As more consumers take a proactive approach to their holistic health, they are increasingly motivated to purchase products that support physical, mental and emotional well-being. They’re also looking for convenient ways to add nourishing offerings into their everyday lives, as well as personalized nutrition options. 

According to ADM Outside VoiceSM research, 49% of consumers feel every individual is unique and requires a customized approach to their diet1. Beverages can help consumers meet their individual goals, including sustained energy, improved mood, enhanced cognitive function and support for immune function and gut health—all in a portable package.

Consumer Priorities

Shoppers consider many, and sometimes competing, priorities when evaluating new food or beverage options, but taste is always high on their list. In fact, 75% of consumers prioritize appealing or interesting tastes when seeking new beverages, and 52% are wary of potentially unappealing aftertastes1.

Another important factor is sugar reduction. Most consumers want beverages that are either sugar-free or naturally sweetened and low-calorie or calorie-free1. On top of that, as more people return to their pre-pandemic routines, they’re switching back to beverages that align with an on-the-go lifestyle. Ready-to-drink (RTD) functional waters and teas show the strongest potential for growth and are prime for innovation.

Emerging Formats

Bubbling up in the beverage category is sparkling water, which offers consumers a low-sugar alternative to carbonated soft drinks. Brands are beginning to add functional benefits to help their products stand out, such as probiotic sparkling water or seltzer with protein. Shoppers are drawn to health-signaling flavors associated with vitamin C and other antioxidants, such as citrus, pomegranate and berry.

Another beverage category with a health halo is RTD tea, which can provide a natural source of energy and antioxidants. Tea also fits into the clean-label trend given its short list of recognizable, plant-based ingredients. Bottled tea flavors like peach, berry and lemon are popular among consumers, but as they become more aware of exotic citrus flavors, like yuzu and bitter orange, there’s more opportunity to expand flavor offerings.

Botanical infusions are another way for product developers to spin classic flavors into something more novel. Blends like strawberry hibiscus, lemon elderflower and peach basil are delicious in brewed teas as well as mixed drinks and hard seltzers. Hard tea beverages are poised to become the next big trend as brands encourage consumers’ sense of exploration and adventure.

As the pandemic recedes and the world reopens, many people are shifting back to the convenience of RTD coffee. The latest offerings deliver functional nutrition, such as probiotics for digestive health, along with a burst of caffeine. Brands can attract shoppers’ attention with creative combinations such as RTD coffee kombucha and coffee lemonade.

Next-Level Citrus

Heightened focus on health and immunity has caused citrus flavors to gain traction over the past year. Citrus is also perceived as refreshing, awakening, energizing and invigorating – adding complexity and intrigue to many offerings. Consumers thirsting for new experiences are drawn to global flavors that entice them to travel through their taste buds. 

Several unique flavors are ready to take off in the market:

•    Yuzu kosho – Japanese condiment made by fermenting yuzu peel, chili peppers and salt to create a spicy, citrusy and umami profile. Yuzu is a tart citrus fruit found throughout Asia.

•    Black lime – a mainstay of Persian and other Middle Eastern cuisines, also known as loomi or dried lime. Limes are boiled in saltwater brine and then dried in the sun to create a brittle texture. They vary in color from pale tan to dark brown and black.

•    Preserved lemon – inspired by Italian and Moroccan flavors, lemons are preserved in salt and left to cure. This technique develops a more intense flavor, adding brightness and depth to a variety of applications.

•    Flamed orange – whole oranges are tossed in a bonfire, similar to a Patagonian cook style of open-flame barbeque. The oranges cook until completely charred, which caramelizes the fruit’s juices and sugars, creating a distinct smoky sweetness.

In each of these examples, the broad appeal of citrus plays on growing interest in sour and fermented flavors. By coupling these intriguing flavor profiles with emerging beverage categories, brands can take consumers’ exploratory desires to a new level.

1ADM Outside Voice℠

Micah Greenhill is a Beverage Marketing Director at ADM.