Social trends set agenda for soft drink growth - Just Drinks
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Social trends set agenda for soft drink growth

03 Feb 2003

Changes in consumer lifestyles and attitudes are affecting the way the soft drink market is developing. Dorothy MacKenzie considers the impact of societal trends on opportunities for soft drinks producers and considers which new sectors will emerge.

Changes in consumer lifestyles and attitudes are affecting the way the soft drink market is developing. Dorothy MacKenzie considers the impact of societal trends on opportunities for soft drinks producers and considers which new sectors will emerge.

Societal trends drive changes in consumer needs, which could lead to changes in market opportunities. The following are four of the main societal trends we believe will influence market opportunities in the soft drinks sector over the next few years.

The increasing pace of life and the demand for 24/7 convenience has already driven many changes in distribution and product format, and has created conditions where new sectors such as energy drinks, became mainstream opportunities. This trend will continue to influence consumer needs for timesaving functionality, and for increased access to products of choice in any location. Consumer problems of ‘fatigue’ and ‘stress’ will present attractive platforms for functional drink propositions, and we will see a much more sophisticated approach to energy propositions, with differentiation between short term burst energy and sustained energy, mental energy and physical energy.

  • Expect to see a real blurring of the boundaries between foods and drinks, with more and more ‘liquid nutrition’ offerings, as consumers are attracted to the speed and convenience benefits a soft drinks format offers, while looking for increased hunger satisfaction and nutritional performance.
  • Fortified smoothies, liquid ‘breakfast in a cup’, even revitalised versions of traditional food drinks like Horlicks and Ovaltines.
  • Adult milk shakes will grow from a ‘chilled latte’ basis.
  • Soups, vegetable juices and fruit juices will blur to create new high nutrition liquid snacks – available in single serve small bottle formats.
  • Vending should see a significant expansion, but with more sophisticated and attractive machines, capable of automated blending and dispensing of fresh products.

Survival fix
In a competitive world you can’t afford to stop – and there’s no time to be ill. Survival is all, and everyone becomes his or her own health expert to find out the best ways to prevent getting ill, or to make a quick recovery from any problem. Looking after oneself has to be done quickly and efficiently – with an intensive day at a spa, rather than a week at a health farm – or even with a 15-minute shot of oxygen at an oxygen bar. Health sites are some of the most popular on the Internet, with many people diagnosing their own ailments and self-prescribing their own treatment from a wide range of conventional and alternative remedies.

Survival fix opportunities in soft beverages will range from ‘morning after’ pick-me-ups, to a wide range of products taken as insurance policies against minor health problems. From being a product considered appropriate for elderly ladies or invalids, tonics will become fashionable and a regular part of the beverage repertoire for busy, health-conscious people.

  • Green tea, Kombucha, prebiotic and probiotic products will continue to be popular, and we should expect to see far more use of products containing soluble fibre.
  • Vitamins and minerals will continue to be used to fortify fruit juices and milk-based drinks, and we should expect to see a wide range of products overtly positioned as ‘tonics’.

Great expectations
Everyone wants to get more out of life – more excitement, more interesting experiences, more fun. Interest in extreme sports has soared and is now spreading mainstream; few people dare to spend their holidays simply lying on a beach – they have to travel to a remote place and do something interesting or unusual.

  • Exotic foods continue to excite, and even exotic medicines from other cultures are sought after. Expect to see yet more vivid, intense, extreme products and imagery, backed up by more compelling and intriguing stories behind the brands. Exotic combinations will be attractive – but these have to taste great – not just weird!
  • Unusual sources of provenance will be sought after to provide authenticity. Perhaps we will see more mystique being created behind soft drink offerings, in the way achieved by the microbreweries.
  • Non-alcoholic exotic cocktails will become more available in different, more accessible formats.
  • Drinks associated with attractive locations or with particular, aspirational sports will prosper.
  • Consumers will seek out soft drinks that can provide a strong organaleptic sensation – without any risk or unpleasant side effects.

New philosophy
Material success has created a quest for the spiritual in life – as we see from the interest in religions of all sorts, and in many different philosophies. People are creating their own spiritual pot-pourris – a touch of environmentalism, a sprinkling of eastern philosophy, some ethical concerns and a concern for purification and ‘de-toxing’. Products offering a balance of ‘mind, body and soul’ are attractive.

Natural ingredients will be increasingly valued, ‘gentle processing’ will become a concern and provenance will be of greater interest. This will continue to create significant opportunities for beverages. Products will be expected to have clear answers to ethical questions – where did the ingredients come from; how were they processed; can the brand be trusted to do the right thing?

  • Beverages that draw on the intrinsic functionality of natural ingredients such as fruit and vegetables will be attractive.
  • Opportunities for ‘near water’ products will expand, and botanicals of all sorts will appeal.
  • We may see a renewed interest in remedies such as Bach Flower, presented in the ‘fuzzy’ territory between natural remedy and functional beverage.

Beverages will continue to provide accessible and convenient formats to meet changing consumer needs and are well placed to build on the platforms created as a result of the trends described here.

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