Ingredient Trend Tracker
R&D experts discuss where the industry is headed
trends are leaning toward customized functionality and exotic flavors,
according to Beverage Industry’s Ingredient Roundtable participants. We asked
representatives from ingredient companies across a range of fields to tell
us what they have seen emerge as beverage trends, and the issues
challenging beverage companies this year. Participants include: Laura Ennis, senior beverage
innovation technologist at David Michael &
Co., Philadelphia; Suzanne Niekrasz, director of
marketing communications, and Steve Wolf, director of flavor applications, at Robertet, Piscataway, N.J.; Tim Webert, senior marketing
manager, beverage category, and John Sweeney, beverage applications team leader at Cargill, Minneapolis; Jessica Jones-Dille, industry
trend/NEXT team manager at Wild Flavors Inc., Erlanger, Ky.; Dave
Gallagher, vice president of sales for
sucralose, North America at Tate & Lyle; and Paul Dijkstra, chief executive officer at InterHealth
Nutraceuticals, Benicia, Calif.
Q: What are the major trends you see going on in
beverages this year, and how do they differ from years past?
Laura Ennis: There has been an increase in healthy, good-for-you and
vitamin-enhanced beverages, whether juices, waters or carbonates; as well
as performance-enhancing and energy beverages, especially those with amino
acids. There has also been an increase in chocolate beverages that are
being promoted for their health properties and antioxidants. And,
obviously, products containing “superfruits” will continue to
There are also more beverages targeting heart health,
bone health, overall well-being and immunity/prevention, as well as those
that deliver good fats. There seems to be a beverage for every health
issue. We’re seeing digestive health products in dairy-based
beverages coming on to the market. They are more popular in Europe at the
moment, but could be growing in the U.S.
In alcohol, flavored beers and malt beverages have
expanded tremendously. These products seem to be marketed to those who do
not like the taste of beer, especially female consumers. Alcohol products
with an energy twist are also increasing.
Suzanne Niekrasz: There
are many social movements going on around the globe that are complex,
always evolving, and that play out differently for brands. In beverages,
the personal good-for-you health and wellness trend, with products that are
more natural, lower in calories, vitamin-fortified, organic, or that offer
other benefits such as energy, is aligned with a good-for-all movement that
plays out through organic, Fair Trade, sustainable and environmentally
responsible ingredients or products. Above all, consumers want to buy and
consume products that are perceived to be good for themselves and their
families. If the product offers other benefits as well, it’s an added
reason to buy one over another. But as always, any product has to first
pass the taste test, and if it fails there, no amount of added personal or
societal benefit will sway the typical consumer to buy it again.
Natural has been on an upward trajectory since the
‘70s and ‘80s, but I’m definitely seeing an expansion
into mainstream products this year. The recent food safety scares have left
an echo, and people are more worried today about what they’re
consuming. Artificial ingredients and long ingredient statements listing
unpronounceable compounds have become big question marks, and the rapid
transmission of news and views over the Internet have escalated the stakes.
In-and-out flavors, once perceived as just a trendy
fad in the beverage category, seem to have matured into a long-term
strategy for a number of players. Such a strategy generates buzz around a
brand, and encourages people to buy it on the spot because it might be gone
the next time.
Steve Wolf: Development
of new products in cross-over areas such as sparkling energy beverages,
herbal notes in juice beverages, tea products
from unique materials, i.e. not just from Camilla
chinesis. Probably blends of herbal components,
which provide both health and energy-type benefits.
Jessica Jones-Dille: The major trend we’re seeing this year is a beverage flavor progression toward incorporating
more direct herb, spice and floral notes in beverages. These seem to impart
a freshness, healthfulness and naturalness to beverages. This certainly
differs from the robust, sweet, kid-like fruit flavors that have
traditionally been popular.
John Sweeney: There is a
lot of interest in low-calorie, natural and organic ingredients and
flavors. Based on consumer demand, I believe that energy and joint health
beverages will see lots of innovation this year.
Dave Gallagher: I see all
segments essentially moving to lighter products and less sweet products.
What consumers are looking for are healthier products, more refreshing
products. The energy category is pretty dynamic, too.
We’re seeing a focus
on functional beverages — what we would see as almost customized
We look at those as real opportunities and an area
where we really stand out. At Tate & Lyle, we’ve developed
several programs for beverages. One is sweetener optimization, where we
take products that are sweetened with sugar or high fructose corn syrup and
replace a portion of that with Splenda sucralose without compromising on
The taste piece is a key component, and we have
invested heavily in consumer research. Everything that we’ve looked
at shows that consumers are not willing to compromise on taste.
Tim Webert: Health and
wellness claims continue to expand. Key trends include organic and natural
claims, antioxidants from superfruits and a continued focus on calorie
reduction and satiety for adults and children. Boomers are also looking for
beverages to address key health concerns, such as weight management, joint
health, heart health, energy and diabetes.
