Between 2015 and 2020, the non-alcoholic drinks category recorded a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 0.9%, according to GlobalData. In that time, brand owners have been working in a challenging environment, battling rising costs, sugar taxes, rafts of packaging legislation and, of course, a global pandemic.
These challenges have resulted in category-wide efforts to reduce calorie and sugar content in product ranges, as well as develop ‘novel’ flavours to attract consumer attention.
“Flavours is arguably the most important factor in determining consumer purchasing decisions, with 29% of global consumers stating they would happily try a new drink flavour out of simple curiosity,” says GlobalData beverages analyst Holly Inglis. “This highlights a huge NPD opportunity for the likes of The Coca-Cola Co, Nestlé, Unilever and PepsiCo – and reinforces soft drinks as a fast paced, innovative industry.”
Here, Inglis considers the main flavour trends in soft drinks so far this year.
- Going ‘green’ with hemp and CBD
“Hemp- and CBD-infused drinks continue to garner interest, with products such as Trader Joe’s non-dairy hemp beverage in the US and Sonnenstar hemp juice shot in Austria. While hemp and CBD are positively received by a third and a fifth of global consumers, respectively, GlobalData’s Q2 consumer survey indicates that a considerable portion are still unfamiliar with the ingredients. Brand owners will need to address this to ensure the longevity of their hemp- or CBD-based launches.”
- Let’s go mango
“Mango-flavoured drinks have surfaced recently in Romania and Singapore, while a flurry of innovations with flavour combinations that incorporate mango have been observed in the US, the UK and France. In the US, PepsiCo’s Bubly Bounce, a caffeinated extension of the sparkling water brand from earlier this year that includes a mango & passion fruit variant, also boasts of no calories or sweeteners.”
- Ain’t that peachy
“Peach-based beverages such as Lipton peach tea with honey and Badoit’s peach-flavoured sparkling water in France, both tag low-calorie or -sugar formulations. Not only does this approach reinforce positive brand connotations, it also casts peach in a positive light with consumers.”
- Ginger spice and everything nice
“Ginger has long proved popular with consumers opting for products with digestive health & wellness claims. Indeed, 78% of global consumers believe that ginger has a positive impact on health, reinforcing those health & wellness links and promoting the opportunity to brands of innovating in line with consumer trends.”
- It’s ‘grape’ to be back
“Grape-based drinks have also made an appearance in 2021, despite the general perception that they are high in sugar and, therefore, bad for health. In Western Europe in particular, they also have less-than-favourable links to low quality. A notable launch in Brazil from Britvic’s Empresa Brasileira de Bebidas e Alimentos tackles this narrative via its grape nectar, which is claimed to have no added sugar.”
Inglis concludes: “What we’ve seen in soft drinks this year is the development of several unique flavour launches, all of which appeal to different consumer trends, especially health & wellness.
“Looking forward, we can expect to witness aloe and berry flavours come to the fore. We should also see more formulations that combine fruit with non-fruit and herbs.”