­­­4 Consumer Trends to Watch in Beverage Innovation

BEVERAGE INNOVATION

The beverage industry is a fast-moving center of innovation for non-alcoholic and alcoholic drinks. From water and sports and nutrition to no/lo alcoholic beverages and Ready-To-Drink (RTD) canned cocktails, the market is saturated. With a dizzying number of choices, the shelves are crowded, and consumers turn to flavors and ingredients to make their selections. Consumers are abstaining from alcohol or drinking in moderation for January, alcohol consumption varies by generation, carbonated beverages are bubbling over, and beverage brands are expanding into adjacent markets.

1. DRY AND DAMP JANUARY

Propelled by the pandemic, health and wellness has become an underlying driver in consumer behavior and the products individuals choose. For example, 42% of U.S. consumers would like their food/drink to contribute to both their mental and physical health, according to Mintel1. According to the FDA2, the new U.S. definition of healthy promotes balanced dietary patterns over specific nutrients. “Healthy” is becoming contextual. For example, as discussed in Trilogy’s Drinking Up The Lo-No Alcohol Trends post, consumers are exploring sober curious lifestyles for several reasons. Dry January is when individuals abstain from alcohol for the entire month. Damp January is when individuals are more mindful of their alcohol intake and take a moderate approach to alcohol consumption. As of January 19, 2024, the hashtag #dryjanuary has garnered 508.5 million views on TikTok.3 Research4 suggests that participating in the Dry January challenge leads to health benefits like improved sleep, weight loss, lowered blood pressure, and more energy. A survey5 by White Claw discovered that 57% of consumers agree that non-alcoholic drink options help them feel more confident in social situations where they didn’t want to drink alcohol, make it easier for everyone to enjoy social occasions together (74%), and help them prioritize their physical health while not missing out on social opportunities (67%). There’s been an uptick in non-alcoholic beverages. Veylinx’s research6 found that physical health and cost are the two most popular reasons for reducing alcohol consumption. According to IWSR7, the no-alcohol market in the U.S. is worth over $1.8 billion. Non-alcoholic beverages account for two-thirds of total no/low-alcohol category volumes. IWSR predicts that non-alcoholic drinks will take nearly 4% of share from traditional alcoholic beverages across the top 10 markets by 2027. Sales of on-premise non-alcoholic drinks are soaring due to improved quality and taste, flavor innovation, and the introduction of new brands in the markets, according to GlobalData.8

On the flip side, excessive alcohol use has higher health risks such as cancer, heart or liver disease, high blood pressure, miscarriage, depression, anxiety, alcohol dependence, stroke, or a weakened immune system, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.9 Interestingly, The World Health Organization (WHO)10 recently stated, “When it comes to alcohol consumption, there is no safe amount that does not affect health.” Some experts worry that Dry January can lead to Overindulgence February, or that it won’t prompt long-term change.11

Whether your customers are avoiding alcohol, moderating their alcohol intake, or looking for better-for-you options, Trilogy offers a wide selection of non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverage flavors all year round. Request your samples here.

2. ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION VARIES BY GENERATION

Alcohol consumption varies by generation. It appears that as new generations reach the drinking age, their alcohol usage lessens than that of previous generations. For example, Gallup’s survey12 of 1,000 consumers found that 62% of those between the ages of 18 and 34 said they drink alcohol, down from 72% two decades ago. Conversely, 59% of adults aged 55 and older are drinking more, up from 49%. Baby Boomers (individuals born between 1946-1964) are the highest consumers of alcohol compared to the generations that follow them, according to Reframe.13 Reframe’s research shows that 72% of Baby Boomers have consumed alcohol in the past month, compared with 65% of Gen Xers, and 53% of Millennials. UK BrandVue’s Most Loved Drinks Brands 2023 report14 by Savanta revealed that all champagne brands and spirits are the most loved drinks brands for Baby Boomers. Generation X (individuals born between 1965-1980) make purchases based on their established tastes and preferences versus industry trends. Millennials also known as Gen Y (individuals born between 1981-1996) are also drinking less than previous generations. However, Millennials are the largest consumers of wine and craft beer and the drivers of the global alcoholic beverages market. Generation Z (individuals born between 1997-2012) are labeled the “sober curious” generation and drink 20% less alcohol per capita than millennials did at their age. Furthermore, 64% expect to drink less as they get older. Similarly, CivicScience data15 found that 27% of Gen Z say they never drink alcoholic beverages. Health is the underlying reason that Gen Z abstains from alcohol. More than one-quarter say they are ‘very concerned’ about the potential health effects of drinking alcohol with increased awareness from social media. Older Millennials and Gen Xers are the least concerned about Older Millennials and Gen Xers are the least concerned about the impact of alcohol on their health. Marketplace16 reports that 42% of Millennials drink on a regular basis, while only 21% of Gen Z drink on a regular basis. 

