Sector News

What’s bubbling in beverages? Novel sensations, sugar reduction, botanicals and bold colors drive innovation

June 3, 2023
Consumer Packaged Goods

According to Innova Market Insights, when it comes to beverages, consumers are willing to pay more for what they value most, despite rising inflation. Additionally, consumers want brands that respond to their core values and have the benefits they seek, such as sustainability and functional ingredients.

Moreover, industry leaders state that novel flavors, striking colors, innovative ingredients and convenience are also driving invention, creativity and new developments in the beverage space.

FoodIngredientsFirst sits down with experts and industry professionals to better understand the trends, products and ingredients shaping this growing market.

“Healthy Hedonism”
According to Jill Janssen, a market development specialist at GNT Group, today’s consumers not only want their beverages to be functional and healthy, they want them to be fun.

“Modern consumers are looking for exciting consumption experiences with adventurous flavors and bold colors,” Janssen highlights. “At the same time, they also expect products to match up to their expectations in terms of health and sustainability.

Recently, GNT Group recently identified a new consumer trend, dubbed “Healthy Hedonism.” According to the company, the trend is characterized as a surge in demand for eye-catching products that are good for people and the planet.

“This ‘Healthy Hedonism’ trend is inspiring a new wave of food and drink products that deliver intense sensory appeal while maintaining virtuous ingredient lists.

Micah Greenhill, the marketing director for beverages at ADM, explains that many consumers are leaning into beverages that help support their various lifestyle needs.

“Functional beverages, in particular, are trending, supporting shifting consumer desires for personalized and convenient products to support wellness goals,” he states. “Within the functional beverage arena, interest in on-trend ingredients like protein, fiber, electrolytes, beta-alanine, l-carnitine, probiotics, postbiotics and more is growing rapidly.”

Additionally, Greenhill highlights that consumers are seeking beverages with functional attributes, such as meal replacement, rapid hydration and immune support, that they can consume when necessary throughout the day.

Sjors Peters, the global innovation marketing leader for beverages at IFF, agrees, revealing that health and wellness are “revolutionizing” how consumers see beverages.

“Consumers are increasingly mindful of their sugar intake and expect every product to be lower in sugar,” Peters explains. “They also desire options that promote a healthier body and mind, leading to the popularity of energy drinks and no- or low-alcohol beverages.”

“One key aspect is creating low- or no-sugar beverages that still taste great,” Peters underscores.

Flavor-filled and “fun”
According to Peters at IFF, Peters continues that a key aspect of creating low- and no-sugar beverages that still taste good is to balance and elevate tastes through increasing mouthfeel, masking unwanted notes and boosting sweetness. He adds that IFF’s Experience Amplified can achieve this while still providing a “delicious taste profile.”

“For example, we explore ways to deliver more sophisticated carbonation experiences and to create fresher, juicier fruit experiences,” he says. “Or, bubbles or balls that explode in the mouth with that burst of flavor. This provides consumers with diverse and exciting experiences, catering to their desire for novel sensations.

ADM says that, across different beverage formats, citrus flavors continue to be the “clear winner,” noting that its association with vitamin C, energy and immunity make it one of the most successful flavor profiles.

“Classic citrus flavors, such as mandarin orange, Meyer lemon and key lime continue to pop up in beverages, especially energy drinks,” Greenhlill highlights. “These will have staying power moving forward, but we’re also seeing growing interest in new citrus discovery as flavors like finger lime, calamansi, yuzu and pomelo debut in functional waters, ready-to-drink teas and seltzers.”

Moreover, he emphasizes ADM’s recently launched Corefold technology’s ability to deliver the preferred impact and profile that consumers want in “bold” citrus flavors by leveraging the company’s knowledge of citrus oils, mouthfeel and taste.

He also speaks to ADM’s latest innovation in sugar reduction, SweetRight Stevia Edge-M, which he says is designed to improve sweetening, reduce bitterness and increase solubility when compared to Rebaudioside (Reb) M.

“Stevia Edge-M is isolated directly from the stevia leaf, which sets it apart from other Reb M options on the market that are produced by fermentation or bioconversion.”

Greenhill also spotlights SweetRight Agave, which he says, “delivers an organic, naturally sourced sweetness for beverages with a sweetening potency 25-30% higher than sucrose. And, with less input required to achieve the same sweetness level, our agave can support highly sought-after sugar and calorie reduction targets.”

Clean and sustainable
Peters shines a spotlight on consumers’ desire for sustainable and environmentally-friendly options.

