Consumers are choosing beverages less by category and more by occasion-based need states, according to trend presentations at InterBev. Richard Hall, chairman of Zenith International, noted that consumer preferences traditionally evolve over time in his global market trend presentation at the September conference.

Taste, pleasure, refreshment and choice drove beverage purchases in the 1970s. Convenience and on-the-go began to take hold in the ‘80s. By the 1990s consumers were split between the desire for premium and the search for value, Hall said. Health benefits as well as environmental and ethical concerns were important to consumers in the 2000s.

This year, consumers now are making purchases based on relevance, which can be defined by occasion, emotion and innovation-based priorities, Hall said. Consumers also are placing emphasis on the extra dimensions of benefits that span from a brand’s nutrition claims to political correctness to use of humor, Hall said.

In the United States, consumer habits have made similar changes, said Gary Hemphill, senior vice president of Beverage Marketing Corp.’s information services division. This pits categories against one another in the competition for consumers, he said. For example, the traditional demand for refreshment is being quenched by carbonated soft drinks as well as bottled water.

With the changing view of the marketplace, Hall presented the market’s latest dilemma, “How do you preserve loyalty to brands when relevance is based on innovation and functionality?”

To me, the current evolution seems to reach beyond marketing and into product displays at retail. For example, imagine a cooler that offers a range of products across categories to appeal to consumers’ need for energy or immunity during cold and flu season.

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