The way ahead for healthier beverages

May 23, 2013

Expect more label transparency, demand for less sweet drinks, and more pinpoint customer targeting through online sales data.

Declaring that “the future of beverages is healthy,” a new white paper to be released at the June 7-9 Healthy Beverage Expo in Las Vegas examines this shift’s drivers and its potential effect on the industry.

Some 76 million Boomers and 51 million Millennials lead the demand for healthier drinks.  Each group has its own reasons why, says Ian McLean, founder and creative director, McLean Design, known for his work on Monster, SoBe, Sunsweet and other brands.  Boomers “fear their own mortality [while Millennials] have grown up in a scary, poisonous, deceitful world where no product can be trusted…they represent the transparent future. 

He, along with industry experts Rob McCaleb, Brian Keating, Phil Lempert, and James Tonkin, belong to the Expo’s advisory board and provided insights for the white paper called 7 Key Changes the Beverage Industry Must Accept:  The Future of Beverages.  Much of the paper focuses on the importance of package labels.

McCaleb, founder and president of the Herb Research Foundation, calls the “natural” claim on labels “vague but compelling,” and says “healthy” claims on labels may be similarly “tricky.”  Therefore, to avoid lawsuits, brands should conform to what “may be safe to say—that the average consumer considers a healthy product [to be] one that provides essential nutrients, is fresh and minimally processed.”

To engage consumers with precise labels, Keating, founder of Sage Group, adds that manufacturers “must provide more information on country of origin for every ingredient, more consistent use of analytical laboratories to create nutrition facts panels,” and focus more on the accuracy of caffeine levels.

Citing “room for improvement” in beverage labeling, SupermarketGuru Phil Lempert, says simplified labels that “emphasize the simple facts of their products” will evolve by 2015.  This will include touch-sensitive labels that “reveal additional information on demand….an ingredient or health claim with full description will pop up on your mobile device,” he describes.

Turning to sweeteners, Lempert also predicts, “Americans will morph their taste buds into craving less sweet beverages [and seek] more naturally occurring colors and flavors from plants.”

Other key points in the paper:

  • Beverages are being reformulated to use different waters from different regions.  Combining them with natural flavors, teas and sugars could bring beverages a new image.
  • Beverage industry consolidation will intensify competition.  Also, the data from online beverage sales will help brands pinpoint “their core demographic and psychographic customer,” notes Tonkin, president, Healthy Brand Builders.
  • Water filtration systems at home, which allow consumers to make their own beverages, will gain popularity by 2015.
  • Sustainability issues will continue to rise in importance.  This will include greener packaging, such as single-serve containers that can be molded to fit into pockets and handbags.