According to Statista 17, Millennials recently surpassed the Baby Boomer generation with a population size of 72.24 million. This generation makes up 21% of consumer discretionary purchases, according to Millennial Marketing.18 With their spending power, Millennials have been the most sought-after target market shaping and defining trends. However, Gen Z’s attitudes and behavior towards alcohol are influential. Gen Z are shifting their focus away from drinking alcohol, both inside and outside the home, and opting instead for sober socializing, according to Mintel.19 Reframe states “Generation Z is bringing about a cultural and societal shift by drinking less, choosing not to drink, or pursuing mindful drinking.” Watch as beverage innovation flourishes and Gen Z drives the market to develop a new category of products with a focus on healthy, non-alcoholic beverages.

Consumers are unique. Depending on the individual’s age and the occasion, behaviors change. Although the shelves are crowded, consumers are making room for non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages to coexist and share shelf space. This gives brands and manufacturers more than one opportunity to reach consumers of different generations.

Trilogy Flavors consistently delivers high-quality flavors for non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages. Browse our TTB-Approved Distilled Spirits and Beer flavors. Reach out and request your samples here.

3. BUBBLING OVER – ALL THAT FIZZ IN CARBONATED BEVERAGES

Water is healthy, while soda is considered unhealthy. Seltzer or carbonated water is a happy medium. Historically, Europeans prefer sparkling water, while Americans prefer flat water. Sparkling water and sparkling wines such as Champagne, Prosecco, and Cava are associated with a sense of European refinement, sophistication, and celebration. Thanks to the younger demographics, with the help of social media, Millennials and Gen Z have popularized water. As of January 19, 2024, #watertok had 1 billion views on TikTok.20 In 2015, LaCroix normalized drinking flavored carbonated water. Now, better-for-you, carbonated beverages infused with probiotics, vitamins, and functional ingredients are on trend. Brands such as Olipop and Recess are industry pioneers. A novel launch for Dry January is PepsiCo’s sparkling water brand Bubly’s limited “press for bubbly” button. Consumers could enter an online sweepstakes through January 31 to win a free delivery of Bubly for a year. From non-alcoholic carbonated beverages to hard seltzer, fizzy flavored water is bubbling over. Research21 has shown that people enjoy carbonated beverages, and the carbonation sensation is perceived as pleasurable and sought after by consumers, although it is also considered an oral irritation. Additionally, carbonation has been found to enhance the saltiness or sourness of a beverage and inhibit other tastes and flavors. According to Circana22, the seltzer/sparkling/mineral water category grew 4.4%, with sales reaching $3.8 billion in total U.S. multi-outlets with convenience stores for the 52 weeks ending May 21, 2023. Seltzer centric flavored malt beverage (hard seltzer) sales reached $3.9 billion, an increase of 19.3%, for the 52 weeks ending May 21, 2023, according to Circana.23\

Carbonation in beverages is driving innovation in cocktail culture. According to IWSR24, “Carbonation offers a multi-sensory element to cocktails, including the sound of fizzing, the impact of the bubbles bursting on the tongue, and the zippy flavor impact of CO2.” On-premise draft and batched cocktail innovators have been experimenting with forced carbonation and fermentation to play with different levels of effervescence. This trend has spilled into RTD cocktails and brands are applying bubbles to cocktails, some of which are normally still drinks. Carbonation adds a balanced roundness to drinks that might have otherwise been overly bitter or sweet. Riding the coattails of the better-for-you carbonated beverages trend and consumers’ interest in craft cocktails, hard seltzers took notice. Hard seltzers began gaining popularity in 2018 because they are cleaner, healthier alternatives to alcoholic beverages with less calories, less carbs, and less sugar. Hard seltzers are also convenient and accessible. Additionally, they are a “gender neutral” beverage. For example, White Claw’s customers are a close split between women (53%) and men (47%), according to CNBC.25 The core consumers are 21 to 29 years old, but the consumer base has expanded to all drinking-age consumers across different regions.26 As hard seltzers fizzle, RTD cocktails are driving market activity. The RTD category in the U.S. is expected to reach $21.1 billion in value by 2027, according to IWSR.27 “Drinkers and non-drinkers alike are receptive to ready-to-drink alternatives that are better for their health and wallets,” states Anouar El Haji founder of the Behavioral research platform Veylinx.6

Trilogy offers a large portfolio of fun and flavorful carbonated beverage flavors and hard seltzer flavors for all of your fizzy formulas. Request your samples here.

