The holiday season may be a favorite time of year for many, but at Flavorman, we are thrilled to spend this time of year predicting the anticipated 2023 Beverage Trends. Transitioning away from COVID-19’s challenging years, next year’s trends focus on the future of simplicity, functionality, environmental consciousness, and authenticity.
Color Trends: Less is More
With new beverages hitting the shelves every day, shoppers are shifting towards products with more natural components and coloring and tend to avoid artificial colors and ingredients in their products. Beverages are now mainly focusing on the flavor and function of the drink, as opposed to coloration. The lack of color also comes from a shift in popularity of cans instead of glass or plastic bottles. Aluminum cans provide the opportunity to implement clean labeling marketing to promote their natural ingredients. Especially in the distilled spirits world, color continues to be less of a concern. Spirits have primarily stayed consistent with caramel and natural coloring. In a nutshell, consumers feel that less is more when it comes to color, and whatever color there is must derive from its natural ingredients.
“Even in spirits, very few are looking for innovative coloring. Other than caramel coloring and a handful of botanicals which are acceptable in a few different spirit categories, pea-flower was the only color people were excited about, and now we hear nothing about it.” – Colin Blake, Director of Spirits Education
Ingredient Trends: Function is Key
In addition to color trends, product ingredients are also shifting to simpler components for function and health. Last year’s consumers wanted bolder ingredients for nostalgic flavors with guilt-free indulgence, while this year, we’re seeing a shift to a more balanced, health-conscious trend. Developers wish to use ingredients that provide both benefits and satisfying flavors. Even added sugars are increasingly removed from beverages in favor of the natural sugars from juice.
“A lot of clients are paying attention to the sugar content. They want the taste, but they also want artificial sugars or additives. Juices are becoming the answer. Juice doesn’t show up as added sugars; it provides flavors.” – Katie Clark, Director of Research and Development
Other consumers seek herbal ingredients such as ginseng root to strengthen immune systems, ginger for cognitive energy and pain relief, and pepper flavors that provide a functional mouthfeel. Functional beverages such as energy drinks, anti-hang-over, and detox beverages similarly use light but flavorful herbal ingredients, enough to where it’s palatable for their function. Functional beverages are also shifting their ingredients toward plant-based formulas. 71% of global consumers are seeking out functional and multi-tasking drinks. According to The Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR), the annual growth of plant-based beverages will become more prevalent between 2020 and 2027 by 11.9%. Beverage brands are picking up on the plant-based trend and its benefits. Most notably, plant-based milk, meal supplements, and fruit juices are in higher demand. Juices and energy drink companies popular with millennials and Gen-Z consumers have incorporated natural caffeine from Yerba, mate, green tea, coffee, guarana, and ginseng. Sweeter beverages have yet to leave the market, although more consumers are seeking ways to improve their daily health and consumption after years of sickness and uncertainty.
Flavor Trends: A Balanced Blend
The most prominent pattern experts have noticed is a significant rise in citrus flavors, sweeter spirit-flavored cocktails, and flavors used for ready-to-drink beverages. The flavor trend is shifting toward uncomplicated citruses with growing interest in orange, grapefruit, lime, and other berry blends. Other increasingly popular flavor extracts include botanicals such as butterfly pea flower, black tea, and chamomile.
“Citrus flavors are still the same; loads of grapefruit and orange flavors for the past five years. Number 1 is orange, but then there are a lot of variables like tangelo and different mandarins. Number 2 is different berry flavors; strawberry, raspberry, berry-blends, elderberry, and elder-flower. Number 3 is tea. Just generic black tea flavors.” – Tom Gibson, Director Flavor Architect
Transitioning to spirits, distillers have displayed a growing interest in flavored spirits with little to no ABV. Popular flavor blends include whisky, rum, gin, and tequila. These flavor blends create almost indistinguishable products from their alcoholic cousins and are featured in N/A-friendly beverages worldwide. At the same time, demand is growing for well-balanced and bold flavors to be used as added ingredients in ales. Brewers are using flavor additives as a cost-effective and efficient solution to adding more flavored varieties to their existing product lines. Spirit trends are continually innovative because they encourage experimenting and exploring. Especially for the new emerging generation of consumers, beer and spirits are more desirable when they are sweeter and have more flavor varieties.
