The health and wellness trend may not be new but increased Government regulation around sugar and alcohol, coupled with greater consumer education and awareness, has led this movement to pick up pace. And the dawn of Covid has shone an even brighter light on this existing trend.
Nowadays, it is hard to avoid messages about eating and drinking more healthily. Indeed, December 2020 saw the EU and US host Industry Summits dedicated to discussing the low/no beverages sector. Dry January, Veganuary, World Health Day and even Mental Health Awareness Week are among the many annual reminders that the health of our bodies and minds are of primary concern. And all of this media “noise” has gradually increased over time to grab more and more global consumer attention. This, in turn, has driven manufacturers to up the ante where the functional benefits of their products are concerned. And it is no more visible than in the beverages sector, where consumers perceive a quick win for their healthier lifestyle by swapping a sugar or alcohol fuelled drink with a low/no alcohol or sugar reduced alternative. Better still, selecting a beverage that actively promotes health and wellbeing.
The beverages sector has responded to this growing movement with exploration into herbal and botanical flavourings that carry a health halo where the consumer is concerned. With alcohol increasingly shunned, there is an opportunity for new drinks that carry a more sophisticated, adult identity than conventional alcohol-free drinks. Kombucha is certainly on the rise and many a brand has their eye on the development of CBD too. Once the regulations around this promising new extract are settled, it is likely that a whole new mainstream range of health and wellness drinks will arise.
The challenge remains communicating and marketing the vast range of ingredients and their properties to a relatively naïve consumer landscape. Savvy brands can currently bathe in the health halo of certain ingredients within their products even where the active functional benefits are minimal. However, the growing consumer push towards transparency with on-package nutritional data will ensure brands have to work harder to secure the integrity of their health-inducing beverage going forward. The promise of augmented reality on packaging from 2021 is also likely to contribute to this growing pressure for clean labels.
The impact of Covid might appear more in favour of health and wellbeing than anything else but the accompanying threat of recession is likely to make its mark too. While there are some exciting new premium non-alcoholic beverages that intentionally position themselves as a healthy alternative to liquor, there is likely to become a strong opportunity for a more mainstream competitor in terms of price point. However, there are challenges to overcome as manufacturers of alcohol-free alternatives seek to provide options that offer the same flavour, mouthfeel and sensation, as well as contain the nature preservative, carrier and solubilizer benefits of a high alcohol content. Also, without pubs and restaurants to showcase their sophisticated alcohol alternatives, brands will need to consider different, creative ways of educating their consumers around the appropriate mixology and properties.
Rosie Travers, HSF and H&W Category Manager for Treatt comments:
“The health and wellness trend has had a keen influence on the food and beverages sector for a while now. However, Government policy, consumer education and, more recently, Covid have definitely accelerated the conversation around low/no alcohol or sugar options within the beverages sector. The question now is how that will play out among beverage manufacturers.
“At Treatt, we are getting increasing interest in our well-established Sugar Treattaromes and TreattSweets, that offer 100% natural aroma without the sucrose or fructose, therefore helping brands to remove sugar from their drinks without reducing the flavour impact. We also recognise that Covid has created a kind of restless captive audience with consumers potentially more receptive to new flavours and experiences within food and drink. So, we’re doing a lot of work using herbs and botanicals to create unique solutions with exciting flavour profiles, as well as investigating our current products that can be multi-functional in this area. For example, many of our sugar reduction products have been successfully used in improving the mouthfeel in low/no alcoholic beverages.
“It really is an exciting time for the beverages sector as people’s ideas and perceptions of adult drinks are changing, driving companies to be more creative with their flavour solutions and more innovative with the end customer experience. Consumers want more from their beverages, whether in terms of taste experience or transparency and understanding of the products they’re buying. Covid has forced people to stay at home, so they want the different experiences that they would usually find travelling, or perhaps just at a new bar, made accessible from home. That’s where Treatt can help.”