Beverage innovation: “Lighter enjoyment,” botanicals and cold brew NPD


20 Mar 2018 --- Current innovation across the beverage category is centered around health and wellbeing, as sugar reformulation and the broader idea of “lighter enjoyment” continues to dominate new product development. Globally, producers are tapping into the growing consumer demand for enjoyable soft and alcoholic drinks that have been given a clean and clear label makeover as innovators continue to dump sugar and reformulate with more natural alternatives.

Whether its botanical infusions, packing in plant-based proteins, shaking up sparkling water, factoring in fiber or spicing up soft drinks with the likes of on-trend flavors like ginger and coconut, the non-alcoholic category is overflowing with product developments. These include innovations from the big players like PepsiCo and Coca-Cola to more independent, artisan producers and retail own-brands.

NPDs in soft drinks and some alcoholic beverages have a common denominator - and that’s appealing to health-conscious consumers looking for lighter enjoyment.

Global alcohol consumption is declining and there is an increasing consumer trend towards cutting down on alcohol or cutting it out altogether. This is leading to more and more non-alcoholic or low ABV products hitting the market.Click to Enlarge

Identified as Innova Market Insights’ #2 trend for 2018, “Lighter Enjoyment” centers on consumers continuing to look for ways to eat and drink more healthily, lightness in terms of alcohol content, sweetness, flavor, texture or even portion size is increasing its appeal, although definitely not at the expense of a familiar, high quality and indulgent taste profile.

“Lighter” soft drinks
The trend for natural products is growing worldwide and extends across all food and beverage categories, and according to Döhler, no beverage category embodies naturalness more than fruit juices.

“Long viewed predominantly as the classic breakfast beverage, they have since shifted their image to that of a modern lifestyle drink that helps consumers maintain a balanced diet on the go. Once again this year, we are looking forward to exciting concepts that provide consumers with added healthy natural ingredients,” Christoph Witte, Döhler’s Head of Product Management B2C tells FoodIngredientsFirst.

One of these hot trends is cold-pressed, non-heated NFC juices, which are produced using gentle, non-thermal pasteurization methods. This preserves the best nature has to offer – from the fresh taste of the fruit and vegetables to their valuable ingredients, explains Witte.

“NFC juices with fresh vegetable ingredients or plant extracts are also taking over the supermarket shelves. They are simply delicious and full of valuable vitamins. Thanks to our fruit and vegetable processing at the place of origin and state-of-the-art blending facilities worldwide we can offer outstanding NFC product solutions.”

Another strong trend within the beverage segment is soft drinks for adults. Many adults find classic soft drinks too sweet and would prefer tarter, lighter and more varied options – including as an alternative to alcoholic beverages.

“The focus here is on taste experiences based on high-quality natural ingredients, such as fermented fruit juices, botanical extracts, premium NFC juices, exotic spices and freshly brewed teas. As well as a comprehensive ingredient portfolio, Döhler offers its customers exciting product concepts developed specifically for the taste buds of adult consumers – so they can enjoy a party even without alcohol,” continues Witte.

CClick to Enlargeold-brewed coffee
Coffee remains among the most popular beverages for adults and Cold Brew Coffee – whether enjoyed pure or mixed with milk, is one of the growing trends in this segment. It’s much less bitter and acidic than the hot version and is characterized by fruity, caramel and chocolate flavors and is prepared in a gentle process with no heat at all.

“Doehler has developed a unique process to capture the special flavors of cold brew coffee, which protects the entire flavor profile and makes it possible to create particularly authentic beverage and food concepts,” adds Witte.

The rise in Cold Brew Coffee’s popularity is also evidenced by Nestlé USA’s recent acquisition of organic cold brew coffee company, Chameleon Cold-Brew, an Austin-based provider of premium-crafted coffee sourced consciously and grown sustainably. Founded in 2010, it has become the number one organic cold brew brand in the US and one of the top three refrigerated cold brew brands in the country.

Low ABV drinks
A shift in preference spurred by “mindful” thinking and conscious purchasing decisions towards alcohol has led to a rise in the amount of low ABV beers on the market, while consumers are also showing preferences toward more casual drinking occasions and long drinks.

Just last week, British multinational alcoholic beverages company Diageo acquired Belsazar GmbH, a premium aperitif from Germany’s Black Forest. Launched on the Berlin food scene in 2013 by entrepreneurs Maximillian Wagner and Sebastian Brack, Belsazar is the first company to be acquired by Diageo through Distill Ventures and expands Diageo’s aperitif sector which it plans to expand across Europe.

And in January, Irish powerhouse Guinness started to tap into teetotal trends with its very first non-alcoholic lager launch. The Diageo-owned brewers at St. James’s Gate in Dublin introduced “Open Gate Pure Brew” a new, full flavored, non-alcoholic lager that has scored very well in independent taste tests and does not compromise on full-flavor.

The gin renaissance continues
According to recent data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the gin resurgence is reflected in the fact that the popular tipple has returned to the inflation basket (items making up the suite of consumer price inflation) for the first time in 13 years.Click to Enlarge

The ONS says the one-time favorite of the middle-aged suburban couple had become a staple of the younger drinker, while there has been a growth in the number of small gin producers and gin festivals have also helped to boost its popularity.

The value of gin sold by manufacturers in the UK almost doubled from £126m (US$177m) in 2009 to £239m (US$335m) in 2015.

And for Doehler, gin is more popular than ever before. “Based on the success of a new generation of gin drinks, we have developed Distilled & Flavored Gins as well as ready-to-drink Longdrinks & Cocktails. We offer a premium range of gin distillates which open the opportunity to create different gin types with just one neutral spirit base,” continues Witte.


“Besides the classic London Dry Gin with juniper being the predominant taste profile, the range also includes gin varieties with modern top notes (such as tea or hop).

The perennial “Gin Tonic” has also been revived by Döhler: with natural bitter drink variants without quinine or with the new trend ingredient cold brew coffee; the new ready-to-drink Gin Tonics meet the contemporary tastes.”

By Gaynor Selby

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