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Staying ahead of major shifts in the beverage aisle [Interview]

Article-Staying ahead of major shifts in the beverage aisle [Interview]

From boosting their immune defences, to supporting protein intake, consumers increasingly expect more from their drinks. Together with environmental concerns and plant supremacy these trends are driving innovation in the beverage aisle, explains Aurore de Monclin, Managing Partner at the HMT.

Can you tell us about new trends that have the potential to disrupt the beverage aisle?

“Sustainable nutrition is the key macro-trend disrupting the beverage aisle as it seeks to promote more sustainable consumption patterns. People are increasingly aware that we cannot waste resources like food, land and water any longer. We need to be responsible in the way that food is produced both in terms of environmental and social sustainability.

To put this trend in perspective, you can say that activist eating has become a sub-trend. This is no longer the mission of a few but has become a growing collective consciousness locally expressed in movements such as Green Mondays in Asia or Meatless Mondays in Europe. A certain activism in eating habits is spreading to the general population by making conscious food decisions more flexible and providing answers to rising ethical and environmental concerns.

Plant supremacy is the second sub-trend. Plants are no longer a side dish but have become the main course, the standard and the solution. They come at the intersection of many trends and shifting global ideologies. Even though vegans and vegetarians still make up a relatively small per cent of consumer markets globally, they are an incredibly influential segment and many look to them as examples of best eating practices.”

Which brands do you consider to be current game changers in the beverage market? Why?

The Swedish oat milk brand Oatly is a game changer. They really started being disruptive when they realised that they were in the business of change and they let their original vision ‘being an alternative to Cow’s Milk’ and purpose ‘For the Post-Milk Generation’ drive everything they were doing. They realised their mission went beyond a simple product range or technology.

A newcomer would be MyFoodie, an organic drinkable snack providing a great nutrition solution and free from most common allergens and dairy. It has just entered the UK market. It has a very sleek way of ticking all the boxes for consumers: plant- based, inclusive, convenient format, filling, satisfying and no plastic bottle.”

How should companies define their target consumers? How should they approach creating a brand story that will resonate with consumers?

“For innovation, we have identified four game-changing consumers. We called them the Healthy Believers as we believe the era of healthy eaters has passed and we are now in the time of the healthy believer.

The brand story needs to be in line with the following consumer beliefs: science-driven, ethics-driven, self-driven or heritage-driven. This helps creating a genuine bond and turning these consumers into natural advocates.”

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What is the best strategy for smaller brands to succeed in the beverage aisle?

“It is a good thing to be a small brand at the moment. The general consumer view seems to be that small brands are more trusted because they are perceived as authentic and local to the expense of big brands that are perceived as global and selfish.

Quite often the best strategy for a small disruptive brand is to start engaging with independent shops such as coffee shops ran by their owners who believe in health. It’s only after establishing itself in the right places that they can move to the mainstream supermarkets.”

What type of benefits will consumers be looking for the most in 5+ years - health benefit, sustainability, or others?

“A new generation of health-conscious consumers are really acting on the belief that what you put in your body has a direct effect on what you get out of your day. It therefore favours naturally boosted products that are maximising the nutritional value whilst minimising the environmental impact. We also hear mums saying ‘how come you are telling me that this food is healthy for my child although it is packaged in plastic?’ so plastic-free packaging is consumers’ next wish.

In the future, consumers would also be looking for a clear picture of their allergens and intolerances (even the mild ones) to adapt their diet accordingly as they feel this is hindering their quality of life.

Developing beverages that have a positive impact on the non-communicable diseases along with the right education would be expected by consumers from the F&B industry. A good example of a great educational piece has been developed by the ‘Good Idea’ drink Sugar Buster to help cut the sugar spikes.

Non-alcoholic beverages that still give a kick seems to be a segment in growth with brands such as Caliente.

For a more long-term view, clear communication on the benefits of specific strains of pro- and pre-biotics on the modulation of my microbiome.

In general, anything that helps consumers to stay on the right health track holistically!”

What are your predictions for the Beverage industry over the next 3-5 years?

“Protein beverages remain a strong driver with a special focus on the plant-based source of the protein with naturally functional benefits.

Healthy energy and ‘brain’ beverages in general (nootropics) with all-natural ingredients such as functional herbs like gingko, fruit extracts and other botanicals. Shine+ is a good example. ’Cozy’ drinks with a traditional story and ingredients such as golden milk (with curcuma) and matcha latte. I also think live and fermented beverages will replace soft drinks.

Regarding formats, powder is key. There have been many launches this year in all the different active ingredients that come in a powder one-portion-sized pouch that you can put in any liquid - e.g. your morning tea/ coffee/ smoothie/ babyccino for your child. These pouches contain probiotics, collagen (e.g. OsloSkinLab - they are having a huge influencer campaign across Europe on their collagen pouches) and different vitamins and minerals.

Finally, do it yourself solutions will grow. As mentioned above, consumers love to decide what active ingredients they put in their drink to make it functional. Ikea has also released recently a kombucha kit where you can even pick the flavour and make everything at home.”