DUIVEN, THE NETHERLANDS — Functional benefits, natural sweeteners and surprising ingredients are among top trends in the soft drinks category, according to Innova Market Insights, a Duiven-based research firm.
On the rise are such claims as “no aspartame,” “sweetened with natural fruit,” “100% natural cane sugar” and “stevia,” suggesting a shift away from artificial sweeteners that has been underscored by a dramatic decline in diet soft drinks over the past year.
Meanwhile, consumers still seek to avoid added sugar. A fourth of North American beverage launches last year featured a sugar reduction claim.
In addition to beverages with less added sugar, consumers are interested in drinks with added nutrition, such as fiber, omega-3s and antioxidants.
Innova identified 10 trends bubbling up in the soft drink category.
As consumers increasingly avoid artificial ingredients, beverages sweetened with fruit, honey, cane sugar or stevia are gaining traction.
Seeds and grains
Adding texture, nutrition and visual appeal to new beverages are such ancient all-stars as quinoa, chia and flax. Mamma Chia Vitality Beverages contain chia seeds suspended in agave-sweetened fruit juice.
With hybrids heating up across the food industry, best-of-both-worlds beverages include Coco Café Mocha Coconut Water Café Latte Drink, which combines coconut water with coffee, and Muscle Monster, a new product line positioned as part energy drink, part protein shake.
Cold-pressed and raw
Offering higher nutritional benefits and improved flavor are beverages with minimally processed or high-pressure pasteurized ingredients, including fruit, coffee and cocoa.
Challenging traditional breakfast beverage ideas are new drink concepts for the day part. PepsiCo Inc. last year launched under its Mountain Dew brand a caffeinated sparkling juice drink called Kickstart, developed as an alternative to the usual a.m. beverages. And to chase lost cereal sales, such companies as General Mills and the Kellogg Co. have entered the space with ready-to-drink breakfast shakes.
Herbs and spices
Formulators are turning to the spice rack for sophisticated flavor and health benefits. Healthee Organic Turmeric Drink with Cinnamon, a vegan-friendly and gluten-free beverage, claims to maintain a healthy inflammatory response, improve blood circulation and stabilize blood sugar levels.
Margarita, piña colada and other cocktail flavors are gaining popularity in non-alcoholic beverages. Water enhancers from Kraft Foods’ Crystal Light brand include peach bellini and pomegranate martini.
The coconut water category continues to expand with more flavors and formats. Beverage makers are using green coconut water and raw coconut water as a way to differentiate products.
Focus on fiber
With digestive health at top of mind for many consumers, fruit juices with added fiber are making a splash on shelves. Tree Top Fiber Rich Apple Apricot juice blend contains 6 grams of fiber, or the equivalent of two apples, per serving.
Drink your veggiesPaired with fruit, vegetables are cropping up in more beverage applications, including gazpacho-style drinks. Bolthouse Farms, a business unit of the Campbell Soup Co., offers such juice blends as berries and carrot.