“Consumers are increasingly aware of their environmental impact and seek eco-friendly beverage options,” he elaborates. “Plant-based alternatives for example, present a win-win solution that supports personal well-being and the health of our planet. In line with IFF’s longstanding commitment to driving circular design principles, we create upcycled taste ingredients from a variety of sustainable sources to incorporate into beverages.”

Greenhill at ADM further outlines how conscientious consumers want ingredients with “clear and recognizable sources. ”

“Ingredients like botanicals, sweeteners from natural sources, plant proteins and more will continue to be important as we look at new beverage product development,” Greenhill stresses. “These ingredients align with ‘better-for-you’ positioning, meeting consumer desires for their beverage purchases to be better for themselves, as well as the planet.”

Specifically, he states that botanicals such as elderflower, hibiscus, rosemary and mint add a “top-shelf touch” to beverages.

“The inclusion of botanicals would encourage consumers to drink these beverages like functional juice or water, chilled juice, bottled water, carbonated fruit beverages and still soft drinks more frequently.”

GNT Group speaks to the rapidly shifting perceptions around the use of natural colors in beverages, which is driving the industry to create clean label products with bright and “unexpected” colors.

“Consumers increasingly want their products to contain only natural ingredients they know and trust, so artificial colors and the insect-based carmine can significantly limit products’ appeal,” says Janssen. “Coloring Foods are ideal because they’re edible concentrates made from fruits, vegetables and plants and don’t require E numbers, so they offer maximum consumer acceptance.”

Colorful cuppas
Janssen at GNT Group stresses the appeal of color when it comes to selecting beverages, noting that “Instagrammable aesthetics” are increasing in popularity.

“Head-turning, clashing colors are also becoming popular – think vibrant red boba syrup with a blue powder topper alongside contrasting flavors and textures,” she reveals. “Others are using psychedelic color schemes to visualize the connection between mind and body in functional products such as colorful wellness pours, fizzing spritzes and herbal teas.”

“Exberry Coloring Foods are ideally suited to the Healthy Hedonism trend as they’re made from non-GMO fruits, vegetables and plants using physical processing methods such as chopping, filtering and boiling,” she adds.

She further explains that Exberry’s clean label status is such that it is considered to be a food ingredient rather than an additive in the EU. Furthermore, Jenssen says that the product provides “a full spectrum” of shades and colors for beverage applications.

She also states that the recently launched Exberry Blue for Beverages enables brands to use the on-trend superfood spirulina to achieve turquoise, navy blue, violet and green hues in shelf-stable, acidified beverages – a feat she says was not possible before.

“We’ve been using spirulina to deliver blue shades in food and drink for nearly three decades, but the native pigment is quite sensitive to acid and temperature. That meant that, while spirulina could be used as a colorful hero ingredient in chilled beverages such as smoothies, it wasn’t feasible to use it in pasteurized, acidified products.”

“We’ve now patented a stabilization system that means spirulina can be used in applications including sports, energy, and carbonated drinks, juice drinks, enhanced waters and alcoholic beverages below 20% ABV,” Janssen concludes.

Focus on functional ingredients
ADM states that consumers increasingly seek out functional ingredients in their beverages, with particular emphasis on gut- and digestive-health promoting ingredients such as probiotics and fiber, the latter of which Innova Market Insights reveals rose 4% in F&B claims when comparing 2017/Q4 – 2018/Q3 and 2021/Q4 – 2022/Q3.

“More beverage concepts, from sparkling waters to active nutrition shakes, are reaching the marketplace with gut microbiome-supporting solutions,” continuess Greenhill. “Beverages with added fiber are becoming more prominent on store shelves. Even so, consumers remain concerned about digestive discomfort that is commonly associated with fiber solutions.”

Greenhill further states that ADM/Matsutani LLC’s Fibersol prebiotic dietary fiber ingredient can be used in a range of foods, beverages and dietary supplements and is classified as a low-FODMAP (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols) ingredient by Monash University and has been shown to be well-tolerated at up to 68 grams per day.

He also speaks to how postbiotics can be used to overcome harsh processing conditions that damage probiotics.

“Postbiotics are opening the door to more opportunities in these tough formulation environments,” he explains. “Our heat-treated BPL1 (Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. lactis CECT8145) contains non-viable microorganisms that can withstand a range of formulation conditions, such as high heat or pasteurization, while still delivering functionality,”

“We also leverage our spore-forming probiotic, DE111 (Bacillus subtilis) for these formulations because it retains its functionality through challenging processing conditions that may otherwise damage conventional probiotics.”

By William Bradford Nichols


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