How much is a cup of lemonade worth?
While you might be tempted to go by the pricing set by the neighborhood kids and their summer stand, the truth is that lemonade happens to be a much more lucrative business in the commercial beverage world. According to a recent IndustryARC research report, the global market size for lemonade is currently worth a whopping $12 billion, and is projected to continue growth at a CAGR of 6.8% through 2025.
Supported by consumer nostalgia and continued hybridization of beverage categories, brands have gotten a lot more creative with this classic drink over the last few years. That’s right—lemonade isn’t just a combination of lemons, sugar, and water anymore. This childhood favorite has officially grown up.
Here are the 5 biggest trends in lemonade:
1. Classic—But With A Twist…
Sometimes, elevating a classic drink like lemonade only requires swapping out a familiar ingredient to create a fresh take. While the bright flavor of lemon continues to be a staple in the beverage world, consumers are increasingly seeking new citrus profiles and exotic pairings designed to add a little adventure to an otherwise traditional experience.
Substituting lemon with similar exotic profiles like Meyer lemon and yuzu can preserve the appeal of a childhood favorite while catering to a more premium audience. Meanwhile, introducing unique flavors like dragon fruit and prickly pear can complement the sour, bitter profile of the lemon with a subtle sweetness and added complexity.
There is plenty of inspiration to be found across the globe where traditional lemonade takes on many forms. Throughout North America and India, “lemonade” means exactly what you’d expect: a blend of lemon juice, sugar, and water (though the Southern US likes to add basil to the recipe).
Travel to Israel, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan or Brazil and your drink will be served with a flavorful addition of crushed mint leaves. However, if you order a lemonade in England, Ireland, Australia, or New Zealand, and you might be in for a bigger surprise. In these countries, “lemonade” refers to a carbonated lemon-lime soda (think Sprite).
The lesson here is that sometimes, sticking with your roots and keeping it simple works best. Spindrift is a great example with a whole brand built on simplicity and quality. Their new line of unsweetened lemonade comes in three flavors—lemon limeade, pink lemonade, and strawberry lemonade—with bubbles to emphasize the drink’s signature freshness.
2. Lemonade, Plus Premium Flavor!
We know better than anyone that consumers crave flavor. As the category continues to gain traction, beverage brands are introducing an array of innovative lemonade flavors to delight the tastebuds—and why not? Lemon and sugar tend to pair well with almost anything. Going beyond the staple lemonade flavors of the past, brands are taking the drink to the premium sector with sophisticated new combinations.
A minority-owned brand by teenaged entrepreneur Mikaila Ulmer, Me & The Bees recently launched two new flavors of its flaxseed lemonade at Target and Whole Foods stores around the country: Prickly Pear and Ginger. The flavors, as well as the drink’s organic, clean label formulation have helped dazzle consumers and present a feel-good way to fund organizations working hard to save the bees.
Another wildly successful lemonade brand, Calypso, packages their products in glass bottles and offers nearly 20 flavors in both full sugar and sugar-free versions. Unique flavors include Triple Melon, Cucumber Limeade, and Southern Peach. During the past few years, the brand has expanded internationally and nearly doubled in growth with increased interest in their no sugar options.
Flavor may be king, but texture matters too—and it happens to be a beverage quality that is gaining more attention as of late.
3. For Boba Lovers
Boba is a refreshing Taiwanese beverage that features round, chewy balls of tapioca. Also known as bubble tea or milk tea, the drink has quickly become a summer sensation in the US. Even while the industry experiences a shortage of boba balls and the tapioca starch from which they are made, brands are scrambling to deliver consumers their boba fix with lemonade.
Last summer, Del Taco—the nation’s second largest Mexican quick service restaurant—added Sprite Poppers (the lemon-lime soda brand, plus boba balls) to menus for a limited time. In March of this year, they made Poppers permanent, choosing to pair the chewy blueberry and peach-flavored beads with Minute Maid ZeroSugar Lemonade.
Dunkin’ restaurants recently announced their own roll out of “popping bubbles” to their menu. The bubbles, which only come in a strawberry flavor for now, can be added to any iced or frozen Dunkin’ beverage. Thanks to their fruity flavor, they reportedly have been a hit in complementing the chain’s coconut refreshers and lemonade options.
RTD brands have also taken the plunge, churning out novel pre-mixed boba products. Joyba Bubble Tea is an RTD brand featuring two flavors, including a strawberry lemonade green tea with boba, now available at Costco stores nationwide.
The move to pair boba with lemonade not only provides an approachable way for F&B brands to introduce the drink to Western consumers, but also to elevate an otherwise standard experience. This is especially critical as more people develop sensory disorders from chronic COVID. The industry has an opportunity to innovate and create more interesting drinks for sufferers of lost or distorted taste and smell by enhancing beverages with texture.
4. Make It Whipped
Boba isn’t the only drink texture consumers seem to be drawn to. TikTok—the app that recently hit a milestone three billion downloads worldwide—can be thanked for giving us the latest trend in lemonade.
Following the hype around the fluffy South Korean dalgona coffee in 2020, TikTok users started experimenting with other forms of whipped drinks, including lemonade. While it is difficult to pinpoint who can be credited for first circulating the viral “creamy lemonade,” there’s no doubt that it has since fascinated consumers who have rushed to try it out.
In an interview with TODAY, user @goldenxclouds said she was first inspired to make a version of the dalgona drink for non-coffee lovers like herself. Using a handheld frother, she combined a packet of pink lemonade-flavored Kool-Aid and heavy whipping cream, using the resulting fluffy mixture as a topping for a regular glass of store-bought lemonade. She described the drink as a “cool sorbet” or “lemonade creamsicle.”
Since then, other variations of the recipe have circulated, though it remains to be seen whether this is an innovation that can be prepared in a ready-to-drink form. A user called @mtlajeunesse shared a version that incorporates ice, whipped cream, sweetened condensed milk, and fresh squeezed lemon juice, blended together to form a creamy, sweet treat. Other takes on the drink use powdered lemonade mixes instead of fresh juice, or add ingredients like egg, coconut milk, fresh fruit, or alcohol—which brings us to our last lemonade concoction.
5. Lemonade, But For Adults
When life gives you lemons, add alcohol! Hard lemonade seems to be the next frontier for the hard alternative market. While not new to the beverage alcohol sector, hard lemonade has been getting more attention as big brands seek out additional avenues of differentiation.
A refreshing beverage in its own right, hard lemonade has grown up from the sugary and syrupy concoctions of the past. Modern adaptions of hard lemonade are now much lighter on the palate and waistline, prioritizing flavor and ingredient quality over sweetness.
Big brands like Truly and Bud Light released their collections of hard lemonade and many other beverage companies—big and small—have since followed suit.
The sweet spot in ABV and calories for these products tends to mirror that of hard seltzer, with most hard alternatives clocking in at around 5% ABV and 100 calories per can. Flavors also model many of those popularized by hard seltzer—think black cherry, peach, and mango.
Among the latest ingredient shortages at Starbucks, there’s no doubt that lemonade is trending. As more brands pop up on the market, make sure you’re doing what you can to set your beverage up for success. Like lemonade, the recipe is simple: bold flavors, quality ingredients, a unique twist, and the right beverage development partner.
Have a great idea for a new RTD lemonade? Flavorman’s team of experts can help you bring it to life and change what the world is drinking. Get started by filling out this form or giving us a call at (502) 273-5214.