Over the last decade, soft drink product categories such as carbonates and juice have received a high level of negative attention over product formulation. This is due to high sugar content and in the case of carbonates, perceptions over a lack of real and authentic ingredients that offer nutritional value.
The result of this has been that consumers have looked to avoid or moderate their intake of such products, resulting in brands looking for ways to improve the image of such product categories. One way to help achieve this is through revitalized product formulation, and a greater focus on natural and streamlined ingredient lists.
Such strategies will not only appeal to more health conscious consumers but also improve premium credentials in many product categories associated with routine and inertia from a purchasing perspective.
COVID-19 focuses interest on diet
Consumers are becoming more attentive to the ingredients in products, wanting more transparency over formulation than ever before.
FMCG Gurus research conducted in 2021 for instant found that 63% of consumers have become more attentive to product labels over the last twelve months. When asked why, increased concern over health as a result of COVID-19 was the main reason given (62%).
Indeed, consumers have become more attentive to their dietary habits over the last twelve months, as they have questioned their vulnerability to disease and illness. While initial concern was linked to COVID-19, consumers are now focusing on their health in general and how eating and drinking patterns are increasing the risk of other long-term health problems.
As a result, it is no surprise that this year, a total of 76% of people say that they are planning to eat and drink more healthily. This is something that will have implications across many industries, including the beverage market where historically, product categories have not had a positive image from a health perspective. When trying to improve health, ingredient-based claims will be of high influence when shaping perceptions towards the healthiness of products.
Soft drinks: a certain space between health and indulgence
Over the last twelve months, consumers have become more attentive to product formulation, wanting greater reassurance that products contain only real and authentic ingredients that are natural and nutritious.
Moreover, greater focus is being placed on avoiding chemicals that are deemed detrimental to the individual and the wider environment. FMCG Gurus research conducted in 2021 for instance found that 70% of consumers have become more attentive to natural ingredient claims as a result of the pandemic. Meanwhile, 74% say it is important that food and drink products are 100% natural.
On a category-by-category basis, 53% say it is important that soft drinks are 100% natural. This shows that whilst the indulgent nature of some soft drink categories means that product formulation is less of a priority than other categories, it nevertheless is of high importance. In addition, it is also important to recognize that 51% of consumers say that they are concerned about hidden ingredients in products. This is especially important in the soft drinks industry given that there has been much attention to complex labeling disguising ingredients.
Soft drink brands should look to improve the better-for-you credentials of beverages, especially as increased concern about health will continue for some time, with many worried about future waves of the virus. Strategies to help achieve this include focusing only on natural ingredients, streamlining ingredient lists and using simplified nutritional labeling with a variety of free-from claims.
This will not only help improve perceptions of healthiness in the industry, but can also help enhance the premium credentials of a product sector often defined by routine and inertia when it comes to purchasing habits.