4. ROLE REVERSAL – BEVERAGES BRANDS TAP INTO ADJACENT MARKETS

Consumers are more fluid and as brands max out on growth, they are looking for new opportunities and creating products to recapture consumers. Trends move quickly and brands want a piece of the pie. Finlays28 identified Fast Fad-sion as a trend. “The ‘fad’ trend cycle in consumer behavior represents the rapid rise and fall of popular trends, often driven by social media and influencers. From viral coffee concoctions to the next big ingredient in wellness, consumers embrace and move on from these trends swiftly. This presents both opportunities and challenges for beverage companies, who must stay nimble and be ready to innovate and adapt to ever-changing consumer preferences.” From non-alcoholic to alcoholic, beverage brands are tapping into adjacent markets to grow. Brands are branching out on their own or through collaborations to reach consumers where they are. Recent examples include White Claw’s move into the non-alcoholic space and Coca-Cola’s move into alcohol. Flavor options have the most influence on which brand consumers choose, according to Veylinx.6 Additionally, consumers trying to reduce their alcohol consumption fell by 18%, to 38%. Half of those surveyed said they would drink less if better non-alcoholic options were available. Zero Proof’s data29 showed that 82% of people who drink non-alcoholic beverages drink alcohol. IWSR7 noticed that ‘substituters’ – those who switch between full strength, low, and alcohol-free depending on the occasion, accounted for 43% of no/low consumers in 2023 (45% of Millennials), up from 41% in 2022. It appears that brands are aiming to capture the consumer’s attention at each phase of this substitution.

White Claw set the industry benchmark for hard seltzers and gained a loyal following. On January 1, the brand moved into a new market with the introduction of White Claw 0% Alcohol with electrolytes. Designed to “taste and feel like an alcoholic drink without the alcohol,” it is offered in four popular flavors: Black Cherry Cranberry, Lime Yuzu, Peach Orange Blossom, and Mango Passion Fruit. White Claws’ research5 found that 69% of people who drink alcohol are interested in embracing a “sober curious” lifestyle, and this increased to 81% for Gen Z, its target demographic. Furthermore, the survey revealed that 64% of consumers wish there were better non-alcoholic options available. 83% of consumers would be more likely to choose non-alcoholic drinks if they have flavors they like, were from brands they know (72%), had electrolytes (72%), and were low in sugar (71%). White Claw is an alternative to beer or hard liquor but without alcohol, will it be able to compete with the crowded flavored seltzers and better-for-you carbonated drinks on the market?

Consumers often mix soft drinks with alcohol such as rum and coke. To take advantage of consumer trends, Coca-Cola created the subsidiary Red Tree Beverages as it forays into alcohol. Interestingly, Mintel’s research30 showed that 46% of consumers would be motivated to try a new flavor/ingredient in an alcoholic beverage from a brand they like. Last year, in partnership with Brown-Forman, the two brands launched Jack Daniel’s & Coca‑Cola RTD and Jack Daniel’s & Coca‑Cola Zero Sugar. Coca-Cola and Pernod Ricard joined forces on an Absolut Vodka & Sprite canned cocktail, which is expected to launch in early 2024 in European markets, including Britain, the Netherlands, and Spain. Also expected in 2024, Minute Maid will release Minute Maid Spiked, a line of ready-to-serve (RTS) “flavored wine cocktails” in three flavors: Lime Margarita, Piña Colada, and Strawberry Daiquiri. Coca-Cola CFO John Murphy states “There is a lot of white space out there [in alcohol]. We believe that we have a right to both compete and to play in that space, and we are exploring.”31

The beverage market is now an open playing field. Soft drink, beer, and alcohol manufacturers are dabbling in each other’s markets thanks to hard seltzers and RTD canned cocktails. It will be interesting to see which launches stick and how the market shakes out. For consumers, there will be even more choices.

With a library of flavors and essential ingredients to satisfy the requirements of clean label, organic, non-GMO, and kosher qualifications, Trilogy offers an array of TTB-Approved flavors for Distilled Spirits and Beer. Request your samples here.

