New year, new drinks: What to watch in US beverage in 2020 and beyond

By Beth Newhart

- Last updated on GMT

 Pic: Getty/MarianVejcik
Pic: Getty/MarianVejcik

Related tags flavor trends Tea Coffee Imbibe no-alcohol beer non-alcoholic Beer mocktails functional beverage Functional ingredients

What are the top beverage trends to look out for in 2020 and beyond? Flavors, textures and ingredients will all continue to evolve in the decade to come.

More low-alcohol and zero-proof drinks are expected to launch as booze alternatives in 2020. Consumers will also gravitate to 'functional plus' drinks, bright colors, exotic flavors and unique textures in their beverages.

As beverage research company Imbibe puts it: “Many beverage trends will be driven by health and wellness in conjunction with experience-culture and the state of the economy.”

To drink or not to drink?

Social insights firm Fizziology reports seeing members of Gen Z discuss alcohol and drinking on social media less than previous generations. US consumers in general are more aware of and open about alcohol addiction and mental health, which is leading to a greater appetite for non-alcoholic and low-ABV drinks.

Jen Handley, co-founder of Fizziology, said: “We foresee this trend continuing in the year ahead with more manufacturers, brands and restaurants providing a wider range of options for those wishing to either abstain or imbibe.”

Premiumisation and functionality continue to be important to consumers in both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverage categories. More high-end mocktails will be prevalent, as well as beers and cocktails enhanced with functional ingredients like turmeric, blue majik, and coconut water, according to Imbibe. Hard kombucha is also likely to appear on more menus and grocery shelves.

Functional plus

Beverage development company Flavorman notes that consumers are becoming more attentive to what they put into their bodies. This will culminate in a boom of launches and higher demand of more ‘functional plus’ drinks. 

"Consumers aren’t just looking for a simple caffeine boost anymore: ‘functional plus’ drinks are set to boom in 2020 as consumers look for functionality – and then some!"​ it says.

CBD is a clear leader of the category, sure to only grow within beverage. But Flavorman said new herbal ingredients will emerge, like dihydromyricetin (DHM) as a remedy for hangovers and ashwagandha to manage stress and anxiety.

Imbibe agrees, and predicts that the next generation of functional beverages will include ingredient combinations that address multiple needs or harmonizing ingredients that help consumers fulfill a specific goal.

Energy drinks enhanced with sports nutrition ingredients will be the most popular hybrids, along with probiotic and prebiotic beverages, enhanced RTD coffee and the continued rise of CBD drinks.

Getting back to basics

Imbibe expect brands to ‘go back to the basics’ by incorporating essential nutrients into beverages, like vitamins, minerals, omega-3 fatty acids and protein. Superfruits, vegetables and herbs will live alongside nostalgic flavors like s’mores, birthday cake and creamsicle represented in better-for-you beverages.

“Demand for beverages that support physical and emotional health will continue to be a catalyst for innovation,” ​Imbibe said. 

“Consumers will seek out adventurous sensory experiences delivered through exotic flavors, bright colors and unique textures.”

The rise in spiked seltzer’s popularity this year was obvious, and Fizziology attributed its success to Gen Z and millennial consumers that liked the higher quality beverages with a ‘cool’ brand aesthetic and relatively low sugar content.

Flavorman agrees, and says: “The global craze for seltzer and sparkling water is only just beginning. As consumers continue to prioritize flavor over sweetness, experts at Flavorman predict that ‘better-for-you’ beverages emphasizing bright and refreshing flavors are set to take center stage in 2020.”

Maximizing on quality and functionality

Specific flavors to watch in 2020 will come from botanicals, citrus, ginger and exotic foods. Flavorman said botanicals will add fresh, delicate flavor combinations that can stand without added sugars for taste. Basil, cilantro, lavender, elderflower, sorrel and orange peel are all expected to be popular.

Exotic flavors like dragon fruit, coconut and prickly pear will grow more common in beverages, alongside citrus flavors like grapefruit, tangerine, blood orange, meyer lemon and yuzu. These will have particular success paired in alcoholic and non-alcoholic seltzers.

And while ginger has been a popular drinks ingredient for some time now, Flavorman expects it to be used as more of a pairing in 2020 to brighten up fruit flavors.

“As consumers become more health-conscious, these flavor trends reflect a market shift towards beverages that maximize on quality and functionality, all while packing a flavor punch,”​ Flavorman said.

Imbibe sees similar global flavors from Latin America and Asia like guava, chili, cayenne and cardamom growing in beverage use. Ingredients with bold colors like turmeric, beet, matcha, and butterfly pea flower will be incorporated to visually appealing beverages.

Nitrogen-infusions and whipped ingredients will cause a rise in beverages with a creamy texture, chewable ingredients like boba and basil seeds will also become more prevalent.

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