Paul Dijkstra: I just saw an interesting quote from an organization
that explains that more than 80 percent of Americans consume or want to
consume a functional food or beverage.
It started off with vitamins, but there’s
definitely a trend now to add functionality related to health concerns. The
health risks related to weight [problems] are enormous, not just
cardiovascular, but diabetes and joint pain as well. What you see is
companies addressing the weight issue. InterHealth entered that market a
few years ago. You see companies with ingredients for joints, and you see a
lot of products that address cardio health. We would like to address the
core, because I firmly believe that the core issue is a weight issue and
that a lot of the other issues are related to the weight.
Q: Are there any issues you see
beverage companies grappling with,
or particular problems they are
trying to solve, in 2007?
Niekrasz: Ingredients and marketing messages are front and center, with consumer groups, state attorneys general, and the many bloggers and consumers on the Internet
quick to pick up on what they perceive to be inaccurate claims.
I don’t think a month has passed in 2007 without
news of another product being pulled from the market or being reformulated
due to pressure from consumer groups. Anheuser-Busch pulled their niche,
experimental brand Spykes over a controversy about its potential appeal to
underage drinkers — despite the fact that there was no evidence that
kids were actually being attracted to it. All Natural 7-Up was relabeled
due to a controversy over how natural high fructose corn syrup might be,
and Splenda is under assault from various quarters over their “made
from sugar so it tastes like sugar” marketing. Even the “Got
Milk” people have had to backpedal on their healthy weight and dairy
Everyone in the industry should be wary of missteps,
and aware of the power of the Internet to quickly spread information that
can hurt brands.
Ennis: Organics — finding organic flavors and other ingredients
that are organic compliant.
Wolf: Coming to grips with the customer’s perception of
“organic” or “local” and the potential for
providing this to customers appropriately. Also, the desire for both new
and exotic raw materials at the same time as [consumers] fear materials
Webert: The large beverage players are actively pursuing the
non-carbonated soft drink space. They are being more aggressive on product
claims, which was previously a focus of smaller start-up companies. More
aggressive claims have led to increased scrutiny from the Food and Drug
Administration and other groups. In addition, acquisitions of start-ups
have enabled some of the larger players to enter the growth markets.
want to create cleaner, more balanced flavor profiles while also delivering
healthy ingredients and properties.
Gallagher: As the beverage category has evolved, Tate & Lyle saw
the need to take a segmented approach. If you look at the entire category,
you see some declines in the largest segment, carbonated soft drinks, so
that’s an area where maybe there’s an opportunity to turn
things around. We think sweetener optimization provides a great opportunity
to address the whole health and wellness trend. Products have got to be on
consumer trend, they have got to taste great, and there will always be
interest in improving margins.
Q: Along the same lines, what are
some of the challenges ingredient
companies are dealing with this year?
Wolf: The same as they
are for beverage companies: being able to meet customers’
expectations with regulatory and raw material limitations — and
don’t forget increased cost of transportation.
Ennis: Masking vitamins and other enhancements that have been added to
beverages, such as B vitamins, amino acids, which are often bitter, and
omega-3s, which can be fishy.
Gallagher: I would say keeping pace with
our customers’ innovation pace is really important. Ingredient
companies need to think a lot about what they can do to understand our
customers’ customer and then deliver against that innovation. Taking
a consultative approach is really critical.
companies working with developing beverages are
challenged with sourcing and working with new ingredients. Creating
products that are cost-effective for customers incorporating new
ingredients is also a challenge in developing great-tasting new products.
Dikjstra: There is a
trend now that consumers want real functionality. Just sprinkling in some
ingredients without the functionality is not going to do it. When people
take supplements, the dosing is very controlled. When you talk about
functionality in a beverage, some people might drink two or three, some
eight or nine. So how you balance the functionality and the dosing without
overdosing or underdosing; that’s a critical thing.
Then, of course, you have the manufacturing
challenges. [The functional ingredient] has to not affect the taste, or it
should enhance the taste. It should be manufacturing-friendly. Another
challenge is stability and bioavailability. There are beverages out there
with a pH of 3 and beverages that have a pH of 7 to 8, so how does your
ingredient work in these sort of different conditions? Is it stable? Is it
stable over time? Is the ingredient bioavailable through that food form?
Q: Which of your beverage
ingredients are generating the
most excitement this year?
Niekrasz: Robertet has commercialized a
number of high-impact natural molecules that have given our flavorists new
tools to build true-fruit flavors that are so differentiating that
we’ve termed them Xtreme. Our first group in the line, Xtreme Berry
Flavors, with profiles such as blackberry, Concord grape and raspberry,
among others, exhibit high consumer acceptability and have been met with
great enthusiasm by our customers. We’re in the process of finalizing
several other groups in the Xtreme line, including Orchard, Tropical,
Citrus and Indulgent types.
