17 Jul 2017 --- Consumers expect more from beverages than just to quench their thirst. Ideally, soft drinks, smoothies and the like offer new drinking experiences and bursts of flavor – while suiting people’s individual lifestyles. The GNT Group recently compiled five ways for food and beverage companies to meet this challenge.
Consumers’ growing wish for surprising creations is especially high in the adult soft drinks sector. Alternatives to alcoholic beverages should serve a sophisticated taste and go beyond the typical sweet and fizzy lemonades. This can be done by creating multi-sensory experiences. According to GNT, manufacturers need to think of innovations that satisfy consumers’ thirst for variety.
FoodIngredientsFirst caught up with Paul Collins, Director of International Sales and Marketing at GNT, who discussed trends across the beverage category: “Clearly, sugar reduction is more than a trend, it’s become a norm with existing products being reformulated and new products based on lower sugar from the outset,” he explains.
“Apart from this we see the main drivers as added value (consumers want more than refreshment, they want a multi-sensory experience); such added value can come about from new exotic flavor variants or those under-utilized flavor combinations some of which can be relatively simple (such as mint and lemon) or new color associations such as using color as the main sensory attribute to engage with consumers.”
Other trends include increasing use of plant based ingredients, this fits with the direction of using the resources of nature. “Staying with the theme of nature and plants, we see more emphasis on the agricultural origin of food and beverage and where ingredients are sourced from, so issues such as sustainability and environmental issues increasingly come into play.”
In some specific sub-categories such as adult premium soft drinks, smoothies and low alcohol beverages there is a significant amount of innovation using botanicals, new flavors, functional ingredients such as turmeric, in all such cases the appearance of the beverage is paramount and adds to the overall experience and proposition. “Taking the specific case of turmeric, at GNT we have recently developed a water processed Turmeric Concentrate that is suitable for certain types of beverages,” he adds.
“Functional ingredients in beverages are quite established,” says Collins. “In addition to refreshment and hydration consumers seek more from their beverage; this could be new taste sensations, new mouthfeel experience such as fruit pieces, for example, and the inclusion of vegetable components.”
The developments in this respect could be targeted to provide specific nutritional benefit, increased consumption of vegetable or new taste experiences. There are a number of ingredients that are related to nutrition, with turmeric and spirulina being two main examples. This gives rise to the challenge on how to incorporate these ingredients into beverage recipes and deliver the desired effect, and Collins believes this is an area where GNT can support its beverage clients.
“The incorporation of fruit pieces or fruit pulp certainly influences mouthfeel and the drinking experience, I am sure that this can be taken further with some creative thinking and development. I think it is about variety and new experiences,” he states, “From my perspective it’s not about texture as a single attribute but more about the combination of attributes to deliver the multi-sensory experience.”
It’s quite clear that in the beverage category consumers are looking for new experiences (with low or reduced sugar contribution) there are many examples already on the market particularly in the adult premium sub-category. “To take this further there is focus on the moment of consumption, in effect drinks designed for consumption based on the need state at a particular time of day. Such examples include natural energy boost but now extends to calming/relaxation, fun, play/interactive and concentration,” Collins notes. “So there are lots of exciting dimensions for product developers to exploit,” he adds.
“The beverages with suspended chia seeds are well known on the market, from my perspective this is maybe fashionable but is unlikely to result in long-term sustainable brands. This in contrast compares with color which has an appeal across the board and is a very powerful sensory attribute to use in an innovative way,” he says.
Are there any exciting developments on the horizon for GNT? Collins replies: “The beverage area is very exciting for GNT since the drive for added value really creates a framework for us to engage all of our innovative power, nature’s resources and our agricultural competence and to demonstrate our creativity and flair.”
“It is very clear that the primary visual sense will have a much greater role to play and color is such a powerful attribute which to date has not had the prominence that it deserves. By using color we can attract consumers, communicate to and influence consumers drinking experience, provide nutritional benefit, inspire with new color shades that add to the pleasure and use color related to the moments of consumption,” he continues, “One of our missions is to make color the very positive product attribute that it deserves to be, by creativity whilst at the same time “coloring food with food”.”
Last week, the GNT Group opened its new laboratory facilities in Mierlo, The Netherlands. With an investment of more than €3 million (US$3.4 million), the company has considerably expanded its capacities for product development and quality control. You can read the full story here.
by Elizabeth Green
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