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What's coming up in soft drinks in 2020? - Predictions for the Year Ahead - comment

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As 2020 kicks off, soft drinks commentator Lucy Britner offers her views on the key trends that are set to shape the category during the next 12 months.

How will 2020 treat the soft drinks category?

How will 2020 treat the soft drinks category?

  • Cannabis beyond CBD

As the legalisation of cannabis continues across the world and CBD becomes more widely accepted and understood, two things are likely to happen next: First, we can expect a backlash against spurious CBD claims. Consumers will start to demand to know more about the CBD in their drinks - from the quality and quantity of CBD to arguably the most important factor - the source of the CBD in a soft drink. Those brands that fall short are likely to also fall off the shelves. 

Second, as CBD becomes the norm - and the term starts to be over-used - producers will look to other cannabinoids. Of course, THC (the psychoactive component of cannabis) is already starting to appear in soft drinks but there are still dozens of others yet to be explored by soft drinks producers.

  • Mindful mocktails 

'Dry January' is no longer a gimmick, undertaken by only the most righteous of consumers. Today, it's a mainstream event. At the same time, mindful drinking is no longer confined to January and movements, such as 'Club Soda' with its 'Mindful Drinking' festivals, have grown. While this is great news for soft drinks, the movement has also brought with it stiff competition and increasingly high expectations. Take New York's Listen Bar - the regular alcohol-free pop-up bar this season hosted a personalised New Year's Eve "experience" at a secret location in the city. A far cry from a post-mix gun soda at the local pub.

The soft drinks and mixers brands that want to win in the on-premise this year will need to create some seriously sophisticated serves, most likely in partnership with a reputable alcohol-free spirits company.

  • Plant-based realness

The rise of veganism continues. According to GlobalData, the number of US consumers in 2017 who identified as vegan was 6% - up from just 1% in 2014. As more plant-based foods continue to appear, new ingredients will emerge, bringing with them more opportunities for soft drinks makers. In November, Monster Beverage Corp announced plans to launch a vegan-friendly coffee energy drink made with oat milk in the US, while UK start-up Humble Warrior launched a range of sparkling drinks made from plant ingredients. Functionality will continue to be key, indeed Humble Warriors counts both tulsi and turmeric among its ingredients.

  • Plastic's last battle?

The war on plastic could see another battle this year, as soft drinks producers continue to highlight recycling issues and initiatives over doing away with plastic altogether. In October last year, leading US soft drinks makers The Coca-Cola Co, PepsiCo and Keurig Dr Pepper teamed up in a new campaign to boost recycling rates. The three companies are supporting efforts towards a circular plastics economy with their 'Every Bottle Back' initiative. The project, a collaboration with the World Wildlife Fund, invests in programmes including a public awareness campaign on the importance of recycling.

The soft drinks companies also said they will invest US$100m in an initiative to improve recycling infrastructure, with a goal of raising a total of US$400m through grants and other investors.

  • Gut instinct

We already know about probiotic drinks, but 2020 is set to see the rise of prebiotics. According to the BBC, prebiotics make the pre-existing good bacteria in the gut healthier. 

Early entrants into the sub-category include California-based Rebbl and its sparkling prebiotic tonics, a line of plant-based beverages with six grams of prebiotic fibre. Elsewhere, Güt Drinks has launched in the UK. The company's range, which comprises Sparkling Sicilian Lemon, Mint & Rooibos and Raspberry, Blueberry & Rooibos is said to help improve nutrient absorption as well as lower inflammation and improve digestion. 

  • DNA drinking

Functionality and personalisation will make way for DNA-informed soft drinks in 2020. As testing kits become more commonplace and consumers continue to pay attention to what goes into their bodies, we will start to see drinks that take DNA into account.

We're not talking about bespoke drinks for every person on the planet, of course. Rather, ranges of drinks that centre around certain DNA types. Prone to Omega 3 deficiency? There's a drink for that. How about a need to consume more cruciferous vegetables? No problem. While functional drinks are already big business, coupled with DNA testing, they could be perceived as even more functional and authentic. 

  • Cross-merchandising for delivery

Convenience is king, but soft drinks aren't necessarily top of the list when it comes to takeaways. Coconut water company Vita Coco could be on to something, though, with its 'National Hangover Day' initiative. Last week, the company teamed up with on-demand delivery service Postmates to deliver free, limited-edition hangover recovery kits to consumers in New York City. The kits contained Vita Coco coconut water, an egg & cheese sandwich from Lenwich, Ibuprofen, a face mask from Korean skincare brand Banila and Vita Coco-branded merchandise.

Companies such as PepsiCo are well-placed to - literally - deliver the goods, with both drinks and snacks in its portfolios. Perhaps, we will see a wider-reaching delivery service from PepsiCo, based on its automated robot vending machine, Snackbot.

Why Gen Z's interest in health & wellness should boost soft drinks innovation around Asian ingredients - Click here for a just-drinks comment


Expert Analysis

Key Trends in Non-Alcoholic Beverages: Powerful changes shaping the soft drinks, hot drinks, enhanced water and packaging segment

Key Trends in Non-Alcoholic Beverages: Powerful changes shaping the soft drinks, hot drinks, enhanced water and packaging segment

Key Trends in Non-Alcoholic Beverages: Powerful changes shaping the soft drinks, hot drinks, enhanced water and packaging segment...

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