“Consumers like the idea of something they can drink basically as much as they want guilt-free,” Euromonitor drinks analyst, Matthew Barry, told BeverageDaily.
Barry used LaCroix sparkling water as an example of a brand that has mimicked a carbonated drink in most ways - except for the sugar content - and has experienced tremendous growth in the US because it is viewed as an easy, healthy alternative to soda.
“Sparkling waters in particular are positioned well because they are a good midpoint between still water, which can only ever be made so exciting, and highly-processed drinks,” he said.
In most cases the path to success for sparkling waters will be to continue to offer consumers something they can drink without having to worry about what they are consuming in terms of sugar content and artificial ingredients, according to Barry.
A product such as sparkling water, which is positioned for daily consumption, must increasingly provide lighter flavor profiles, limited ingredients, and very little sugar.
'Healthy' definitions are customized...
Barry added that a consumer’s perception of a 'healthy beverage' can vary greatly, but naturally made with minimal processing is a common theme.
“For one consumer, a craft soda with all-natural sugars might be a healthy drink, while another will still see that as loaded with sugar and little different than a can of Coke,” he said.
In general, consumers are becoming more thoughtful about what they consume which means paying closer attention to ingredients and nutritional panels.
Indulgence concept shifts
While consumers have not yet lost their taste for sweet indulgences, they are increasingly reluctant to partake every single day – a stance which continues to impact categories long centered on regular consumption, such as carbonated soft drinks, according to Euromonitor.
However, sparkling water will continue to fill the everyday indulgence void once held by soda because “it simply offers a healthy alternative to carbonates while otherwise mimicking a carbonate in most ways,” Barry added.
“There is an increasing sense that not all sugars are created equal, and consumers are willing to have a level of natural sugars in their drinks that they wouldn’t tolerate if it was high-fructose corn syrup or something else similarly processed,” Barry said.
As time goes on, the concept of indulgence will continue to evolve – becoming rarer, more personal, and more exclusive – and sparkling water will be increasingly seen as a responsible, guilt-free way to indulge.
“Sparkling waters create a sense of responsible indulgence and I think that is the core of their appeal,” he added.