Dispatches from Vitafoods, Geneva

Tree-mendous: NPD boom in plant waters, with 'natural' and 'no preservatives' leading health claims

By Rachel Arthur

- Last updated on GMT

Birch trees. Pic: Flickr / saaby
Birch trees. Pic: Flickr / saaby

Related tags Nutrition functional beverage beverage

Plant waters such as aloe, birch, artichoke, maple, cactus, and almond water are starting to challenge coconut water’s pedestal, with NPD in this emerging category booming, according to Innova Market Insights. 

The sector’s strength lies in an ability to target two key trends: a desire for inherently natural and healthy drinks​ in the functional beverage aisle, and millennials who want to hear a story behind what they consume​, said Robin Wyers, chief editor at Innova Market Insights.

Speaking at Vitafoods Europe in Geneva this month, Wyers said NPD in the category is flourishing, driven primarily by innovation in the US.

Top 10 health claims

Wyers sees drinks across the functional beverage category increasingly positioned around inherent health and nutrition.

“Plant-based waters are the latest emerging segment happening in beverages with the health positioning,” ​he said. “These are positioned on a low sugar, low calorie platform, for their properties from nature and innovative flavours.”

Across global plant water launches in 2010-2014, ‘natural’ was the top health claim made by products (with 58.6% using the claim).

This was followed by ‘no additives/preservatives’ (46.6%) and gluten free (37.9%).

Antioxidant claims (27.6%) and low calorie claims (25.9%) were also seen a lot, added Wyers.

“We can also see pretty strong performances for active health– where a nutritional has been added to the product,”​ he said. “These top claims include digestive/gut health, skin health and immune health.” ​(These claims were made in 15.5%, 13.8% and 21.1% of launches respectively).

Driven by the US

Plant waters have been growing from a very small base, emerging in strength from 2013, with development predominantly coming from the US, Wyers notes.

Coming recently from the continent is maple water and cactus water, positioned clearly on the low calorie platform.

Caliwater Cactus Water

Wyers notes two 2014 launches: Bettersweet Maple Water (which boasts ‘35 simple calories with the perfect hint of sweetness’​) and Caliwater All Natural Cactus Water (which says it is ‘lower in sugar and calories than nearly all leading coconut water and aloe juice products’​)

Wyers said: “This is really interesting as it was not so long ago that coconut water was marketed on this kind of positioning. You can already see there are competitors emerging to that.”

But there is also innovation in Europe, particularly with birch water in Scandinavia where birch can be sourced locally, Wyers added.

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