Five beverage trends we’ll see in 2021: Imbibe’s predictions

By Rachel Arthur

- Last updated on GMT

Five beverage trends for 2021: Imbibe’s predictions

Related tags Us Flavors trendspotting

2020 has been defined by coronavirus: which has changed the way we shop, socialize, entertain and more. And it will continue to be the biggest driver of food and beverage trends next year, according to US beverage development company Imbibe.

An increased focus on health and wellness is an obvious consumer trend – but how will that play out into the flavors consumers seek out? And with the on-trade likely to feel the impact of coronavirus restrictions for some time yet, will providing excitement at home will continue to be key?

1) Building a better body

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Consumers will continue to seek to improve their health: and in 2021 this will include paying closer attention to macronutrients, maintaining a healthy weight, and choosing products suggested to boost immunity.

“Ingredients that promote gut health, improve hydration and have anti-inflammatory properties will be in the spotlight,"​ predicts Imbibe. "Superfoods that are naturally rich in immune-boosting ingredients like elderberry, acerola cherry, apple cider vinegar, ginger and turmeric will be popular. Brands will also fortify products with ingredients like zinc, vitamin C, probiotics and prebiotics.”

Consumers will also be wanting to get rid of those ‘quarantine-kilos’: making sports and exercise a priority.

“Launches of sports nutrition products like protein drinks, electrolyte replenishers, performance enhancers, energy boosters and weight loss elixirs will increase. Brands will differentiate products by using clean label, plant-based, and/or diet-friendly ingredients as well as incorporating multiple functional ingredients in a single product to give consumers more bang for their buck.”

2) Mood boosters

Stress is at an all-time high, says Imbibe: and consequently consumers will seek out products that promote relaxation, mental clarity and improve sleep.

“Brands will incorporate ingredients like adaptogens, CBD and l-theanine to help consumers unwind. Consumers will also flock to the familiar as a means of comfort which will increase demand for comfort food and nostalgia.

lemonade getty taszanatasha

“In order to provide emotional benefits of comfort food without negatively impacting physical health goals, brands will focus on launching permissibly indulgent products made with better-for-you ingredients.

"This will include reducing sugar or swapping it out for natural low-calorie sweeteners like stevia, monk fruit and allulose, improving nutrient density and incorporating plant-based, functional and clean label ingredients.”

The sense of comfort can also be provided by nostalgic flavors reminiscent of childhood: think of s’mores or birthday cake flavored products, or long-time seasonal favorites such as lemonade for summer and pumpkin for fall.

“Disruption from the pandemic also creates a need for excitement, so nostalgia will appear in new forms such as familiar product types enhanced with novel ingredients or novel products with nostalgic flavors.”

3) Safety is paramount

Consumers will continue to make purchases based on what makes them feel safe. That’s going to continue to affect the beverage industry: whether it’s in foodservice (companies such as Coca-Cola have been boosting investment in touchless technology) or in how their products are packaged in retail.

“Foodservice brands will need to be transparent about business practices so consumers feel safe eating out. Consumers will be paying attention to product packaging and will be more accepting of single-use and tamper-proof packaging because of concerns about hygiene and contamination. The boom in online shopping will continue until there is a significant drop in illness rates and/or a vaccine becomes widely accessible.”

4) Culinary tourism

Consumers are spending less time traveling and going to restaurants, so it follows that there’s a greater demand for products that provide adventure at home.

“There will be greater demand for premium bar options like ready-to-drink cocktails that offer an experience akin to hand-crafted cocktails but don’t require purchasing multiple ingredients. There will also be a surge in better-for you libations like hard kombucha and enhanced beer, cider and seltzer.

"Zero-proof spirits that provide a similar experience to drinking alcohol by incorporating flavorful botanicals and relaxing ingredients like adaptogens and CBD will experience growth as well.”

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Do-it-yourself (DIY) kits are predicted to see a resurgence: helping alleviate boredom and offer experiences that mimic foodservice occasions. Consumers will purchase meal kits: with foodservice brands increasingly providing a number of choices in this category. Other popular kits will enjoy DIY alcohol fermentation, mixology, dairy alternative milks and kombucha.

Globally-inspired products and flavors will provide a sense of adventure from home: so expect to see brands will experiment with Mediterranean flavors like blood orange, orange blossom, bergamot, figs and dates.

Latin American flavors (like guava, chamoy, and mango chili lime) and flavors from Asia (like yuzu, calamansi, tamarind and cardamom) are also expected to grow in popularity.

5) More for less

The pandemic has promoted consumers to stock up on groceries for weeks to months at a time. However, due to economic uncertainty, consumers are trying to economise and consequently are making their purchases at a lower price point. This is going to benefit the private label sector, says Imbibe, and will also shape how bigger brands package and present their products to suit tighter wallets.

“There will be an explosion of innovation from private label brands who will launch products in growing categories like dairy alternative milks, immunity beverages and alcohol. Name brands will also offer value to consumers by launching multi-serve products, variety packs with multiple flavors and shelf-stable options.”

Picture credits top to bottom: getty/dilokklaisataporn; getty/premyaospin; getty/taszanatasha; getty/7823

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