Freshness, Transparency to Propel Beverage Trends

January 10th, 2018


Category: Miscellaneous

(Food Business News) –  Perishable ready-to-drink (R.-T.-D.) beverages continue to populate retailers’ refrigerators in response to consumers’ growing desire for minimal processing. Processes such as cold press and cold brew, often coupled with high-pressure processing, are proving to be suitable replacements for ultra-high temperature pasteurization and aseptic processing.

Tea and coffee, sources of natural energy in the form of caffeine, are trending, along with fruit juices intrinsically loaded with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Protein’s popularity persists while botanicals are gaining traction.

Across the R.-T.-D. beverage segment, reducing, or if possible, completely eliminating added sugars has been a goal of many product developers. And when sweet is necessary, there’s a trend toward using minimally processed cane sugar and honey, as well as natural high-intensity sweeteners such as stevia and monk fruit. Another approach is to formulate with fruit ingredients that have higher Brix, which provides sweetness, naturally.

“Consumers want transparency in their beverage brands,” said Natalie Sexton, director of marketing, Natalie’s Orchid Island Juice Co., Fort Pierce, Fla. “They want clean label with minimal ingredients. Minimal processing is also being marketed to the consumer.”

And they are buying it. Ms. Sexton believes that 2018 will be the year that the relevancy of processing becomes mainstream.

“It’s all about nutrient retention,” she said. “We market ‘gourmet pasteurized’ juices. This means we pasteurize at the minimum temperature, for the minimum amount of time, to ensure our juices retain optimum nutrition, enzymatic activity and unrivaled freshness.”

Maple and honey trending

When it comes to beverage flavors in both packaged and food service beverages, David Dafoe, founder, Flavorman, Louisville, Ky., a custom beverage development company, said there is a definite trend toward earthy and familiar, which is reflective of the current state of affairs in the United States. For example, indulgent, rich caramel concepts are being replaced by simple, from Mother Nature maple and closely related honey profiles.

“Maple, the sweet sign of spring and uniquely North American ingredient, is the top trending flavor for the upcoming year,” Mr. Dafoe said. “It is famous for its complex sweetness and unmatched flavor. More recently, it is front and center for its role as an alternative sweetener and health and nutritional benefits.”

Both maple and honey are anything but simple, which is why they also increasingly are being used as non-characterizing ingredients. Possessing many varied flavors and aromas, maple and honey complement everything from citrus to chocolate.

“Some maples have roasted coffee notes while others have hints of hazelnut and cinnamon,” Mr. Dafoe said. “There are around 300 varieties of honey, all with unique flavor profiles, from light and mild to robust and strong.”

On the fruit side, sour citrus flavors are trending, either alone or with other flavors. This includes everything from premium lemonades to sparkling grapefruit.

“Grapefruit is a versatile flavor that packs a powerful punch,” Mr. Dafoe said. “The unique combination of sweet and tart creates an aromatic, distinctive flavor that is driving the popularity of grapefruit-inspired drinks.”

An unexpected fruit gaining traction in the juice segment is watermelon. In June 2014, Keenes, Ill.-based Frey Farms introduced a premium bottled watermelon juice branded Tsamma (pronounced sah-mah). It happened at a time when coconut water entered the limelight for its natural hydration properties, while at the same time kale-containing juices and smoothies were rising in popularity. Watermelon juice is gaining traction for its health and wellness benefits and naturally sweet taste. Sarah Frey, president of Frey Farms and founder of Tsamma Watermelon Juice, said the beverage has the potential to be the next coconut water in the United States.

“It speaks to today’s consumers’ desire to know more about their food and their quest for local sourcing, as Tsamma is grown, made and bottled by watermelon farmers across the U.S.,” Ms. Frey said. “It also has health and wellness benefits. Watermelon juice has been shown to have an anti-inflammatory effect on muscles, reduce risk of dehydration, combat indigestion and lower risk of cardiovascular disease.”

Watermelon is delicate, and juicing it requires a lot of control. The watermelons are harvested and selected. There is a testing and grading process for sugar content (Brix), overall taste, flavor and more.

“The melons are hand cut, and after the end of the testing process, if the fruit doesn’t meet our criteria, it’s not used for Tsamma juice,” Ms. Frey said. “Each watermelon undergoes a proprietary process that uses minimal processing techniques to cold extract the juice and chill it to near freezing within minutes. This innovative process helps to maintain superior flavor while retaining its natural color, as well as nutrients.”

In 2017, the company launched a watermelon juice and coconut water blend. Ms. Frey said watermelon juice readily blends with other flavors, including other fruits and teas.

Adding a twist

Some juice marketers are differentiating by giving new spins to classic beverages. That’s what you find with Chicago-based Poppilu L.L.C., which is rolling out a line of namesake lemonades marketed for their antioxidant content. They carry the tagline: “bold on citrus, not on sugar.” In order to deliver as promised, each flavor of Poppilu contains 16% to 19% lemon juice and aronia berries. To bring the flavors together, Poppilu is sweetened with a blend of sugar and stevia, yielding a beverage with 60 calories and 14 grams of sugar per 12-oz bottle. Poppilu comes in three varieties. Original is lemonade with aronia berry, which gives the beverage a pink hue. The other two varieties — blueberry lavender and passionfruit — include additional fruit juices.

