The balanced consumer is health-conscious, aware of what is in their foods and more likely to eat plant-based meals.
• Trends and social media influence the connected consumer. They are concerned with how their food and drink looks (for photo opportunities) and how their choices make them appear to others.
• The revolutionary consumer is always on the go and is challenging traditional mealtimes with snacking and looking for original or unusual flavor experiences.
“Many consumers will fit into more than one of these profiles, but the trends underpinning many of them and that relate to the beverage market are authenticity and provenance, health and nutrition, flavor experimentation and snacking,” Whiting comments.
Elsewhere, soft drink taxation is “just one part of a bigger picture and while the food industry has a role to play in providing healthier choices to consumers,” according to Whiting, and “there is involvement required across society in educating people about the role of nutrition in health.”
Initiatives aimed at supporting parents, teachers and consumers about how to lead healthier lives led by governments, brands, the media, charities and other institutions are especially important and the food industry is getting involved in or leading many of these, he notes.
Trending and functional beverages
According to Whiting, the craft drink movement is thriving, especially in the UK, and the “mindful consumer” trend heavily influences its popularity. He explains further: “It satisfies the mindful consumer’s desire to buy from smaller, ethical brands, which have returned to authentic and simple processing techniques. This is causing larger beverage manufacturers to introduce more premium versions of their popular brands and provide greater choice to consumers, as well as promoting their corporate social responsibility initiatives.”
“Food festivals and street food markets are attracting more and more craft beverage suppliers and some consumers are prepared to pay more for a beverage that is original, locally made and based on natural ingredients,” he explains. “All of these requirements are filtering through to the mass market, with more mainstream brands seeking to offer a similar experience. Beverages with no additives, or sugar and that offer premium flavors and portray a story or link to a certain place or time are becoming more widely available.”
Kombucha – a fermented drink made from sweetened tea and specific cultures of bacteria and yeasts – is also gaining popularity in Western Europe, Whiting highlights. Kombucha is part of a broader trend towards fermented foods, which are more and more revered for their gut health benefits. “Previously, this was quite a niche product, but it has exploded in the last year or so – England Rugby World Cup winner, Jonny Wilkinson even put his own name behind a brand – ‘No1 Kombucha’ stating that he has been drinking Kombucha for years.”
Also within the gut-health space, the benefits of a high fiber diet are pretty well known, says Whiting, but as with many macronutrients, most consumers do not consume enough.
In the UK, the average intake is 17.2/day for women and 20.1g/day for men, but the recommended average intake for adults is 30g per day, according to the British Nutrition Foundation (BNF). “Most consumers associate fiber with cereals, baked goods and fruit and vegetables. For now, fiber enrichment in beverages is pretty niche – with only a handful of launches globally, it could be one to watch,” he muses.
“Much of this innovation is currently coming from Asia, where subsidiaries of beverage giants Coca Cola and Nestlé have both launched water variants with added wheat dextrin. As with other health and nutrition trends, what starts in Asia often filters through to the West, so we expect to see more interest in fiber enrichment of beverages,” Whiting concludes.
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