Between 2011 and 2016, developed markets are predicted to have very little soft drinks absolute volume growth due mainly to market saturation. Since volume increases are limited, there is a search for value-added new products to enhance category profitability.

In developed markets, health is one common theme for many new products in soft drinks. There are health-themed innovations in traditionally healthy categories as well as innovations to improve the health characteristics in more indulgent categories. Other areas of innovation include creating products that combine the characteristics of two categories and using packaging to create a product with unique benefits. 

The superfruit itself is the main benefit

One way of communicating a health benefit is to emphasise product ingredients and let the ingredients speak for themselves. A straightforward way of doing this is capitalising on the superfruit trend. 

Cherrygood was launched in the UK September 2009 as the country’s first ready-to-drink cherry juice. It is made from water and cherry juice from concentrate 30% (tart cherry 25%; Montmorency cherry 5%). The main benefit claimed by Cherrygood is that it has the benefits associated with the superfruit along with the true taste of cherries.

The product has succeeded because these claims resonated with consumers in the UK. Available in Original Cherry, Original Cherry Light, and Cherry and Berry, Cherrygood is marketed around the fact that it contains Montmorency cherries, which are especially high in antioxidants.

Success based strictly on the fruit with no additional claims, as with Cherrygood, is likely to depend on consumer expectations in the local drinking culture. In the UK, cherries already have all of the benefits associated with them that Cherrygood is claiming and cherry is a popular flavour.

Other countries could focus on different fruits. For example, in the Netherlands, the focus could be on cranberries or pomegranates because consumers there associate cranberries and pomegranates with health benefits. The fact that these drinks are less than 100% juice allows for the addition of sweeteners, which helps the superfruit overcome a tart taste.

Strong brands in growing categories can be leveraged for niches

In Western Europe, where there are restrictive regulations on health claims, it is possible to use the product name to imply a specific health claim. 

According to Euromonitor International data, Marli from Eckes AG was the number one brand of fruit/vegetable juice in Finland in 2011, with 16% share of off-trade volume. The brand name clearly hints at a specific health claim (that cannot be specifically stated).

The number two brand, Valio, had 10% share. Additionally, Marli has steadily gained share for the past five years, gaining five percentage points over this time period. Because of Marli’s strong position in the Finnish market, the brand is a good candidate for value added line extensions.

Marli Protect was launched in Finland in October 2011. It is a standard to premium priced nectar (with 25% to 99% juice content). Marli Protect is fortified with probiotic bacteria. It differs from most competing brands as it also contains added vitamins and fibre for increased wellbeing.

The main advantages of Marli Protect are that it is a sub-brand of the strong and well-known Marli brand, with a health claim clearly implied by the 'Protect' name. This same strategy could be used in Western Europe to address other health benefits. Ingredients specifically beneficial for heart health or bone health in adults could be added to juice combinations to supplement the naturally occurring vitamins and minerals. Perhaps omega-3 fatty acids (for heart health) could be added to a fruit juice combination.

Healthier credentials can create niches in less healthy categories

It is also possible to introduce healthier credentials in less healthy categories. Energy drinks have traditionally been viewed as unhealthy products. An energy drink product that uses healthier ingredients to deliver energy may be able to create more category growth. So, in addition to taking share from existing brands, this may be a way to keep category growth in the future closer to the historical trend.

Energize Your Life Drink from MatchaMagic International AG was introduced in Germany in March 2011. It is an energy drink based on matcha tea, and also contains whey. The product is positioned as natural and a healthier energy drink, with high quality ingredients. It claims to have the scent and taste of mango and citrus fruits and not the “candy taste” of typical energy drinks. Matcha green tea powder is used as an ingredient.

Since matcha is easier to digest and the body feels its energy effects longer than other natural products, such as coffee, Energize Your Life Drink is claimed to be a superior energy drink. The appeal of this product is that it provides the benefits of an energy drink but with healthier ingredients. This product could appeal to a new audience in markets where consumption of energy drinks or RTD tea is high.

Conclusion

Health is a powerful motivator for adding value to soft drinks in developed markets. Since in these markets there is not a lot of opportunity for new soft drinks volume, the search will be for more profitable niches that will take volume from existing products. In the search for these niches, products with innovative health appeal take on added importance in an effort to drive profitability.

Euromonitor International’s Soft Drink New Product Innovations in 2011 report discusses new product innovations in the beverage industry in more detail. In addition to more new product trends in developed markets, the report identifies recent developments in developing markets.