According to Imbibe, among the trends in smoothies is the ability for health customization as consumers have the freedom to add in a range of functional ingredients that fit their taste preferences while meeting their personal health goals and diet regimen.
Budding smoothie market
Global new product introductions of smoothies rose 23% in 2015 according to Mintel, which does not come as a surprise to Imbibe marketing associate, Joey Portanova.
“The smoothie category lends itself well to the hottest food and beverage trends like customization, do-it-yourself, plant-based diets, flexitarianism, and using food as medicine through functional add-ins,” Portanova told BeverageDaily.
“We can expect to see more whole ingredients and brands using smoothies to align themselves with the clean label and transparency trends.”
Varying definitions of ‘healthy’
The customization aspect that smoothies accommodate better than most other beverage categories are facilitating consumers’ perception of what is “healthy.”
“Health is a priority for many consumers, and beverage companies react by modifying their definition of ‘healthy,’” Imbibe marketing coordinator, Ilana Orlofsky told BeverageDaily.
If the health benefits of certain ingredients are not coming from a medical professional, most consumers are gaining the knowledge from word of mouth or online communities like forums, she added.
“Some ingredients are definitely recommended by physicians, and have scientific evidence to support their health benefits, while others have become common knowledge, or are based off of personal anecdotes,” Orlofsky said.
The popularity of lesser-known ingredients, such as bee pollen and maca often get their start in the natural and organic space, and from there a trend will start, Orlofsky added.
“Many consumers may not seek out ingredients like maca or bee pollen, but if they learn that they are associated with benefits like balancing one’s mood or increasing energy, respectively, and they’re available on a menu (or in an RTD), many will be open to giving them a try,” she said.
Smoothie bowls are a recent trend that Imbibe has seen take off because it offers an alternate way to mix in superfoods like flax seeds or goji berries.
Protein & fiber fuel plant-based diets
There is a rise in protein-powered beverages and as consumers look for more ways to incorporate protein into their diets, they are seeking out new sources. In fact, the protein market is expected to grow at CAGR of 5.6% through 2020, according to MarketsandMarkets
“I don’t expect protein to become less important to consumers any time soon. As plant based products gain momentum through increased awareness of sustainability and growth in vegan and vegetarian movements,” Orlofsky said.
Orlofksy and Portanova both noted that other functional ingredients like probiotics, antioxidants, and fiber are also in high demand by consumers striving to strike a well-rounded diet.
“Most Americans consume less than half of the USDA’s recommended minimum adequate intake of fiber, which comes exclusively from plants,” Portanova said.
“While additional fiber may present some challenges in beverage formulation, it is easier to accommodate in smoothies, so it is possible that brand owners will continue to address this need.”