Forecasts of trends in tea and coffee flavors for the coming year are all over the place: ingredient varieties, geographic and cultural origins, customer motivations and demographics, and new categories.
The terms they introduce highlight the search by consumers for the exotic, colorful, ethnic and even eccentric: “flexitarian lifestyle”, “globally-inspired flavors”, “hyper-personalized functionality”, “mocktails” and “Instagrammable beverages.”
Here’s a translation of the jargon into practical innovation trends:
• Functionality. It does something good for you: ”Wellness” lifestyle support and nutrition, with an increasing focus on mental sharpness, wakefulness, plus caring for specific physical factors such as gut health and “friendly” bacteria.
• Color. It looks great. “Consumers are looking for bright, bold hues. Young people have an eye for what foods and drinks succeed on social media… beautiful Instagrammable beverages.”
• Texture. It pleases your palate as well as your sense of flavor and aroma: frothy, foamy, fizzy, creamy; dairy alternatives, dairy richness and sweetness without sugar.
• Geo-diverse. It brings something special from ethnic communities and cultures across the globe: Andean herbs, Asian bubble and cheese tea, and Mexican and Indian spiciness.
• Field-gathered. It has “green appeal”: all-natural ingredients, plant-based, not necessarily vegetarian but non-meat tasting, non-chemical, non-processed.
Functionality: It should be good for you
The term “functional” tea and coffee has quickly become a generic label for ones that consumers pick out specifically for some aspect of their wellness, lifestyle, health concerns, and good nutrition: look good and feel good.
Functionality underlies the growth of green tea marketed as contributing to weight loss and disease prevention and cure. In many instances, these were commodity farmed tea dust in bags, that tasted medicinal and bitter. The new approach is to begin with a “superfood” that targets a very specific area of functionality and make sure it is also flavorful. CBD – the non-marijuana cannabis extract from legalized hemp – is a foundation for what is sure to be a surge of functional beverages to aid in pain management, anxiety, depression, and nausea. Matcha and turmeric have moved from the periphery to the mainstream of beverage innovation on this basis.
Coffee is more recent than tea in focusing on functionality. Cold brews are adding activated charcoal “to support natural detoxification.” Asian coffee producers for decades have added ginseng to improve circulation, mood, and memory. Protein, probiotics, magnesium, taurine, guarana, and even mushrooms are extending the range and narrowing the target for premiumization through functionality.
“Hyper personalized functionality” seems an appropriate summary here.
Color: It looks great
One of the somewhat surprising trends in flavoring is the importance of color as an attribute. That’s not entirely new; a black tea blend will often contain, say, Sri Lankan or Indian leaf for flavor and less aromatic Malawi to give the liquor a rich, bright look.
Color and fruit juice go naturally together. This combination is raising iced tea to new levels of quality and appeal, especially in restaurants. Kombucha is following the same trend which enhances the appeal to customers looking for something they don’t come across in the office or at home. Hence, the proliferation of beet lattes, purple yam, peaflower tea, and ingredients like turmeric, matcha, yuzu, blood orange, raspberry, calamansi, meyer lemon, prickly pears, and other familiar and novel combinations of functionality and color.
Analysts see social media as a driver of the color trend. There is a wealth of evidence that the cheese tea market was strongly boosted by social media sharing, as is the specialty tea market in the US, with the new interest in Colombian tea a recent example. HeyTea, the Taiwan pacesetter in cheese teas, relied on social media to build buzz and in its marketing. “Instagrammable” is popping up more and more in blogs and chat groups. “In terms of pink, there are a lot of opportunities across beverages.” This is a food and drink analyst not a Milan fashion designer.
Texture: Palate pleasers
One of the most adventurous areas of often far-reaching innovation is in the texture of cold brew coffee, bubble and cheese tea, non-dairy creamed, and whipped drinks. The new ingredients include oats, soy, coconuts, and almonds. The convergence of food with tea and coffee adds momentum: cheese tea and bubble tea are inherently texture-rich and foodlike. There are reports of cheese being added to coffee, to melt like marshmallows. Carbonation and nitro-infusion add sparkle to RTD drinks. Sparkling flavored waters are growing in demand.
Many of the texture innovations pose challenges in processing and packaging. RTDs and cold brew seem to be the main areas of experimentation.
Geo-diversity: The spices of life
A contributor to new flavors is old ones, from ethnic communities, regions, communities and cultures. One analyst insightfully points to food trucks as a parallel: “Shall we try Thai or get some falafel?” There is strong customer interest in the rich and spicy flavors and skills of Indian chais, Mexican vegetables, Latin American yerba mate, and Chinese five spices.
With receptive ready-to-try demand, supply is following. There is a proliferation of new entrants into the global ingredients market, many of them small entrepreneurs rather than growers. They face many challenges in building distribution but there will be Brazilian lapacho and guarana adding to your flavor palette soon.
Field-gathered: No comment needed
Natural, sustainable, botanical, healthy, non-chemical, non-processed. That’s the future of tea premiumization. Enough said.
Flavor innovation is very much focused on the pursuit of the emblematic millennials. Just about every aspect of development addresses their general search for variety, priority of wellness, and environmental and social concerns. That may seem to exclude the traditional premium base of specialty tea and coffee.
There doesn’t seem much connection between the flavoring trends and, say, the more traditional description of a Badamtam Darjeeling second flush SFTGFOP1 clonal AV2.
All these words are related to flavor differences, texture, field-gathering. A jasmine green and jasmine Dragon pearls are the same green tea but with very different flavoring.
The millennial targeting is mainly a variation on a millennium-old tradition. There seems to be one key difference, though. The new market innovations largely create a premium value through the flavoring, with the tea base a secondary issue.
Specialty tea bases its premiumization on the leaf, with flavoring an enhancement.
Source: Tea Flavoring Trends – STiR Tea & Coffee Industry International – STiR is the international tea and coffee industry bi-monthly magazine website, local, global, equipment, machinery, supplies, services, market, intelligence, raw, product, retail, service ne