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What’s the occasion?

The idea of ‘drinking occasions’ has evolved in the beverage category over the last couple of years, and has come to mean the use of segmentation to target different moments throughout the day. From an on the go breakfast drink to a warm, comforting drink at the end of the busy day, manufacturers have recognised the need to target different moments with different beverages.

Innova Market Insights included encapsulating moments in its top 10 trends for 2017, noting significant interest in on the go products.

Similar to the trend for premium beverages, the move to define products according to drinking occasions has allowed companies and producers to extend their customer base. On the go consumption continues to grow, as more consumers eat and drink outside of their home. A recent study found that meals have become less structured over the last couple of decades, resulting from busy lifestyles, more unconventional working hours, a rise in single households and an increase in the number of working women. Eating and drinking occasions have been further fragmented as consumption is now fit in according to work and leisure activities, rather than set times of the day [1]. As such, there is an opportunity for manufacturers to target specific drinking moments throughout the day.

Breakfast boom

On the go breakfast beverages are a long established trend and are now a permanent fixture on retail shelves.

Combining the lifestyle choice for convenience with the trend for added nutrition at breakfast, nutritional supplements and instant breakfasts (either liquid or powder) have increased in popularity among consumers, with 383 new product launches between 2011 and 2016 [2]. Given the importance of breakfast in everyday lives, substituting the meal with an on the go, ready to drink (RTD) beverage needs to appeal to consumers with several health claims at once. For example, including both additional health benefits and the ability to provide an energetic start to the day.

Nutritional breakfast innovation has also extended to juices in recent years. Consumers are favouring juices over carbonates for their perceived lower sugar content. The carbonates market is losing share to more competitive beverages, that offer low or reduced sugar alternatives with more functional benefits. Juice and juice drinks held approximately 46 per cent of the overall soft drinks category in H2 2016, compared to 14 per cent for carbonates for the same period [3]. Juices are currently the most active launch platform in Europe, as there is still untapped potential through more advanced formulations, such as adding in vitamins, extra fibre and even added protein [4].

On the go

The rise of ‘urban nomads’ and the active lifestyles of generation Y has created many different drinking occasions during the day – leading to a number of convenient beverage options on the market. Instead of reaching for an unhealthy snack, a range of drinks has been developed to provide added nutrition and natural ingredients in an easy to consume format.

One of the growing categories in the healthy, convenient beverage space is smoothies. Recent launches have included health claims for multivitamins and antioxidants, maintaining they reduce fatigue and improve immune systems. There are increasing numbers of smoothies that also reference high protein, to cater for gym enthusiasts and the healthy ageing group, thanks to its muscle maintenance benefits. Smoothies also offer manufacturers an opportunity to incorporate high fibre into formulations, targeting healthy consumers with busy lifestyles.

On the go vitamin waters and sparkling energy waters are similarly gaining momentum in the market, for consumers looking for an alternative drink in the afternoon.

The new active

Beverages for active nutrition have evolved significantly in recent years as the lines blur between sports nutrition and the mainstream market. Traditionally, sports nutrition beverages contained high levels of protein to cater for a niche market aimed at bodybuilders and athletes. Reports show that there were nearly 400 new global product launches with a protein claim in 2016, compared to just under 100 in 2011 [5]. However, as high protein beverages have experienced huge growth and entered the mainstream, they now also contain other properties to widen their appeal. For example, drinks for an active lifestyle can be positioned to provide energy, satiety or electrolytes.

Moving beyond muscle building and fitness, innovation in the active nutrition category has led to the growth of beverages which provide an instant energy boost or a sustained source for energy. For example, sports nutrition products are increasingly using B vitamins in combination with caffeine for a double energy kick, and contribute to normal energy yielding metabolism.

Formulating with branch chain amino acids (BCAAs) in energy drinks is an alternative to using high sugar, that can later lead to ‘crash’ symptoms. The use of BCAAs are also no longer restricted to a specialised area of sports nutrition, as product messaging takes a more scientific stance. This is a key trend in sports nutrition, with 16 per cent of global launches in the sector featuring BCAAs in 2016 [6].

As well as BCAAs, other amino acids, such as glutamine, leucine and tryptophan, are also becoming more well known for the muscle maintenance benefits they can bring to active nutrition beverages.

Electrolytes are another increasingly sought after addition to active nutrition beverages, developed specifically to cater for the growing numbers of consumers seeking rehydration during post-exercise recovery. As people have become more aware of losing electrolytes following a workout, the popularity of drinks fortified with them has risen. In fact, the number of soft drink launches that include an electrolyte claim increased by 203 per cent from H1 2011 to H1 2015 [7].

Indulging in improved health

The past five years have seen an increase in the number of consumers looking for beverages that encompass ‘natural’ and ‘clean label’, but also include functional nutritional benefits. However, there has also been a rise in demand for beverages that are both healthy and indulgent. In fact, Innova Market Insights predicts a 44 per cent increase in the number of global soft drink new product launches with an indulgent and premium positioning.

For manufacturers, the trend for indulgent healthy beverages is an opportunity for growth, particularly as they can also be easily consumed on the go. Recent research from the Stanford University in California found that even just labelling healthy foods with a more indulgent description, evoking more enjoyable and self rewarding food, prompted a 25 per cent increased uptake compared with a more basic description [8].

Flavours such as chocolate or caramel are increasingly being used in formulation to appeal to consumers looking for comforting beverages with added nutrition. This has opened up the opportunity to position indulgent health beverages to varied drinking occasions, such as in the afternoon, instead of reaching for confectionery, or even in the evening, as an end of day treat.

Similarly, for children, indulgent yet healthy beverages are being introduced containing no artificial sweeteners and rich in vitamin D and calcium, for example.

A beverage for every occasion

The beverage industry has evolved significantly in recent years to meet the complex requirements of consumers. As well as targeting specific demographics, developing beverages for specific drinking occasions has presented an opportunity for manufacturers. Drinking occasions not only represent moments during the day, but also the opportunity to create healthier lifestyles long term. Product innovation is no longer solely the formulation of ingredients or catering to individual nutritional, health or texture benefits, but the understanding that functional beverages are capable of making consumer lives easier, while delivering natural, healthy and enjoyable nutrition.

The lines are blurring between beverages and dietary supplements. Functional ingredients are now expected to be all encompassing; convenient, nutritional solutions that support health, while maintaining the natural aspect.

New platforms are being formulated to suit specific drinking occasions, meaning that products can be more targeted than ever before. This has also been made possible by the number of hybrid beverages on the shelves that combine several concepts in one product – opening up a wealth of opportunity for innovation.

Suppliers have recognised the increased need for ingredient solutions and have developed their portfolios accordingly. With a portfolio spanning bioactives, proteins, grains and seeds, as well as custom nutrient premixes, Glanbia Nutritionals can ensure its customers are at the forefront of innovation.

References are available on request.

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