Niche products with novel benefits propel beverages

The sweet spot in the U.S. beverage market, long dominated by a handful of major brand lines, has shifted to niche products that target a diverse set of consumer needs, occasions, and benefits, according to a Culinary Trend Mapping Report released by the Center for Culinary Development, San Francisco, and Packaged Facts.

Consumer needs can be profitably quenched, according to the report. The Drivers in new products are better-for-you, including functional, nutritional boost, and holistic wellness beverages and quality quest -- organic, local, artisan-made, and retro/nostalgic beverages. 

Fueled in part by the passion of creative bartenders and artisan spirit-makers, cocktails, which are at the early stage of the Trend Map, are experiencing a renaissance as they connect to consumer interest in retro experiences.

Thanks to recent advances in technology and packaging, coconut water has drifted to the middle stage. Coconut water is a rich source of potassium, calcium, and magnesium, has no fat or cholesterol, is relatively low in sugar, and purportedly can help regulate blood pressure and maintain heart health. 

At the final stage of the Trend Map is stevia, which the FDA approved in late 2008 for use in foods and beverages. Stevia has been called the “holy grail” of sweeteners: it comes from a natural source, and has all of the sweetness of sugar but none of the calories. The FDA announcement caused immediate commotion in the beverage world; within days, stevia-sweetened drinks that had been waiting in the wings were rushed to market, in part by soft drink manufacturers hoping to reverse the declining fortunes of that category. 

Other beverage trends profiled include exotic functional flavors such as acerola and yumberry; kombucha, drinking vinegars, and “Ayurveda in a bottle” drinks redolent of Eastern wisdom, holistic health, and longevity; 21st century sodas made with cane sugar and exotic natural flavors; and functional kids’ beverages that promise a host of benefits for developing bodies. 

Beverage Trends: Culinary Trend Mapping Report