Thought to have first been consumed in the 1630’s its medicinal properties to treat maleria, tonic water is now consumed mainly as a mixer, and for its distinctively bitter taste. The bitterness is due to quinine that comes from the bark of a Cinchona tree, commonly known as the Fever tree. The tree grows in South America, Central America, Caribbean islands and parts of the West Africa Coast.
Tonic water can be consumed on its own but is most often used as a mixer with gin or vodka. Both have witnessed rapid growth over recent years, leading to a huge increase in the variety and popularity of tonic waters now available. Tonic syrup is also emerging as a convenient concentrate, popular in cocktails to give depth to various alcohol bases. It is also being used innovatively in mocktails, as consumers also look for healthier alternatives.
The tonic water market is expected to increase at a CAGR of 6.5% between 2018-2023 according to Mordor Intelligence, with 43% of growth coming from the Americas region (TechNavio). However, the Asia Pacific region is predicted to have the fastest growth with highest CAGR, owing to greater disposable incomes, rapid industrialisation as well as urbanisation.
With a growing number of flavoured tonic waters and lighter options, tonic is attracting more consumers as individuals focus on healthier options, reducing their consumption of traditional high-sugar CSDs. More obscure varieties of citrus such as yuzu and clementine are making their way into tonics. Data by Global Data shows lemon to be one of the highest volumes after unflavoured tonic water in 2018. The freshness of citrus works well, owing to its light and refreshing flavour which can be ideal in reduced sugar applications, where natural sweetness from the fruit softens no or low sugar formulations. Or, where more bitter characteristics are desired, ingredients such as pink grapefruit can add sophistication, pairing well with rosemary to give a refreshing taste.
The premiumisation of the tonic category has encouraged a wide range of botanicals to be infused into artisanal blends. Spices such as ginger and florals such as lavender, hibiscus, elderflower and jasmine offer exciting twists to ordinary blends.
Other sophisticated flavours include rhubarb which pairs well with cardamom, as well as ingredients such as pomegranate and cucumber which appeal to the curious consumer. Exotic fruits such as passionfruit and mango also remain popular as consumers seek refreshing and light flavours as well as products that show seasonality, such as winter plum and summer berry.
Matcha has made its way into a variety of beverages and is now seen in tonics for an added premium feel. Perhaps tea’s perceived health connotations will make its way into more tonics. Raspberry and Earl grey tonic anyone?
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