Datamonitor analyst Piers Berezai identified four mega trends that are likely to drive innovation in beverage formulation over the next few years.
Speaking yesterday at the FiE show in Paris, he demonstrated some of the ways that companies could align their products to fit these trends.
Health, Comfort, Sensory perception and Convenience are categories that most ingredient and beverage firms would recognise as being important. But Berezai showed that companies should think about targeting products at not just one but two mega trends.
"The question is how to best align new products to these growing trends," he said. "Packaging that makes a product easier to carry is one way. But companies can also experiment with ingredients."
One example given is the fast growing meal replacement drinks sector. Berezai highlighted a liquid cereal product on the market that contains vitamins, calcium and cereal - it is basically a liquid food. By combining the two mega trends of convenience and health, he argues that products such as this could become very important.
"Consumers are also willing to experiment with products that offer new flavours and experiences," said Berezai. "For example, De Dolle Stout Ale is a beverage that markets itself with having intense flavours such as an espresso after-taste. And Fair Warning High Intensity drinks, which come in hot cinammon & apple or cooling mint flavour, shows that intense sensory experiences are not limited to the children's market."
Products are also beginning to offer customers more interactivity. Seriously twisted is a beverage that contains a separate liquid in the lid. When the opening is twisted, the coloured liquid is released, mixing with the clear liquid in the bottle.
Manufacturers can also experiment with removing ingredients. Gluten-free beer could become an interesting niche product.
This opens up the possibility of 'healthy' or 'healthier' alcoholic drinks, something that Berezai is cautious about. "B to the E Beer is a product that offers caffeine and guarana on the front label, letting consumers make an implicit link between the product and the active ingredients. But any health claim needs to be clear and consumers must buy into it."
Consumer trust in the food industry has decreased as awareness of health and nutritional issues has grown. Trust therefore forms an increasingly important part of the relationship between customer and manufacturer.
In conclusion therefore, Berezai believes that if beverage manufacturers can align innovative new products to more than one mega trend, then they stand the chance of creating a powerful product. But product propositions must remain clear and compelling - and products must deliver on claims.