The Kinds of Beverages Consumers Are Really Craving

To answer the question of what beverages consumers now look for, it’s valuable to first consider that consumers are people – people with different lifestyles, backgrounds, and families – who are taking increasing responsibility for the outcomes of their purchase decisions. Simply put, people want:

  1. To be told the truth
  2. To take care of their health

Surprising? Shouldn’t be. Although many food and beverage behemoths have started to catch on only recently, smaller businesses and startups have typically accommodated demand for transparent, healthy beverages.

The buzzword “transparency” names the food and beverage industry’s movement to reveal what’s in a given product and where it was sourced. Some progressive businesses are telling their transparent sourcing stories as a means of differentiating and building their brand. Whether it be Sunshine Dairy Foods’ cold-brew technology, Top Line Milk’s low-temp pasteurization technique, or Suja’s functional ingredient selection, a brand’s unique sourcing story allows it to stand out in an often crowded category.

Some beverage companies are constructing entire marketing campaigns around the transparency movement. ZICO Coconut Water, for instance, recently promoted its #InsideIsEverything campaign through sharing uplifting findings from a consumer survey about Americans’ life perspectives and hosting a series of thought-provoking experiential events in New York City. ZICO’s campaign offers the compelling message that authenticity is not only important to find in what we drink (such as their simple, no-added-anything coconut water) but is essential in our personal lives as well.

Despite the transparency movement, taste still matters to consumers. As Koia CEO Chris Hunter explains, “. . . people value simple, natural, transparent products that don’t force them to compromise on flavor.” Koia manufactures plant-based protein beverages that are free of dairy, soy, and gluten and are non-GMO. Koia’s health-focus combined with its emphasis on taste places it right at the heart of many consumer’s current beverage preferences.

Many other beverage brands have responded to growing demand for products that foster health. Last fall, for instance, Garden Party introduced all-natural botanical hard sodas and Suja Juice Co. released a line of organic drinking vinegars. Tropicana also recently rolled out its line of 100 percent juices containing probiotics called Tropicana Essentials Probiotics. Again, brands recognize that taste remains a priority. Björn Bernemann, vice president and general manager for Tropicana North America, says that, as people are only getting busier, “they’re looking for on-the-go solutions that don’t compromise on taste and nutrition.”

Further evidence of the beverage industry’s shift toward healthy yet tasty products can be seen in the rising popularity of plant waters. People who drink plant waters may be drawn to “the simple ingredient lists and to hydrators that offer a little more flavor, or at least a variation, from plain bottled waters,” says Roger Dilworth, senior analyst with Beverage Marketing Corporation (BMC). Dilworth contends that developments in the coconut water segment have allowed other plant waters such as maple, cactus, and birch waters to start finding traction.

In recap, consumers want to be told the truth about where their drinks came from. They also want drinks that promote their health and do not compromise on flavor.