As we move into a new year, the drinks industry is continuing to evolve, both in terms of the development of new trends, technologies and processes and the continuation of mega-trends that have been driving the industry across the last few years. In regards to continuation, expect efforts towards increased sustainability to be maintained and expanded upon (both in packaging and sourcing) and for increased health consciousness to continue to drive the ‘war on sugar’. There will likely be new developments within these areas but they should largely be kept in mind as persistent movements within the industry.

The above trends will likely contribute new ingredients to the industry – sugar alternatives for example are likely to continue to proliferate – but manufacturers should also look to entirely new innovations. Cannabidiol (CBD) has been making a name for itself in recent years as marijuana legalisation spreads, and associated products such as CBD enjoy a popularity boost by proxy. Emerging ingredients are also expected to make an impact from unexpected quarters and new technologies will rapidly change the way the industry goes about its business. Below, we explore some of the trends most likely to make an impact in 2019.

Coca-Cola, Constellation Brands and cannabis: taking alcoholic beverages to new heights

One of the ingredients driving innovation across food and drink categories is cannabidiol, a compound found in cannabis and hemp but without the psychoactive element of cannabis’ THC. A range of health claims have been ascribed to the compound and, with increasing legalisation of cannabis and related products, CBD is poised for a popularity boom. Already appearing in a variety of products, big business is also starting to show interest.

As we discussed in our sister publication Inside Food, a report emerged in September 2018 that claimed Coca-Cola was in “serious talks” with Aurora Cannabis to create a drink using cannabidiol, likely aimed at wellness or recovery. A spokesman for Coca-Cola told BNN Bloomberg that “along with many others in the beverage industry, we are closely watching the growth of non-psychoactive CBD as an ingredient in functional wellness beverages around the world. The space is evolving quickly. No decisions have been made at this time.” Although the report contained no real confirmation and the rumour since appears to have been put to rest, Aurora’s stocks received a 16.86% increase in value, signalling that cannabidiol is no longer the sole preserve of dispensaries and smaller business. If the world’s largest beverage company is showing interest, this is now big business.

Coca-Cola is not alone; Constellation Brands, which produces a range of drink brands including Cornoa, announced in April 2018 that it would be investing $4bn in Canopy Growth Corporation, a Canadian cannabis company. While this is no small investment, it aligns with Euromonitor’s prediction that by 2020 the American market for legal marijuana products will have a value of $20bn. Furthermore, given that Molson Coors judged legal cannabis as among the biggest risks to its business in its annual shareholder report, it should perhaps come as no surprise that, at least in the alcoholic drinks sector, brands are looking to claim a stake in cannabis and related products before it undermines them. 

Au naturel: plant powered, botanical and sustainable drinks lead the green movement

Sustainability efforts will continue to drive the industry throughout 2019, both in ingredient sourcing and product packaging. As consumers become increasingly conscious about what goes into their drinks and concerned about environmental impact, companies will be driven towards continued efforts to improve sustainability. This may come in the form of changes to packaging through the increase of plastic alternatives or attempts to increase the ‘naturalness’ of a product, focusing on formulations that utilise environmentally friendly sourcing and place a premium on natural ingredients rather than synthetic concoctions. As such, the inclusion of botanicals is likely to continue to drive product launches at the same time as plant-based drinks continue to emerge.

We reported early last year on the botanical market and how a growing number of products were building off botanicals, and the trend only looks set to continue. Aside from flavour, botanicals have associations with health and ‘naturalness’ that fit well with the wellness mega-trend currently shaping consumer sectors. It is these same broad trends that are driving the emergence of other plant-based drinks. No doubt partially in response to the growing alternative milks market (market researcher firm Mintel found that non-dairy milk sales in the US had increased by 61% from 2012-2017), PepsiCo-owned Quaker Oats has launched a range of oat-based milks.

Although there are some challenges ahead for the alternative milk sector, consumer demand for products that are healthier and provide options for non-traditional diets is likely to continue to fuel more product launches and experimentation within the sector. Sustainable alternatives don’t necessarily mean plant-based, however; 2019 is due to see the arrival of Perfect Day, a milk alternative that contains molecularly identical proteins to cow milk but that is produced by a 3D printer. It is a technique perhaps less likely to proliferate in the short term however, and, with the Plant Based Foods Association reporting $1.6bn in plant milk sales in 2017, we can expect to see many more such products launch into the market in 2019.

Get well: marine collagen, sugar alternatives and innovating the wellness trend 

Emerging into the mainstream in 2018, marine collagen may well continue to be an ingredient to watch going forward. Derived primarily from the bones and tissue of fish, marine collagen can supposedly help nourish hair and skin. As the wellness trend continues to grow alongside the market for functional food and drinks, products that can promise additional benefits are likely to continue to populate shelves. Gwyneth Paltrow’s (admittedly dubious) Goop business has jumped on the trend and is selling a marine collagen-infused powder that supposedly improves the hydration, elasticity and texture of skin when added to a drink.

However, as dermatologist Dr. Neal Schultz told Delish: “There are no demonstrated benefits. The collagen is a protein that is broken down into its component amino acids by the gastric digestive juices. The amino acids are then absorbed and distributed throughout the body to where they are needed. So, sadly, the intact collagen is completely disassembled and not available to the body as collagen.”

We have extensively covered the ‘war on sugar’ in previous issues, but the industry’s transition away from sugary drinks and towards healthier alternatives is only likely to continue and do so more rapidly. It was reported at the end of October 2018 that Coca-Cola’s quarterly organic sales had risen by 6%, in no small part thanks to bottled water and reduced sugar alternatives to standard Coke. The company has made clear moves to diversify recently, matched by chief rival PepsiCo as consumers look for healthier options. The push for new sugar alternatives is only likely to continue, especially with regulatory moves such as the Mayor of London’s ban on junk food and drink advertising on the city’s public transport.

Aside from reduced sugar, consumers are continuing to look for products that can offer them additional functionality. Although probiotics face challenges that may see them replaced by greater drives for prebiotic products, shelves are likely to be increasingly stocked with drinks that provide extra health benefits, such as protein-packed energy drinks. These drinks, in addition to this health functionality, will benefit from consumer desires for on-the-go products that also fit into the premiumisation trend. Moving into 2019, wellness must be mobile, functional, healthy and of the highest quality.