At the closing of each year, our team of Beverage Architects here at Flavorman come together to flex our divination muscles and attempt to predict the beverage trends of the upcoming year. The realm of drink innovation is an ever-changing machine, and it’s our job to keep up to date with what people are drinking in order to Change What the World is Drinking! Alas, it’s that time of the year again…and we’re ready to take on 2024 by storm after another year of successes and lessons.
So, without further ado, let’s dive into these tantalizing sips of wisdom that will leave you thirsting for the exciting journey that the new year holds in store!
Flavor Trends: Opposites Attract
Let’s start by emphasizing the pivotal role of flavor in beverages. As 2023 has brought us into a new age of tech marvels, media madness, and innovation that makes your head spin…consumer tastebuds are evolving with similar energy. We think this period of change will be reflected in beverages through the harmonious fusion of flavors that exist at opposite ends of the spectrum. Take, for instance, the marriage of sweet and spicy flavor profiles, or what we like to call “Sweet Heat”. Picture yourself sipping on a refreshing mango habanero pressed juice or a zesty spicy margarita. This interplay of contrasting flavor profiles is poised to deliver both the zing and the zen to either settle the soul or liven your spirits.
Another noteworthy trend in this category is the rise of sumptuous flavors that execute with a fitness twist. We’re observing a growing craving for indulgent flavor profiles, like sugar cookies, brownies, pastries, and red velvet; all juxtaposed with a low-cal label. And speaking of innovation, the beverage world is brewing up ways to harness these flavors. From crafting functional beverages that satisfy your sweet tooth with guilt-free charm to mixing up Ready-to-Drink cocktails that don’t tip your caloric intake. While we’re advocates for “treating yourself”, these alternatives may provide more flexibility for those testing out their New Year’s diet!
Ingredients Trends: Quality Over Quantity
Typically, the ingredients for shelf stable beverages stay relatively stagnant. Chemistry and regulations seem to follow the same script, occasionally throwing in a plot twist with new discoveries or innovation. However, there are still some changes as it relates to health and quality of ingredients. We anticipate a less-is-more approach, where drink developers prioritize quality over quantity, particularly when it comes to unnecessary additives for appearance. One example is “Cloud”, which is an emulsion of oil that is designed to give beverages a cloudy or hazy appearance. A real-life example of this would be the visual difference between Mountain Dew and Sprite. With California recently banning Brominated Vegetable Oil, (a component in many beverage clouds), it’s easy to surmise that other beverage developers will follow suit and turn their finger to these ingredients when concocting their drink.
Our go-to science consultant is Kristen Wemer, Chief Technical Officer at Flavorman. She says, “From a formula standpoint, removing color and cloud is only a positive – it’s not doing anything to stabilize the beverage. Also, since everything these days is going into a can, the way the liquid looks is much less important. Less ingredients – and less cost – is better for everyone involved.”
So take it from Flavorman’s ingredients-expert that there will be very little cloudy days in 2024 – at least in the beverage world!
Technology Trends: New and Improved
Unlike ingredients, technology is a category that is revitalizing nearly every month, let alone year over year. For 2024, the resounding theme in the technology sector of the beverage industry is everything “New and Improved”. With this, sustainability stands out as the elephant in the room. This universal movement is transforming every trade and craft, but of course our particular focus is on how the beverage industry plans to embrace environmental conscientiousness. There are several indicators pointing to big players in the beverage game taking substantial steps towards achieving net-zero emissions in the coming year. And it is our hope that the entire industry will follow suit, both for the environment as well as for the longevity of the beverage universe as we know it!
In the realm of tech, artificial intelligence stands as a formidable force impacting all trades, including the world of refreshments. As drink developers, we’re naturally drawn to any robotic wizardry that can streamline our process and reduce any margin of error. But AI’s influence extends far beyond our field. Startups like Overproof and Food Analytics use artificial intelligence to provide key insights into consumer behavior, ingredient design, and market trends all specific to the food/beverage industry. Now before relinquishing the human touch in the craft, we wholeheartedly recommend thorough research. Nonetheless, AI is a trend to watch closely in the coming year, with the potential to become a powerhouse in reshaping the way we sip and savor.
Branding Trends: Collaborate and Conquer
The final trend category that we’re excited to touch on is the captivating universe of branding. How are beverage companies positioning themselves in this vast industry? We’ve detected a fascinating pattern among prominent beverage companies who are venturing into new territories through collaborations and product diversification. Take SunnyD, for instance, a brand primarily known for its orange juice-like drink, now creating a vodka seltzer to essentially mimic a Ready-To-Drink (RTD) “screwdriver”. Furthermore, White Claw has delved into the non-alcoholic “Soft Pop”, domain, while Topo-Chico has embraced the hard seltzer market. Even the Sour Patch Kids candy joined the party with a new energy drink. The list seems to stretch on and on! Nevertheless, we foresee an array of brands expanding their product lines through collaboration and experimentation to provide consumers with a one-stop logo shop that caters to all types of thirst, no matter the occasion.
Director of Business Development, Brad Nichols, finds particular interest in these realms, saying, “Legacy Brands with advertising and market expansion in mind, are releasing sympatico bar-patrons, as well as their categorical counterparts, to reach variant consumers and their respective demographics.”
Leading the charge in this collaborative branding space are the unsung heroes of your local craft breweries and coffee shops. Beer and coffee, two timeless classics, are redefining the boundaries of creativity in ways you wouldn’t predict. Craft brewers are unleashing a torrent of inventive flavored IPAs and ciders, to bourbon-barrel ales, stouts, and sours. They’re proving that a draft doesn’t have to be limited to the old-school American pilsner, which runs the risk of tasting like water with an identity crisis. Coffee shops are matching this wave of innovation sip for sip. As Brad says,
“Coffee will continue to expand Flavorings and follow-suit of its symbiotic pollinating friends, via Botanical and Herbal roots. Unconventional flavors like Rose, Pistachio, Lavendar, and Rosemary have made their way into Latte and Syrup. Also, there’s added valule to Banana and Coffee pairings, a shared sentiment with Chief Technical Officer Kristen Wemer!”
All of this is a flavorful journey where the old classics meet the wild frontiers, and the possibilities are roasting and brewing!
Toast to The New Year!
If there’s one thing that 2023 has taught us, it’s to expect the unexpected. From flavor fusions that challenge the norms to the art of branding that’s redefining the industry, these trends are setting the bar top for a year of sipping and savoring like never before. Take it from the Beverage Architects, no matter your walk of life…try something new this year! We wouldn’t be able to Change What the World Is Drinking without the adventurous spirit of our clients and the open-mindedness of their consumers. Let us raise the toast to 2024 and all of the beverage phenomenon to come. Cheers!