Expanding the Beverage Industry Through Collaboration

Over the past few years, the beverage industry has grown immensely. Between consumer’s rapidly growing interest in functional ingredients, and unique flavor combinations, many new sectors of the beverage industry have emerged. Kombucha, seltzers, and RTD coffee are just a handful of categories that have rapidly expanded between 2019 and 2020. However, as these trendy categories expand, new sub-categories have been created. With shoppers looking for beverages that fit into specific dietary preferences, while still interested in complex flavor profiles, many smaller brands have found niche markets with little to no competing brands.

However, new niche markets are often extremely volatile – especially “better-for-you” categories. Brands often have to spend a lot of time educating shoppers about how their products can benefit them, and what makes them different from well-established products. For example, plant-based “meat” alternative brands had to spend several years informing customers about what “plant-based” actually means (read more about that here). But if there’s one thing the beverage industry can learn from plant-based brands, it’s that one brand can’t create a category. It’s a collaborative effort to educate and inform customers – and through brand collaboration, a stronger market can emerge.

It Takes a Village

The better-for-you market is not necessarily new to the food & beverage world, but its influence on the industry is. As we discussed in our 2021 trends blog, health & wellness are at the forefront of many shopper’s minds. Antioxidants, adaptogens, probiotics/prebiotics are just a few of the biggest trends right now. However, what’s interesting about the health & wellness trend is the seemingly endless ways that a product can be made “better-for-you”. From innovative manufacturing techniques to new and exciting ingredients, as this category expands new sub-categories emerge. And for many shoppers, this type of expansion can get rather confusing.

In the latest episode of Beyond the Shelf, we spoke with the Founder and CEO of Dry Botanical Bubbly, Sharelle Klaus. As a leader in the non-alcoholic beverage market, she shared with us the importance of brand collaboration when working within a relatively new category. She attributes the growth and rising popularity of zero-proof spirits and mixers to the interconnected network of brands within that space. As she stated in our interview, “One brand is not going to create a category, no matter how awesome your brand is”.

Creating Community Through Social Networking

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: creating an online community is key for smaller brands. Cultivating a loyal fanbase through social media gives brands a direct connection to their core customers. But, it’s time to start expanding that community. By connecting with brands in the same category, or like-minded brands, you can unlock the ability to reach a much wider audience. However, followers shouldn’t just be seen as social currency. Rather, utilize this expanded reach to start a dialogue with similar brands and interested customers in order to spread awareness about niche sub-categories.

The better-for-you market is not going to slow down any time soon, especially for the beverage industry. However, through collaboration and partnerships, brands can help ease customers into the new trendy sub-categories. At the end of the day, the modern shopper wants to be educated and engaged – and it’s up to you to be available and ready to share your core message.

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