Innova has tracked a growing number of soft drinks launches that promote wellness claims and the use of functional ingredients such as prebiotics and probiotics. Immunity boosting vitamins and minerals have also been a growth area. In the soft drinks category (including bottled water, carbonated soft drinks, juices and iced tea/coffee), the number of new launches making health claims rose +35% in 2020 vs. 2019 and +52% in 2021 vs. 2020. At the same time, producers have continued to shine a light on reduced sugar content.
This has had an influence on flavor choices, especially as consumers associate certain flavors with specific health benefits. Citrus fruits are an obvious place to start, widely known for being rich in vitamins, minerals, and polyphenols. Orange juice is recognized as a source vitamin C which, in turn, is regarded as beneficial to the immune system. Consumers extend similar qualities to other citrus flavors like lime, lemon and yuzu, which are all showing growth in healthy soft drink launches.
The science of spice
This pattern extends to spices, with confirmation of health assumptions appearing to come from scientific studies. Turmeric has a reputation for anti-inflammatory properties that help treat ailments such as arthritis. It has also been studied as an aid to fighting symptoms of depression. Ginger is thought to have potential benefits in the fight against COVID, with both these spices among the fastest growing flavors in soft drinks product launches. The addition of scientific rigor increases public belief in the healthiness of those flavors. Combining them with superfruits like elderberries or functional ingredients can further enhance the dual messages of healthy and flavorful.
Growing consumer interest in healthier soft drinks will continue to spur manufacturers’ use of flavors associated with wellbeing. There is also likely to be an expansion from this base, with tastes designed to capture the interest of more experimental, but still health conscious, younger demographics. It remains clear that a healthy message is enhanced through popular beliefs centered on taste.