21 February 2018
by the Tetra Pak Editorial Team
Health is at the top of everyone’s minds, a fact that will continue to drive consumer trends across the food and beverage category in 2018 and beyond. Recent social and political changes, such as the rise of obesity and related health issues combined with new legislation, have also been driving the beverage industry to rethink its approach.
Local and national governments are reacting to health concerns by passing new regulations and enacting sugar taxes to encourage consumers to consider alternative beverage options. In 2017, Philadelphia added a tax of 1.5 cents per ounce on non-alcoholic drinks made with caloric or artificial sweeteners. Labeling requirements, such as those in Chile and other parts of the world that require a prominent “high sugar” label, are also fueling this trend.
This increased concern about health, specifically the impacts of sugar in our modern diet, is fueling the trend toward better-for-you (BFY) beverages. According to Mintel, 70 percent of U.S. adults who use sugar or sugar substitutes are concerned about how the sweetener impacts their overall health. Beverage manufacturers will find success by responding to these consumer needs and stepping up to the challenge posed by governments and stakeholders around health and consumer education.
The trend toward BFY beverages coincides with the trend away from sugar-sweetened carbonated beverages. In the United States, 52 percent of consumers who reduced their consumption of carbonated soft drinks did so in favor of more healthful options, such as 100 percent natural juice and flavored waters.
Mintel predicts that reducing sugar content in beverages will quickly become the norm. This trend is closely correlated with other important food and beverage trends, namely the clean label trend and the desire for “free-from” products, food and drink that are free from artificial ingredients, added sugar and preservatives. A full 67 percent of U.S. consumers now want to buy “all-natural” products, another statistic that backs up this trend.
Beverages that boast “no sugar added” are attracting customers and quickly gaining traction in the market. While labeling requirements vary from country to country, many require added sugars to be listed. Other products display their “no added sugar” status prominently on their packages as a tool to attract health-conscious consumers to give their products a try.
Brands are already innovating to respond to these trends, launching new products with lower sugar content or natural ingredients such as watermelon or cactus water. These innovative products are coming from new entrants to the market, as well as larger players.
In the U.S., kids WATER offers naturally flavored water in lemonade, punch and berry flavors, all packaged in individual kid-sized cartons. The kid-friendly beverage boosts hydration and has no sugar, preservatives, dyes or artificial ingredients. Other innovations in kids’ beverages include “no sugar added” juices and lightly sweetened, caffeine-free teas.
The rise of cactus water, touted for its natural ingredients and hydrating properties, is another example of this trend. Brands such as Truenopal offer 100 percent natural cactus water with less than half the sugar and calories of coconut water, packaged in individual drink cartons. 
Although consumers are becoming increasingly health conscious, they are also looking for an experience and indulgence. This applies both with juice and other beverages. Balancing the healthy
options with enough variety to keep consumers interested will be important for the industry moving forward.
The BFY trend is only expected to gain strength and will continue to evolve as advances in technology and social and economic developments impact different lifestyle choices. Consumers’
response to these changes in terms of their choice of beverages will have an impact on the beverage industry, and manufacturers need to be prepared to respond accordingly. Some brands have already been reaping the benefits of product reformulation in response to this global trend by proactively addressing market changes.
Stay tuned for the second installment of this series when we will discuss how to successfully innovate to meet the BFY consumer trend.
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