So far this year we’ve written about recent trends in a number of industries in which we’re involved, including cosmetics, industrial manufacturing, craft beer, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, and coffee. With a good half of the year still before us and everyone looking for refreshment in the midst of summer sunshine, we decided it was time to tackle the beverage industry. The trends we’re seeing are falling into two consumer interests, health and an eye for artisan products. Here are 7 emerging beverage trends for 2016.
Health and Nutrition
“Clean” eating is an ever-growing trend, with increasing demand for products with natural, healthy ingredients (or at least those perceived as such). It seems like every day there’s a new healthful and tasty trending ingredient. Here are a few that have held consumer attention pretty solidly and are projected to continue doing so.
- Açia fruit is one of the hottest superfoods right now, appearing in everything from yogurt to energy drinks to cocktails. It’s known for a variety of health benefits, including good digestion, weight loss, and a stronger immune system.
- The fruit can be found in the Starbucks Refreshers line, some of the V8 V-Fusion juices, and some flavors of Fuze. It’s also used in a growing number of alcoholic drinks: it seems to be most frequently paired with vodka.
- This ancient grain, which is also heralded as a superfood, keeps popping up in not only the food but also the beverage industry. It has gained popularity as an ingredient that packs a heavy nutritional punch (abundant in protein, fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids) without too many calories.
- Mamma Chia and GT’s Enlightened Synergy are two drinks that keep appearing on the shelves.
- Coconut water is making waves in the market, both by itself and as an ingredient. It has a mild flavor, few calories, and little fat. The direct health benefits are debated, but it has plenty of electrolytes (and not as much sugar as most sports drinks).
- It can be embibed on its own, but it also makes a great liquid to add to a smoothie. It’s also a popular flavor in cocktails and other alcoholic drinks. Piña colada, anyone?
- Matcha is hard to miss in all its green vibrancy, and it’s certainly caught consumer attention. It’s simply powdered green tea leaves, but the action of drinking the actual leaves (and not just the water in which they’ve been steeped) is what makes it rich in flavor and nutrients. It’s caffeinated and carries a great deal of antioxidants, which has made it an attractive alternative to coffee.
- Matcha can be drunk as a shot (which was popular at New York Fashion Week this year, apparently), blended into smoothies and juices, added to an Arnold Palmer, and (yes) as an ingredient in cocktails.
- Probiotics, usually consumed via dairy products like yogurt, have also captured attention. These live bacteria are important for promoting good digestion, which can affect other factors such as hormone balance and skin health.
- Beverage brands have a number of ingredients to choose from when picking a source of probiotics, with varying flavor and health considerations. A popular choice of late is Kombucha, a sweetened fermented tea containing many of these good bacteria. It’s naturally carbonated and contains essential B vitamins.
- This natural sweetener (derived from the leaves of the plant, along with others like xylitol, is replacing sugar in more and more drinks. Stevia in particular is significantly sweeter than sugar, so it can also be a more economical choice for producers. It appeals to consumers as a zero calorie sugar alternative.
- Many sodas and vitamin waters have begun to use stevia, including Zevia and some flavors of SoBe.
- The market for dairy-free beverages is also experiencing increasing demand, and many producers and sellers are responding. Coffeeshops have been picking up more dairy alternative options (in addition to soy milk). Heine Brothers, a Louisville local, started carrying almond milk in 2014. Starbucks added coconut milk to their menu in 2015. Caribou Coffee began offering almond milk the same year. Even gourmet coffee brands like Califia Farms are coming out with dairy-free options.
- In conjunction with a desire for cleaner ingredients is a growing taste for cleaner packaging. Simpler designs with clear labeling of key ingredients and health benefits has been garnering a positive response from consumers.
Specialty, Gourmet, Artisan, and Craft Beverages
Choosing craft brands of beer and other alcoholic beverages has been growing in popularity in recent years, but it’s also been gaining significant traction in the larger beverage industry as a whole.
Craft sodas are gaining interest both as (often) healthier choices and as sources of more creative and unique flavors. Restaurants are starting to serve house-made sodas, businesses are coming out with increasingly fancy make-your-own soda machines, and a trip down the beverage aisle at the supermarket will reveal a slew of new brands, including Cannonborough and Joia. A few paces down the aisle brings you to row after row of artisan and signature cold brew and ready-to-drink coffee beverages. Brands like Califia Farms, High Brew Coffee, and even Folgers are churning new products to feed the demand. The appeal of breaking from mainstream brands and drinking affordable “gourmet” indulgences is pulling customers from all corners of the supermarket.
The beverage market is only likely to see increasing attention in coming years, with consumers becoming more aware and concerned about ingredients and production of the drinks they enjoy and look to for nourishment. Keeping an eye on current and emerging trends will be a natural response to the rapidly changing landscape of the market, as well as a key means of staying on top of the latest knowledge about the health and overall experience of our favorite drinks.