Sweeney: Cargill products creating interest in the beverage market
include Regenasure glucosamine for joint health; Corowise plant sterols for
heart health; Xtend sucromalt, a fully digestible, sustained energy
carbohydrate; and Zerose erythritol, a zero-calorie sweetener.
Jones-Dille: Our HITS
Health Ingredients group has several antioxidant ingredients, like tea
catechins, specifically targeted to beverages. We have technology to
“de-bitter” these ingredients, allowing higher levels to be
used. We also offer flavor and color systems that complement the profiles
of our health ingredients.
Ennis: Dark berry flavors are generating a lot of excitement this
year. We’re also seeing interest in ethnic flavors, pomegranate, acai
and goji flavors, and dessert-types, especially for dairy-based beverages.
Gallagher: Splenda has always been interesting, and we’re finding
new ways to use the product. Another is this area of sweetener optimization
and delivering a great tasting product that has the right messaging, is
positioned in the right category and delivered against consumers’
We also see lots of opportunity in enriching products
as well. We have recently announced a new fiber platform. About 72 percent
of consumers want to reduce nutritive sweeteners, but if you can deliver
fiber to the product and have it taste great, it’s excellent.
Dijkstra: ChromeMate is
an interesting ingredient. There was an article that just came out that
said chromium can really help increase glucose uptake. You can see specific
beverages and foods targeting diabetics where chromium becomes almost a
standard ingredient. We have a GRAS-affirmed chromium in a liquid form and
a powder form. And, of course, Super CitriMax has been our signature
weight-management ingredient for quite some time — it’s
GRAS-affirmed and very beverage friendly. We already have a number of food
and beverage companies that have formulated their products with both
ChromeMate and Super CitriMax.
Q: What beverage categories have the greatest potential
for innovation in 2007, and why?
Wolf:The alcohol beverage industry is continuing to look farther ahead
than others. The CSD area is looking at new flavors, but mostly just as
line extensions with a short lifespan. The energy beverage area, though
exciting, is getting a little too crowded.
Ennis: Powdered, single-serve packets that are added to bottled
waters, specifically those that add minerals and vitamins that benefit
everything from joint health, sports nutrition, memory and energy.
We’re seeing growth in enhanced waters and
juices. RTD tea will expand even more. White, red and black teas are
growing rapidly. We’re also expecting oolong, which has also been
called blue tea, to gain some attention.
Niekrasz: I don’t
think we’ve seen the end of hybrid beverages, particularly those that
can build in an energy component.
Exotic flavors and flavors with Latino flair hold
great promise, targeting those demographics as well as more mainstream
consumers on a search for something new.
Beauty foods — water is of course the original
beverage for healthy skin, but as of today,
beauty beverages haven’t emerged as a viable category in the United
States. In Japan there are many beverages that address skin beauty, such as
those with added collagen, but beyond very small niche brands like Borba
Skin Balance Water, the U.S. market hasn’t made a move into this area
Foodservice beverages are going beyond the must-have
basics to more creative drinks. It seems that many companies today are
launching new coffee, tea, smoothie or frozen beverage programs to their
menus, as it’s proving to be a lucrative profit center in its own
Webert: There is a
proliferation of more unique flavors and a blurring of traditional beverage
segments driven by demographic changes and consumers’ desire for
variety. Latin American, Asian and African flavor trends are growing,
including mango, white and red tea, chai and lemongrass. There also are
more unique and complex flavor combinations such as juice teas, energy
sodas and sports waters. In addition, the premium product trend is growing.
Jones-Dille: I think the greatest potential for innovation lies in
children’s beverages and in enhanced waters. As a beverage marketer
and a mom, I find it increasingly difficult to find great-tasting, natural,
good-for-you drinks for my son that do not contain high levels of sugar and
calories. Additionally, clean, light waters with added functionals and
simple vitamin and minerals offer a great soda, juice, or plain water
alternative to a wide range of demographic targets.
Gallagher: As an
industry, customized enhancement, or getting closer to your consumer, is
going to be important. The carbonated soft drink category is ripe for some
innovation to turn some of these trends around. I go back to the sweetener
optimization piece because that’s an interesting idea. We see it
being successful in other categories and there’s no reason it
can’t be successful in the CSD category.
I also think an interesting category is tea. Tea has
got an inherent health halo that surrounds it. It may be interesting to see
how you can take the tea category and move it — whether it morphs
into some other categories and takes the health halo with it.
Dijkstra: Bottled waters are still the way to go. You see a lot of
them having a flavor, but you haven’t seen a lot of them yet having
real functionality, and I think that’s going to happen this year.
Green tea already has some weight management implications, but RTD teas are
an interesting market. I think functionality in coffee could be an
interesting market trend as well. You could either buy coffee that was
already infused with some functionality or you could add a sachet [of
powdered ingredients] that has a functional ingredient that helps with
satiety or weight management.