FLAVOR OPPORTUNITIES

Whether you are formulating for non-alcoholic or alcoholic beverages, such as flavored seltzers, hard seltzers, lo/no alcohol, and RTD cocktails, consumers expect an array of thirst quenching flavors and experiences in a variety of applications. Research shows that consumers’ behavior changes depending on their age and the situation. For example, ‘substituters’ switch between full strength, low, and alcohol-free beverages giving brands and manufacturers a chance to meet consumers in various markets. Let Trilogy quench your customers’ thirst for innovative beverage flavors. Contact us today and request your samples here.

Sources:

  1. Teodoro, Michelle “The Future Of Nutrition, Health And Wellness: 2023,” 20, February 2023, Mintel
  2. https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2022/09/29/2022-20975/food-labeling-nutrient-content-claims-definition-of-term-healthy
  3. https://www.tiktok.com/tag/dryjanuary
  4. https://www.forbes.com/sites/ariannajohnson/2024/01/03/dry-january-health-benefits-weight-loss-better-sleep-more-energy/?sh=3f43f0763650
  5. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/white-claw-launches-a-radically-new-beverage-for-adults-that-tastes-and-feels-like-an-alcoholic-drink-without-the-alcohol-white-claw-0-alcohol-is-a-breakthrough-that-redefines-drinking-302006350.html#
  6. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/the-year-of-canned-cocktails-consumer-demand-increases-for-non-alcoholic-and-alcoholic-variations-302019498.html
  7. https://www.theiwsr.com/wp-content/uploads/IWSR_No-and-Low-Alcohol-press-release-December-2023.pdf
  8. https://www.globaldata.com/newsletter/details/us-non-alcoholic-spirits-outlook-beer-in-denmark-german-wine-consumption-the-week-in-data_178118/
  9. https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/alcohol-use.htm
  10. https://www.who.int/europe/news/item/04-01-2023-no-level-of-alcohol-consumption-is-safe-for-our-health
  11. https://www.marketwatch.com/story/why-dry-january-is-a-bad-idea-6bd3cbb9
  12. https://news.gallup.com/poll/509690/young-adults-drinking-less-prior-decades.aspx#
  13. https://www.joinreframeapp.com/blog-post/alcohol-consumption-by-generation-what-are-the-trends
  14. https://savanta.com/knowledge-centre/view/the-soft-generation-drinking-preference-through-the-ages/
  15. https://civicscience.com/gen-zs-mixed-perspectives-on-alcohol-three-quick-trends/
  16. https://www.marketplace.org/2022/10/24/whats-driving-the-boom-in-the-non-alcoholic-drink-industry/
  17. https://www.statista.com/statistics/797321/us-population-by-generation/
  18. https://millennialmarketing.com/who-are-millennials/#slide-5
  19. https://www.mintel.com/food-and-drink-market-news/gen-z-sober-curious-generation/
  20. https://www.tiktok.com/tag/watertok
  21. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0963996921004336#
  22. https://www.bevindustry.com/articles/95940-2023-state-of-the-beverage-industry-sparkling-flavored-waters-make-a-splash
  23. https://www.bevindustry.com/articles/95941-2023-state-of-the-beverage-industry-diverging-performances-split-beer-market
  24. https://www.theiwsr.com/carbonated-cocktails-drive-innovation-in-classic-mixed-drinks-and-rtds/
  25. https://www.cnbc.com/2019/12/05/how-white-claw-and-the-hard-seltzer-craze-are-taking-on-beer.html#
  26. https://www.thedrum.com/news/2021/04/08/get-ready-uk-white-claw-s-cmo-reveals-the-hard-seltzer-s-global-attack-strategy
  27. https://www.theiwsr.com/wp-content/uploads/Growth-drivers-for-the-US-ready-to-drink-market-shift-in-2023_IWSR.pdf
  28. https://www.worldteanews.com/data-trends/global-beverage-trends-2024-include-hyper-targeted-health-and-statement-spending
  29. https://thezeroproof.com/blogs/the-distiller/our-trend-predictions-for-non-alcoholic-beverages-in-2023
  30. Riebe, Sydney “Trending Flavors And Ingredients In Alcoholic Beverages – US – 2023,” 11, December 2023, Mintel
  31. https://www.thestreet.com/investing/why-coca-cola-needs-to-tap-into-the-alcohol-market

Trilogy Flavors, Inc.