By Ashley Bates/staff writer
Bubbly, fruity and refreshing soft drinks and other beverages have seen hard times in recent years, but many in the beverage industry may call 2011 the year of the beverage.
Rebounding nicely this year are sports drinks, bottled waters and water beverages; soft drinks and diet soft drinks are as strong as ever; and energy drinks, 100 percent juice and juice drinks and ready-to-drink teas are just a few of the more trendy beverages today.
Energy, beauty and relaxation drinks and coconut waters are making their way to retailers’ shelves, giving consumers an interesting way to drink their way to improved health, wellness and beauty.
Some of the beverages also have the added benefits of vitamins, antioxidants, “superfruits” and supplements to boost energy.
But as powerful as ever is the soft drink, which is making strong headway since the end of the recession.
“I would say the biggest trend overall is the industry’s performance, after really being impacted by the recession, is starting to improve,” said John Sicher, editor and publisher of Beverage Digest. “I think that carbonated soft drinks, which have been very sluggish, are still sluggish but less so. Energy drinks are rebounding nicely, sports drinks are rebounding and are now back in positive growth territory. Bottled water, which got hit pretty hard by the recession, is growing again.”
Other trends that are being seen in drinks are increased sales of green tea, which Business Insights predicts in its report “Future Trends in Food and Drinks” that green tea potentially will be a $204 million industry in the U.S. and Europe in 2011. The report added that green tea is “a significant ingredient in the weight loss category.”
The use of the natural sweetener stevia, natural ingredients in sodas and beauty drinks, like Nestlé’s anti-aging Glowelle or Dr. Paul Tanners’ AquaForte (a bottled spring water fortified with fluoride) also will be trends in 2011, according to Foodbev.com.
Sicher agrees that Stevia and sweeteners in general will be highly studied by beverage companies in the coming years.
“I think that in terms of what we are looking for in the next few years, I think that the major beverage companies will be doing a lot of work on sweetener technology,” Sicher said. “Some people believe that the Holy Grail is a natural, zero calorie sweetener which has a very good, clean taste, close to sugar. There is a lot of work being done on that now. The industry now has Stevia and its derivatives. More work is being done on Stevia and other potential ingredients, and I think that’s probably the biggest thing to watch over the next two or three years.”
Sicher believes that sodas are perfectly healthy for moderate consumption, with or without no-calorie sweeteners.
“Sodas are perfectly healthy,” Sicher said. “Regular sodas actually have a modest amount of calories, 100 calories for an 8-oz. serving, and when drunk sensibly are just fine. Diet sodas use safe and well-tested sweeteners. Some in the media have given soda a bit of a black eye, but in truth, carbonated soft drinks are healthy and refreshing beverages and the biggest beverage category in America.”
All types of non-alcoholic beverages are going through a time of transition with the “Clear on Calories” initiative from the American Beverage Association , a voluntary commitment designed to make calories more visible and useful to consumers.
Tracey A. Halliday, VP communications for the ABA, said, “We feel that by making calorie information readily available at consumers’ fingertips, they will be able to make more informed choices about the beverage that is right for them at every point at which they purchase our products. This is yet another bold step by our industry to being part of the solution to the obesity challenge.”
Consumers across America are now seeing new calorie labels on the front of their favorite beverages, as America’s leading non-alcoholic beverage companies bring the Clear on Calories initiative to stores.
“The new labels put calorie information at the fingertips of consumers at every point of purchase so they can choose the beverage that is right for them and their families,” Susan K. Neely, president and CEO of the ABA, said in a press release. “By putting the calories on the front of beverages, we’re making it easier for consumers to make informed choices. It’s one more way that America’s beverage companies are doing their part to help people achieve a healthy weight by balancing their diet and physical activity.”
Companies participating in the initiative include The Coca-Cola Co., PepsiCo, Dr Pepper Snapple Group, Sunny Delight Beverages, Nestlé Waters North America, Cott Beverages and Honest Tea.
The companies are adding the new calorie labels to the front of every can, bottle and pack they produce—and displaying the total calories per container on all beverages 20 fluid oz. or smaller.
Beverage makers should have the labels on the front their major brands by June—and on all brands and packages by early 2012, as committed.
Other industry trends for this year include a new set of exotic flavors that play off of what is popular in the foodie world.
According to Perfumerflavorist.com’s 2011 Top 10 Flavor Trends for Beverages report, flavors like Blood Orange, Yumberry (a superfruit from China), coconut water and Chilean Maqui berry (from the Patagonia region of Chile) will be making their way to the retail shelves.