The global beverage market of the modern era is very different from that of the past, having moved way beyond the idea of simple refreshment to become increasingly diverse and complex. This situation is placing pressure on ingredients suppliers to satisfy the ever evolving needs of beverage innovators, while at the same time facing their own economic and sustainability challenges.
Perhaps the single most important theme in beverage innovation in recent times has been the need for more naturally healthy ingredients. For example, superfruit juices and flavours have taken hold in soft drinks NPD in recent times, while more recently coconut water has started to emerge as another botanical ingredient with significant potential. Aloe vera is also benefiting from the drive towards natural health, while energising botanicals are finding a place in the thriving energy drinks market. Naturalness is also impacting on the development of flavour and colour ingredients as product formulators look to exclude all artificial ingredients from their recipes, while stevia’s emergence as a new force in the sweeteners category is still largely centred on beverage applications and is opening doors to the creation of reduced-sugar and reduced-calorie options with a natural positioning.
While soft drinks innovators are focusing most of their attention on natural health, ingredients such as cultures, proteins, poly- and oligosaccharides and emulsifiers are all projected good growth in the coming years, thanks largely to the ongoing development of the dairy-based beverage market. Flavoured milks, soy beverages, drinking yoghurts and sour milk drinks have been performing very well in many parts of both the developed and developing world in recent times and are having a significant impact on ingredient categories aimed at improving stability and texture as well as those that can improve health profiles, e.g. probiotic cultures, proteins, vitamins and minerals, etc.
As in most other areas of ingredient supply, the beverage ingredients market will also benefit from greater tailoring, with complete ingredients solutions and blends proving extremely popular to manufacturers as they look for more convenient and cost-effective routes to innovation. Advances in ingredient delivery will also be important, particularly in the healthy beverage arena where the stability of certain health-giving components can pose formulation challenges.
There are obvious economic hurdles to clear, however, with ingredients firms needing to invest in R&D in order to satisfy the changing needs of their customers and maintain their position as an important cog in beverage innovation. At a particularly challenging time when ingredients suppliers are also under pressure to improve their environmental impact and to operate in a more sustainable manner, companies must ensure that investment in R&D is geared towards the most promising targets. Continued diversification guarantees that there are many such prospects to be found in the global beverage market.