This past year was all about clean labels and free from claims in the food and beverage industry. 2016 will be all about drinking for health. Consumers will be focused on transparency, the brand story and function from natural sources. The brands that are able to deliver those attributes along with a great tasting product will triumph in the marketplace. Here is a breakdown of trends that you can integrate into your product mix to ensure you stay ahead of the competition.
Spices are often associated with various health benefits and add flavor without fat or calories. For example, one compound found in spicy peppers, capsaicin, is linked to boosting metabolism by raising body temperature. Many capsaicin-rich peppers are also known to be high in vitamins and minerals such as manganese, iron and Vitamins A and C. Ginger, another spice that delivers a bold flavor impact without added calories, also provides a warming sensation. Other benefits of ginger include soothing an upset stomach and boosting immunity.
Making the switch (back) to switchel
This popular drink of the 17th century is prepared with water, vinegar, ginger and honey or maple syrup. Benefits associated with vinegar-based drinks include aiding digestion, reducing blood pressure and helping with weight management. Drinking vinegars (also known as shrubs) will also gain popularity as consumers experiment with new flavor profiles.
Plant (or tree) water
Maple, birch, cactus, coconut and rose waters will continue to gain fans this year as consumers continue to seek additional benefits from food — even water. Birch tree water is rich in potassium, zinc and magnesium and is praised for its detoxifying properties. What’s the next seedling to sprout into the beverage aisle? Sycamore sap has a lower sugar content than maple and has a butterscotch-like flavor. Floral flavors such as lavender and elderflower are also making their way into water.
Third wave protein
Protein often presents textural and taste challenges in beverage formulation and therefore requires flavor maskers to cover the off-notes. In 2016, beverages will demonstrate a great improvement in delivering the high protein content without compromising flavor. In addition to better tasting protein beverages, we will also see new sources of protein emerge into more mainstream products. Protein from plants, including algae, peas, cranberries and other sources of sustainable protein will be prevalent in new product launches. We also expect an increase in non-traditional RTD beverages fortified with protein including water, tea, coffee and beer.
Not afraid of fat
Consumers seek food that is minimally-processed and is as close its natural form as possible. Many wholesome staples such as dairy (butter, milk, cream) oil, and nuts all contain fat. Butter sales were up 6% in the first three months of 2015, whole milk is on-trend and the 2015 US dietary guidelines advised Americans to eat more fish, nuts and oils, all of which are high in fat. Niche beverage brands have even started putting butter in coffee for satiety. The growth of the nut-based milks, the popularity of the Mediterranean Diet and the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee urging consumers to cut back on sugar are some of the factors that will drive this trend.
Convenience will continue to be a key driver of food and beverage purchases in 2016. Millennials and Gen Z’ers, known for their adventurous attitudes and on-the-go lifestyles, will be on the lookout to incorporate more vegetables, legumes and grains into their diet. Beverages are an ideal vehicle to deliver these nutrients in a portable format. The UN General Assembly declared 2016 the Year of the Pulse, so we expect to see pulses (namely lentils and chickpeas) in beverages, as well as some global grains including quinoa, amaranth, farro and kamut. On-the-go nutrition is nothing new, but the nutrients offered as well as flavor varieties will continue to expand in 2016.
Functional food high
In 2016, we will be watching for innovative ways that brand owners and product developers work to deliver the functional benefits that consumers are demanding. For energy, we expect new textures and taste, such as a sparkling coffee and coffee/tea hybrids. Products will incorporate omega-3s and guayusa for mental acuity and clean energy. As medicinal and recreational marijuana becomes legal across the US, cannabis-based beverages will also become more readily available.
I look forward to watching (and tasting) the new beverage products of 2016. My advice to you: Focus on designing products packed with nutrients and function and be transparent with consumers about the ingredients you choose, because the clean label trend still matters. Cheers!
Ilana Orlofsky is the Marketing Coordinator at Imbibe, a Chicago-based company that develops beverages for the top brands and retail chains. In her role, Ilana researches the food and beverage market to identify trends, emerging brands and innovative products. Her insights help inform companies to help them develop products to stay ahead of the ideation curve. Imbibe acts as a bolt-on R&D function for companies that don’t have one, or an extension of the R&D team for those who do. In this capacity, they design and supply custom components such as ingredient blends, flavors and finished beverages. For questions about your next beverage project, reach out to Ilana directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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