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How functional soft drinks can succeed by blurring consumers' lines - analysis

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New Zealand-based Parker Beverages has partnered with health and wellbeing company Adashiko, which specialises in providing collagen-based cosmetics products, to launch a functional bottled water infused with collagen. What's interesting about Adashiko Collagen Refresh is its emphasis on collagen providing a "crisp flavour" that will make a good cocktail mixer. 

Collagen is a structural protein found in the body's connective tissue that can help improve skin, joints and heart health, as well as an array of other benefits.

According to GlobalData's market pulse survey, published in  September, 68% of consumers in New Zealand find 'high protein' claims in food and drinks to be very or somewhat appealing. There is clearly potential, then, for Adashiko Collagen Refresh to find a loyal consumer base.

However, health credentials are not its only selling point. The Parker/Adashiko joint venture is blurring the lines between health & wellness and indulgence to create a fusion of the two; the bottled water can be used as a mixer for cocktails or as an alternative to alcohol with added health benefits.

The product holds a relatively unique position in the market, which justifies its higher price point. 

Earlier this year, "natural energy drink" Crave rolled out in the UK in three popular cocktail flavours. The drink is sugar- and gluten-free, vegan, contains only ten calories and is derived solely from natural sources. While these claims are significant, it's the flavours - Mint & Lime (Mojito), Passionfruit & Vanilla (Pornstar Martini) and Pineapple & Coconut (Piña Colada) - that makes Crave stand out.

Meanwhile, in the US, added functionality is being paired with herbal tea in the form of the Ouli brand, which launched last month.

All three brands are traditional beverage formats - bottled water, energy drinks and herbal tea - revamped as specialised, sophisticated drinks. They also reflect a consumer shift towards healthy indulgence trends within western markets. The emphasis on flavour is also noteworthy; all three emphasise a distinct and natural flavour that differs from conventional functional beverages, as they attempt to expand consumption occasions to include leisure and social.

Challenges remain for Adashiko Collagen Refresh in convincing consumers to adopt the water into their everyday lifestyles. According to the aforementioned GlobalData survey, while there is a sizeable portion of New Zealanders that are interested in both functional bottled waters and 'adultified' soft drinks, the transition of this interest to active purchases remains low at 17% and 12%, respectively. Despite this, recognition and comprehension of these relatively new beverage terms is high with, on average, only 3% of the population reporting that they don't know what these new product terms mean.

Going forward, clear, targeted marketing will be key in changing Adashiko Collagen Refresh from a once-in-a-while luxury to a household staple. And, by emphasising its neutral flavour for use in cocktails, the brand is tapping into the emerging at-home cocktail market that has exploded during lockdowns.

Millennials are a key consumer target group for new product launches such as this. In New Zealand, one in five Millennial consumers are actively buying adult-styled soft drinks, while 45% are interested - albeit not yet adding it to their shopping basket. This shows promise. Not only are they the highest respondents in terms of interest and actively buying, but they're also generally more experimental and have reasonable disposable income to try new products.

Adashiko Collagen Refresh brings 'good for you' positioning to leisure consumption occasions, driven by consumers' demand for their 'little luxuries' to also provide a health kick. Brands should look to blur these lines further to maintain long-term success and staying power in the functional beverages market, capitalising on evolving consumption trends that have been accelerated by COVID-19.


Sectors: Soft drinks, Water

Expert Analysis

Carbonated Soft Drinks North America (NAFTA) Industry Guide 2014-2023

Carbonated Soft Drinks North America (NAFTA) Industry Guide 2014-2023

The NAFTA Carbonated Soft Drinks industry profile provides top-line qualitative and quantitative summary information including: market share, Market size (value and volume 2014-18, and forecast to 202...

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