Mimicking the Mouthfeel of Alcohol is Key to Capturing the Growing Spirit-Free Market

The daytime cocktail has come a long way, from the three-martini lunch of yore to today’s alcohol-free indulgences that aren’t so hard on afternoon productivity. According to a recent Food & Beverage Insider article, that opens up a whole new market for beverage producers to tap if they are willing to adapt formulas and ingredients to reach the sober and sober-curious market.

Today’s consumers, especially Millennials and the rising GenZ cohort, have pushed the boundaries in terms of flavors and combinations when it comes to what they eat and drink. This sense of exploration extends to alcoholic beverages, including a growing demand for spirit-free options. And these groups also want the cleanest labels and healthiest options possible.

The appeal of a “healthier for you” alcohol-free option has broad societal appeal. According to Mintel, 43% of consumers are opting for no- or low-alcohol substitutes rather than fully abstaining. Some 37% also use the low- to no- category to boost health by purchasing beverages with natural ingredients and a low-calorie, low-sugar makeup.

Novel flavors and combinations are expected to carry the day. As Spoonshot, a food and beverage industry intelligence company, pointed out in the article, chaat masala and global heat are just two of the “major flavor trends that will gain significant ground in the coming years, driven by significant consumer appeal, [they are] both versatile and allow for a whole host of flavor combinations.”

Sensient Flavors & Extracts has long been aware of this trend, and it is ready with the formulas and ingredients needed to recreate the mouthfeel of alcoholic beverages. As Innovation Manager Liz Kreger told the publication, “It’s important to focus on flavoring systems that truly mimic the flavor profiles of liquor, not just fanciful flavors.”

“Developers also need to focus on creating a flavor system that can mimic the burn profile of ethanol,” Kreger adds. “The somatosensory property (perception of touch/tactile sensations in the mouth) of ethanol is unique and different than that of capsaicin in chili pepper or piperine in black pepper. It’s not an easy one-to-one replacement (burn-to-burn). There is constant research being performed to better understand that, and with that understanding comes the development of new flavor and taste technologies. To achieve a successful zero-proof cocktail, a flavor system that can deliver that very identifiable burn is essential to set it apart from just drinking a flavored water or soda.”

Let’s be taste buds! Contact Sensient Flavors & Extracts for more information.