Health, Environmental and Vegan Requirements Drive Beverage Innovation

Ingredients company Synergy has identified better-for-you drinks as a key growth area, but warned EU regulations have made it difficult for manufacturers to label and market products as functional without scientific evidence significant to support these assertions.

As Vicky Berry, European Business Development Manager, explained: “For manufacturers looking to succeed in functional beverages, the ingredients used in these products, such as vitamins and minerals, must have scientifically proven benefits.

Better for you has become a key trend in beverage innovation

“Furthermore, pairing these functional ingredients with familiar yet exciting flavor profiles is also fundamental, especially flavors with a natural health halo like ginger, turmeric, and honey, as these flavors are associated with ingredients that are perceived as inherently healthy and better for you.This will ensure that innovative products can be both accessible and attractive to consumers.

Synergy has identified three areas that manufacturers should target when creating functional areas: the body; mind and soul; and reflection.

For body, he highlighted flavors such as ginger and turmeric to support gut health, while consumers looking for protein shakes favored pineapple, coconut and mango in their drinks. . There was also greater demand for drinks that use vitamins to boost cognition in the mind and soul category, as well as a focus on “healthy energy” drinks that reduce fatigue without leading to a caffeine-fueled crash. or sugar later in the day. .

beauty and diet

The thinking has focused more on people’s appearance and the pursuit of a diet which can impact the appearance of the skin. Vitamins A, C, zinc, and omega 3s are popular here, along with ingredients often applied topically to the skin, such as aloe, hyaluronic acid, and rose water.

“Melon is a popular ingredient in this space, as demonstrated by the Mello beverage brand, which clearly references the benefits melon can provide,”Berry added.

“Honeydew melon is rich in vitamin C and antioxidants, while cantaloupe juice is called the ‘fruit of beauty’ because of its perceived ability to improve skin hydration, clear acne and reduce the signs of aging. Manufacturers looking to appeal to beauty-conscious consumers might therefore consider using melon flavors to benefit from the perceived skin benefits of these fruits.

For manufacturers to “get ahead” in functional beverages, they need to understand that consumers are increasingly drawn to these natural cues.

“For manufacturers, this means understanding how beverages can fit into the transition to health and immunity is critical,”Barry said.

“By understanding the benefits consumers seek in their beverages and how these can be delivered through the use of different flavors, ingredients and fortifications, manufacturers can continue to meet changing beverage demand by creating products that have a positive impact in terms of both taste and health benefits.

Concerned about their health

The growing demand for more health-friendly drinks is also linked to the growth of the vegan food and drink market. With many consumers interpreting the word vegan with the word healthy, a product that can achieve both has a better chance of long-term success.

Vieve Protein Water
Vieve Protein Water

The water brand Vieve has established itself as the world’s “leading” producer of vegan protein waters. Made with plant-based proteins, its new product aimed to capture an ever-growing market share of vegan and flexitarian consumers looking for “an easy and convenient plant-based protein boost without the added sugars, fats and excess calories”.

Speaking at the launch, founder Rafael Rozenson said: “The protein products market in the UK has grown significantly over the past decade from around £50million to an industry worth over £1billion today and we believe there is has a lot of growth benefits as we introduce a whole new segment of consumers to the market who are put off by traditional powders, drinks and shakes.

Of course, health benefits aren’t the only thing consumers are looking for in their beverages. According to Britvic’s latest soft drinks report, value and premiumisation – the two ends of the spectrum – are key areas that manufacturers need to tap into to capture people’s attention.

As many consumers begin to feel the effects of the rising cost of living and inflation, they are looking to get their spending under control and their money to grow. The easing of lockdowns in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic has also led to the rise of take-out formats as consumers return to pre-pandemic shopping habits.

energy market

At the same time, energy has become the fastest and largest growing commodity category, with sales up 21% and an increase in value of £116m, demand from consumers for pick-me-ups that have increased during the pandemic.

Chris Newman, Head of Category Management for Convenience and Impulse at Britvic, said:Stimulant energy was one of the real winners in 2021. This category also represents a strong trading opportunity for the convenience channel, with an average price per liter around twice as high as the average soft drink . »

Consumer taste can be a driving factor behind beverage innovations, but the needs of the planet have become increasingly important to how beverage manufacturers operate. During the development of new products, an easy way for a manufacturer to meet these needs is to innovate in packaging design.

As Jim Watson, Principal Analyst at Rabobank Drinks, explained, packaging is a major contributor to beverage companies’ greenhouse gas emissions and an easy area to cut costs, especially in a time when the inflation squeezes margins.

Beverage companies will look to innovate using alternative packaging materials over the next few years, driven by customer preference, green legislation and rising costs of traditional materials.

“We see manufacturers lightening packaging, particularly in plastic but also in glass used for wine and spirits,added Watson.Still, brands will need to balance environmental ambitions with the need to maintain a high-end aesthetic and feel.

Bag-in-box

“They can also opt for larger bottles, which means consumers get more product for packaging. While beer brands have taken this route, the soft drink industry has tended to go in the opposite direction. »

Watson also highlighted bag-in-box packaging formats as a simple way to save on emissions and packaging costs compared to a traditional 750ml glass bottle – an eight times smaller carbon footprint than glass and a 90% reduction in packaging costs, according to ‘prominent’ manufacturers.

Launch of a recyclable paper wine bottle
Frugalpac develops paper wine bottles in the UK

“It will be the role of beverage brands to help reshape customer attitudes, as they have done with aluminum cans, which were once seen as an inferior packaging option but are now associated with craft beer. fashionable high-end with exciting designs”,he continued.

“The responsibility for breaking this stigma falls particularly on high-end brands, which can create a halo effect by using bag-in-box for their products.”

Another packaging innovation with the potential to reduce emissions and packaging costs was paper bottles, a format that has already been tested by Carlsberg and Johnnie Walker.

There has also been limited deployment in the wine sector. In April this year, a wine specialist in Rome announced had launched a range of products in paper bottles,​ a format already chosen by the e-merchant Ocado.

Carbon footprint

With the potential to be 75% lighter than glass and an 84% lower carbon footprint, this format could prove more popular with consumers – due to its eco-friendly image and “novelty factor” – concluded Watson.

In addition to modifying packaging to meet their sustainability goals, manufacturers have explored simple solutions to reduce their carbon footprint. At the top of the list of simple changes made to the company was reducing the food miles of their products.

In May, glass bottle maker and filler Encirc signed a deal with Britvic to fill the drinks company’s 500ml bottles of Robinsons glass cordial, which it already manufactures at its site in Elton, UK. Cheshire.

The decision to manufacture and fill Britvic’s cordial bottles at the Cheshire site will prevent around a thousand lorry journeys from Britain to Northern Ireland over the three years, leading to carbon savings up to 22,000 tons.

Parent company Vidrala has also invested £75 million in a national distribution center for the UK and European drinks industry to further enhance Encirc’s bottling and distribution capabilities. The hub is expected to significantly reduce nationwide truck movements and deliver noticeable carbon savings across UK supply chains.

Manufacturers are already well on their way to meeting the demands of health-conscious consumers, but there’s no doubt that there are still more avenues to explore when it comes to functional ingredients. While the UK maintains EU-like regulations, UK manufacturers will have to march to the beat of their drums, but who knows if that might change in the future?