Unilever, Englewood Cliffs, N.J., is differentiating in the R.-T.-D. tea category with its Pure Leaf’s Tea House Collection, which features blends of organic tea, brewed in small batches and blended with fruits and herbs. Varieties are: Fuji apple and ginger green tea, Sicilian lemon and honeysuckle black tea, Valencia orange peel black tea, and wild blackberry and sage black tea.

The combinations of the familiar with something exotic appeal to today’s adventure-seeking consumer. Many combinations suggest benefits beyond hydration and refreshment.

Ms. Sexton said consumers were introduced to exotic beverages in 2016, and they started gaining momentum in 2017.

“In order for brands to differentiate, they needed to diversify,” Ms. Sexton said. “Think charcoal lemonade. Turmeric being added to juice. It’s all about adding value to further enhance the health and wellness attributes of the beverage.”

This summer, Natalie’s Orchid Island Juice introduced Carrot Ginger Turmeric Juice. Made with four ingredients — American-sourced carrots and apples, and a mix of ginger and turmeric — the juice blend is crafted to fight inflammation, said Ms. Sexton.

Functional remains a focus

As consumers gain a better understanding of the relationship between gastrointestinal health and overall wellness, probiotics, and the prebiotics that fuel their growth, are finding their way into different types of beverages. Cold-pressed juice trailblazer Evolution Fresh, a business of Starbucks Corp., Seattle, continues to break boundaries with its new line for 2018. The company is introducing seven organic smoothies that combine cold-pressed fruit and vegetable juices with probiotics, coconut milk and other functional ingredients.

“We know a growing number of people are looking for more from their juice,” said Ryan Ziegelmann, president of Evolution Fresh. “With our expansion into functional beverages, we are putting 24 years of experience to work to authentically expand what cold-pressed, high-pressure processed juice can deliver.”

Starbucks and other coffee marketers continue to expand their R.-T.-D. cold-brew coffee offerings. One of the beauties of the cold-brew process is the coffee is less bitter. This allows for the development of beverages with no or very little sweetener. New Starbucks Cold Brew Super-Smooth Premium Black Coffee Drink, for example, is simply black coffee.
Peet’s Coffee and Tea, Emeryville, Calif., now offers a line of R.-T.-D. cold-brew coffee bottles. One of its specialties is The Black Tie, which is described as bold, smooth and never bitter. Other offerings include almond milk, au lait, dark chocolate and limited-edition peppermint mocha.

The WhiteWave Foods Co., Denver, is expanding its Stok cold-brew coffee brand with Stok Protein Espresso. Each 12-oz bottle contains 16 grams of protein. In February, the brand will compete in the R.-T.-D. tea category with the roll-out of Stok Yerba Mate.

This slow-brewed yerba mate, which is a species of the holly family (Aquifoliaceae), is said to possess more natural caffeine than coffee along with the health benefits of tea. The Stok product will make its debut in peach and slightly sweet varieties.

Expect to see more specialty R.-T.-D. teas in 2018, as consumers seek natural sources of energy. The added perk with tea is the inherent antioxidants.

That is what Dallas-based Purpose Tea is featuring in its beverages. The company is marketing the first branded R-.T.-D. purple tea in North America.

“Purple tea is grown exclusively in Kenya,” said Chi Nguyen, founder and c.e.o. of Purpose Tea. “It contains 15 times more anthocyanins than blueberries and has a greater degree of antioxidant activity than either green or black tea.”

Adding adults to the mix

Complementing the health and wellness trend is the growing sector of adult-centric beverages. This includes non-alcoholic beverages that mimic the taste and smell of alcoholic beverages, as well as low-sugar flavored seltzers.

“Sparkling mocktail flavors including Valencia orange mock-rita or drinks infused with herbs and spirit flavors to give you herbal inspiration, such as a rosemary gin-flavored ginger ale,” said Juliet Greene, corporate chef, Mizkan, Mount Prospect, Ill.

ArKay Beverages Inc., Laredo, Texas, for example, focuses on the marketing of alcohol-free beverages. The company offers a zero-alcohol, zero-calorie liquor collection. The line includes most spirits, from amaretto to whiskey, as well as mocktails such as margarita and piña colada and after-dinner drinks like Irish cream and coffee liqueur.

“ArKay drinks can be enjoyed anytime, anywhere,” said Richard Simmons, president of sales. “They can be consumed all night long without any intoxicating effects. Individuals with medical conditions or religious beliefs that prohibit the consumption of alcohol can enjoy the crisp, refreshing taste of these liquor-flavored drinks straight-up, on-the-rocks or with a mixer.”
Utmost Brands Inc., New York, markets GuS Grown-up Sodas. Made in small batches with simple ingredients, the soft drinks contain about 40% less sugar than typical sodas.

“Real juices, natural extracts and a light amount of cane sugar gives the sodas a dry, refreshing ‘grown-up’ taste profile,” said Steve Hersh, co-founder of Utmost Brands. “This crisp, less-sweet taste makes them an ideal accompaniment to fine food and as a base for easy-to-make cocktails.”

Recently the company introduced a line of single-serving, sparkling cocktail mixers. Available in 7-oz glass bottles with a twist-off cap, the new non-alcoholic mixer line comes in four flavors: Sparkling Cosmo, Mojito, Moscow Mule and Tonic & Lime.

“We felt the time was right to leverage our craft soda knowledge into the mixer category by offering an easy new way to enjoy a premium mixed drink,” Mr. Hersh said. “Our new line hits on all the beverage trends: small-batch produced, with premium natural ingredients, lightly sweetened, but most importantly, convenient.”c


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