Demand for Visual and Taste Appeal in Healthy Beverages Stays Strong

The “better for you” consumer market isn’t going anywhere. If anything, it will continue growing as cross-generational buyers insist on products that support a healthy lifestyle while also tasting good and standing out on the shelves.

Manufacturers see that market as a challenge and an opportunity. The range of ready-to-drink beverages has exploded in recent years as plant-based proteins have expanded beyond exercise-focused products. And nonalcoholic beverages have been on an upswing. Innovation in multiple drink-related areas is leading to a broader palette of flavors and colors — and thus a larger wallet share for consumers, say Whitney Johnson, beverage applications manager for Sensient’s Retail/QSR Group, and Brittany Jones, senior marketing manager for Retail & QSR Engagements, in a recent Beverage Daily article analyzing current and anticipated trends.

“We are seeing trends in nostalgic flavors like blue raspberry, cotton candy and snow cones, flavors that bring you back to a simpler time or your childhood and create that fuzzy nostalgia feeling,” Johnson says. “We are also seeing trends with fruit flavors with a spice, herbal or floral note — something that is familiar but then adds a little more adventure to the product.”

Seeing is believing, and natural color options are increasing

Those flavors evoke a visual memory cue, Jones adds, saying that brighter is better when it comes to the end presentation. This is an area where natural flavors and colors can really shine.

“Bright tropical hues from natural sources are trending and spanning beverage categories from juices, energy drinks, sparkling waters, hard seltzers and fruit-flavored hydration beverages,” Jones says. “The red family of colors like those bringing guava, dragon fruit and watermelon flavors to life are in high demand. Some high-performing natural colors for the red family are black carrot juice, purple sweet potato and lycopene like Sensient’s Watermelon Rose Lycopene, which is an excellent option for high citric acid systems.

“Citrus shades such as oranges and yellows are also seeing an uptick as brands seek out bright hues for flavors like blood orange, papaya, lemon, pineapple and starfruit. Clean orange and yellow hues can be achieved by a paprika extract like Sensient’s Pure-S. And Sensient’s butterfly pea flower extract, a new color additive recently approved by the FDA, creates the perfect purples in many beverage matrices and opens new doors for developers in terms of a color palette that’s been hard to achieve until now.”

Best of all, these options come with the safeguards that consumers insist on, alongside their benefits, taste and compelling look.

According to a 2021 Sensient customer survey, the greatest consumer demand is for quality ingredients backed by superior food safety measures, Jones adds. With global supply-chain issues, reliability is also a concern for manufacturers. Ingredient suppliers need to emphasize all three demands — performance, on-time delivery and quality — to fully cater to today’s manufacturer needs and production schedules.

“That’s why Sensient’s focus is on getting the right high-performing solution out the door as quickly as possible and measuring deliveries against customer requests, rather than dictating delivery dates to customers,” she says.

Want to know how Sensient’s expert flavor technologists can help build the perfect beverage? Contact us to learn more.