Imbibe, a beverage development company, has revealed its US beverage trend predictions for 2020. Many of next year’s beverage trends will be driven by health and wellness in conjunction with experience-culture and the state of the economy, according to the company. Holistic wellness, cannabidiol (CBD) ingredients and reduced sugar are touted as the key themes for beverages this coming year. “In beverage flavors, botanicals mixed with ‘true-to-fruit’ flavors like basil and strawberry, or mint and lemonade, will be popular combinations,” Holly McHugh, Marketing Associate at Imbibe tells FoodIngredientsFirst.
“Exotic versions of familiar true to fruit such a calamansi, tangerine or blood orange instead of orange or yuzu and key lime instead of lemon-lime will also see growth,” she continues. “Exotic true-to-fruit flavors will be introduced to consumers by combining them with familiar flavors like guava and strawberry, yuzu and lime, as well as berry and dragonfruit.”
The demand for beverages that support physical and emotional health will continue to be a catalyst for innovation. Brands will be expected to “go back to basics” by incorporating essential nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, omega 3 fatty acids and proteins into functional beverages. Natural flavors from superfruits, vegetables and herbs, as well as flavors that trigger pleasant feelings of nostalgia like s’mores, birthday cake and creamsicle, will be widely represented in “better-for-you” formats across the categories.
Mood-boosting and stress-relieving beverages enhanced with novel ingredients like adaptogens and cannabidiol (CBD) will also be in the spotlight. Popular flavors will include botanicals, such as lavender, rose and chamomile, as well as indulgent flavors that mask off-notes common with these ingredients like variations of chocolate and vanilla.
Despite complicated regulations and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warnings, the CBD market will continue to thrive in 2020, according to Imbibe. CBD is risqué in nature because it comes from the cannabis plant and is federally illegal as a food additive and in supplements. However, CBD naturally occurs in hemp oil and hemp extract, which are legal under the US Farm Bill. Hemp oil, hemp extracts and broad-spectrum hemp extract will be the most common ingredients used in CBD beverages.
“CBD has been incorporated into everything from water to hot sauce. However, because of complicated FDA regulations, brands will have to decide if they want to take the risk of calling out CBD and any health claims associated with it. The alternative is to call out ingredients like broad-spectrum hemp extract and not explicitly call out its CBD content,” McHugh explains.
“Many brands that currently have CBD products on the market are changing packaging to call out hemp ingredients that inherently have traces of CBD instead of making bold marketing claims such as total CBD content per serving,” she adds.
According to McHugh, “consumers are trying to consume less sugar, but beverage brands have not yet found a ‘one-size-fits’ all sugar reduction solution.”
Sugar reduction and sugar replacements will remain a top priority for beverage manufacturers in 2020. Sweetener preferences and taste expectations are a moving target and brands will appeal to diverse consumer needs by introducing products with multiple sweetener options, such as zero sugar, low sugar and full sugar.
“Brands must overcome constantly evolving consumer perceptions about sweetener options, taste challenges with non-nutritive sweeteners and other product aspects affected by taking out the sugar-resembling mouthfeel. As a result, brands across beverage categories are offering multiple sweetener options for a single product line without calling their product a ‘diet’ one,” McHugh notes.
Brands will also innovate with natural alternatives, such as stevia, monk fruit and allulose for products that use non-nutritive sweeteners. Honey, agave, dates and inulin will also be top ingredients used as sugar alternatives in products that use nutritive sweeteners.
Reducing waste and environmental degradation is a significant concern for consumers. Brands will improve their efforts to create a circular economy by launching products that use upcycled and locally sourced ingredients, compostable packaging, less packaging material overall and strawless lids. Brands will also continue to add plant-based beverages to their product portfolio because they are perceived as more sustainable than animal-derived products, the company predicts.
“Oat milk will be the rising star of dairy alternative milk and will take away market share from other alternatives like soy and coconut. Oat milk products tend to have a neutral taste or are flavored to mimic dairy milk,” explains McHugh. Additionally, coffee shops have been essential for increasing consumer exposure to oat milk. Asit’s higher in fat content than most other dairy alternative milk, it foams better for lattes and cappuccinos. Although oat milk will be the “it” dairy alternative milk as there’s room for innovation with novel ingredients, she states.
“There has also been a lot of innovation with chickpeas in products like dessert hummus and a handful of dairy alternatives. More dairy alternatives with chickpea could launch because it is a superfood rich in fiber, phosphorus, iron and vitamin B, as well as a good source of zinc, magnesium, B6 and B1,” McHugh says.
A sense of adventure
Consumers will seek out adventurous sensory experiences delivered through exotic flavors, bright colors and unique textures. Global flavors from Latin America and Asia like guava, blood orange, yuzu, chili, cayenne and cardamom will be popular in beverages across categories. Ingredients with bold colors like blue majik, turmeric, beet, matcha and butterfly pea flower will be used to create visually appealing and “instagrammable” beverages. Creamy textures from nitrogen-infusions and whipped ingredients will continue to proliferate. Beverages with chewable ingredients such as boba and basil seeds will also become more prevalent next year, according to Imbibe.
“There’s a lot of Asian influence in US foodservice, but boba and cheese tea are receiving a lot of buzz because of the unique sensory experience they offer. It’s difficult to achieve the same sensory appeal in a CPG beverage. Still, ingredients like chia and basil have been incorporated into beverages for their health benefits and sensory attributes,” McHugh concludes.