Nothing ever stays the same, or so the saying goes, and in an industry with a seemingly rapid turnover of superstar ingredients, formats and flavours, keeping up with the latest consumer and innovation trends is essential for manufacturers.

The backlash against ‘artificial’ drinks, as well as carbonates and fruit juices that contain high-levels of sugar has opened up the floodgate for a new wave of alternative soft drinks that push the boundaries of conventional mainstream offerings. Building upon the foundation of the health and convenience trends of 2016, brands are growing increasingly experimental with novel offerings – from drinkable breakfasts to cold-press tea with proven health benefits – a drink is no longer just a drink.

We spoke to analysts from market research company Canadean to find out more about the consumer and innovation trends poised to drive product development over the next 12 months.

"Brands are growing increasingly experimental with novel offerings ."

Crafty Combinations

The recent backlash against beverages that contain high-levels of sugar has created a movement toward towards what consumers perceive to be healthier or enhanced products. With a growing number of consumers seeking out soft-drink alternatives using ‘cleaner ingredients’, craft tonics, waters and mixers have begun to appear on the market.

Following the success of the craft trend in alcohol products, manufacturers are using new and creative flavour combinations to appeal to experimental consumers. These beverages may be particularly appealing to those looking for an alternative to alcohol as the mocktail trend gains popularity among health-conscious consumers. While the craft trend presents endless possibilities for brands to experiment with combinations, non-alcoholic drinks that use ingredients that offer the flavour of alcohol are expected to be popular options.

“Seedlip is new non-alcoholic spirit that is with distilled with alcohol and then has all the alcohol removed, so has the flavours of certain spirits without the alcohol,” explains Canadean analyst Emma Wright. Wright. “The new sparkling non-alcoholic wine Eisberg could also lead to many more brands creating non-alcoholic wine that tastes much more like wine.”

Low Alcohol

As consumers move towards products which help to support a healthy lifestyle, many are choosing to reduce the amount of alcohol they drink. As a result, low-alcohol beverages are becoming an appealing alternative for those who still choose to consume alcohol in a controlled way. Growing concern surrounding issues such as calorie reduction, energy enhancement, and clean labelling is also creating demand for low-calorie options, which also provide new avenues for manufacturers to develop products that target new need states and consumption occasions.

“A new generation of alcoholic drinks inspired by bottled water is on the horizon as alcoholic drinks tackle issues that have troubled carbonated soft drinks for decades, including calorie content and sweetener issues,” explains Canadean analyst Tom Vierhile Vierhile. “These new alcoholic seltzers and sparklers could create a new category of low-calorie flavoured alcoholic beverages. At the same time, alcohol-free beer is becoming a rising global phenomenon. AB InBev recently said that it expects one fifth of its total beer volume worldwide to come from no-alcohol or low-alcohol products by the end of 2025, up dramatically from around 6% today.”

Ice cold

Hot (or rather, cold) on the heels of the meteoric rise of the juicing phenomenon, tThe trend for cold-pressed products is set to expand over the coming months. While cold-pressed juices may have been the first to put the potential of ‘cold’ on the map, the positive attributes associated with the movement have caught the attention of manufacturers in unexpected areas of the drinks market. It may sound unusual, but one of the biggest trends in hot drinks is expected to be…cold. Cold press teas and coffees that have a different mouth feel and less acidity than regular tea and coffee are predicted to be a leading trend in the ‘hot’ drinks market.

“The word ‘cold’ has become shorthand for a product that is perceived to be less processed, more pure, and clean, with higher levels of nutrients – attributes that resonate with today's consumer,” says Vierhile Canadean analyst Tom Vierhile.” ‘Cold’ also aligns with the clean label concept in a way that consumers can easily understand. Look for packaged goods innovators to warm up to the ‘cold’ concept in 2017.”

"The word ‘cold’ has become shorthand for a product that is perceived to be less processed."

Beneficial Beverages

The trend for functional drinks that offer an extra bonus beyond standard hydration is set to continue into 2017. Fuelled in part by the backlash against heavily manufactured beverages and the health and wellbeing trend, products that target dietary concerns using proven health claims have found a place in the market amongst nutrition-conscious consumers. The trend has already appeared in teas that boost health and wellness, such as Tetley super teas as well as probiotic drinks that focus on digestive health. By using ingredients that consumers recognise and perceived to be ‘natural’ and ‘better-for-me’ brands can build upon the recent clean label trend and position products as trustworthy and transparent, which are expected to be key themes driving product innovations this year.

“Continued focus on ingredients and their origin, organic products and more educated consumers surrounding the ingredients of products is expected to be a driving force in the drinks market going into 2017,” says Canadean analyst Emma Wright. “Proven benefits from drinking brands can help manufacturers appeal to consumers, as well as provenance of ingredients and using vitamins that consumers know are of a benefit to their health such as vitamin C and D.”