“The sober-curious space got away from trying to make mocktails to trying to make something unique and had its own footprints, its own space, and so those flavors got a little wild with combinations that included bitters, and alcohol components, and herbal components.” – Scott Weddle, Chief Operating Officer
On the one hand, beverage trends are leaning more toward light flavors, primarily wanting a balanced taste palette for all drinks, while the world of spirits leans toward the best of both worlds: spirits with sweet and fuller flavors while also exploring lighter options.
Technological Trends: Innovation & Process
Co-packers’ technological innovation often shifts slowly, with a slight change in trends ranging from environmentally safe materials and organic certifications to what consumers can do to utilize multi-use plastic. Trends to watch out for in the new year include:
Retailers striving to obtain organic certification for their beverages and related products. The preference for an organic certification largely stems from the growing prevalence of organic grocery stores such as Whole Foods. With an ever-growing health-conscious consumer market, the clean label essentially certifies and labels products as healthy and free of artificial ingredients and highlights the importance of clean labeling and organic certification. The drive for more organic certifications also affects the ingredients that beverage developers want to invest in, such as herbal, authentic berry blends, low sugar and low-cal, and other factors that will lend themselves to a health-conscious demographic.
Co-packing companies are going through a slow but steady change toward environmentally safer packing materials. While there may be less incentive for co-packing companies to change their methods, many are looking to include ecologically safe options as the Gen Z demographic grows more eco-conscious. Especially within the beverage industry, plastic is often used as a cheap material for binding cans and bottles together in packs. Awareness campaigns by marine biologists have highlighted how harmful plastic is to the ocean; 8 million metric tons of plastic go into the sea annually and biodegrade slowly over hundreds of years. One of the more notable efforts to combat this predicament comes from a Coca-Cola bottling facility in Philadelphia showcasing its fiber-based packaging material instead of plastic. While this might be a small step for the Coca-Cola brand, this trend could allow big brands to pave the way for the smaller beverage brands to pursue environmentally friendly packaging methods. With more customers and retailers becoming more ecologically conscious, alternative forms of co-packing also emerge.
Aluminum cans are a continuing trend that will prosper because they are more efficient and easier to recycle. However, even recycling aluminum cans has become more complicated due to a concerning factor in the beverage industry: shrink-sleeves/wraps. Shrink sleeves/wraps are an ever-growing trend for a low-cost packaging/printing alternative for cans in the beverage industry. Although they are cost-effective and visually appealing, shrink-sleeves/wraps are an additional hurdle in efficiently recycling aluminum cans because the plastic sleeve/wrap must still be removed. The industry has realized this ever-growing issue and has since released T-perforation options for shrink-sleeves, this new design will become a must-have option when producers opt in for shrink-sleeves.
The budding use of Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) and polyester bottling in beverage manufacturing is a prominent concern with environmentalists & consumers. Despite the trend of manufacturers using PET for bottling, it’s not without its faults. PET is a form of plastic that is often more easily malleable in use than standard plastic, which is an excellent tool for customizing your products. While many companies will market the recyclability of PET bottles, they need to practice what they preach. Many significant industries still make more plastic than needed and often don’t reuse these supplies. As the PET trend catches on, it’s up to consumers to find creative and ensuring ways of recycling PET plastic bottles for the overall betterment of the earth. As beverage production incorporates new and emerging technological innovations to account for the impact of production on the environment and consumer health, beverage developers must remember to take their time with their ideas to fit the continually evolving changes in the industry.
“It is critical for new clients to take their time to evaluate all aspects of a beverage formulation, packaging, and production in regulating best practices. Ready-to-drink cocktails and spirits will continue to expand into unconventional packaging formats like aluminum bottles, bag-in-box, and other size offerings over the next few years; emerging brands must take time to develop their products that perfectly combine production with sustainability, ethicality, and long-term growth.” – Brad Nichols, Business Development Executive Director
While 2023 brings much-needed ease from years of challenging circumstances, this analysis reminds us that we must be continually conscious of how the products we consume affect our health and our consumption affects our planet’s well-being. With 30 years in the beverage business and over 80,000 drink formulations, Flavorman compiles this annual trends summary and examines various beverage projects passed through its laboratory over the year. We encourage consumers and producers alike to remember that we are all accountable for finding inventive and innovative ways to participate in responsible and healthy consumption.
Have a beverage idea that would trend in 2023? Flavorman can help you bring it to life! Call us at (502)273-5214 or contact our team through this webform.