Finlays has carried out proprietary new research showing the fundamental shifts in consumer drinking habits post-COVID, and which mega trends have survived the turbulence of the last few years
Consumer demand for natural and organic has accelerated
Consumers are drinking more natural and organic beverages, Finlays research shows, compared to two years ago. It seems that these mainstream trends continue to grow in appeal and have not reached saturation point, with one in ten 25–35-year-olds further increasing their already high consumption of natural and organic beverages.
“Consumers are seeking ‘clean label products’ such as those containing organic ingredients (18%), and free of artificial flavour or sweeteners (15%)”, Sian Edwards, Group Insights Manager at Finlays, explains. “Beverage brand owners can tap into this trend by choosing ingredients that consumers perceive as naturally beneficial for their health, such as green tea, which contains naturally occurring antioxidants and catechins.”
Boost for natural caffeine
This demand for natural beverages is driving major shifts in where consumers are looking for an energy boost. A third (33%) of Europeans are drinking more traditional sources of caffeine, such as tea and coffee, demonstrating the opportunity for these ingredients within the ‘clean energy’ movement. “It’s really interesting to see, from our research, that consumers are as likely to drink tea for an energy boost, as they are to drink energy drinks” Edwards notes.
“Supply shortages of synthetic caffeine from China, the world’s largest exporter, has driven demand for natural sources of caffeine from tea and coffee,” explains Edwards. “The ‘health halo’ around coffee and the rising interest in its health properties are paving the way for beverage brands to innovate. For example utilising cold brew coffee, a natural source of caffeine, to provide additional benefits.”
‘Hydration-Plus’ becomes major trend
Half of European consumers (48.4%) are drinking more water than they did pre-pandemic. But consumers are seeking more than just hydration, with one in five consumers (20.2%) looking for drinks with more than one benefit, increasing to nearly a quarter (24.1%) of consumers aged 35-55.
However, brand owners have to balance this with the need for good-tasting products – 16.8% of consumers are looking for healthy drinks without compromising on flavour. “Great taste is a major factor in encouraging that repeat-purchase”, Edwards explains. “Consumers are looking for new ways to enjoy water with enhanced flavours and added benefits.”
Functional beverages continue to gain momentum
Six in ten European consumers are more conscious of their physical health than pre-pandemic. “This is a major acceleration of the already well-established health and wellbeing trend,” Edwards explains, “and interestingly, this is even higher for older generations, demonstrating the broad appeal of products that tap into the health and wellbeing space.”
Consumers are looking for a wide range of functional benefits from their beverages, including energy-boosting (34%), relaxation (22%) and mood-boosting (22.6%). “This shows the huge scope for innovation in the beverage industry, relating to both physical and mental wellbeing” Edwards adds. “Tea and coffee are well-established with consumers as natural ingredients that can be positioned as energising or relaxing.”
Consumers willing to pay more for sustainability
Another major trend accelerated by the pandemic, over one in ten (13.3%) consumers have changed their drinking habits because they are more aware of the environmental impact of beverages, compared to before the pandemic. Consumers are looking for sustainably-sourced beverages with a minimal impact on the planet. “Finlays Just Add Water sachets can save up to 99% of packaging volume vs plastic bottles so are ideal for those consumers who want to avoid single use plastic but don’t want to compromise on beverage taste and added benefits,” Edwards explains.
This trend is also a major value driver, as more than 75% of European consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable products.
Edwards concludes “the staying-power of mega trends such as health and sustainability has been tested over the last few years, but consumers have only been more engaged in these trends since the pandemic. We’ve also seen some major shifts, as consumers look for a wider range of functional benefits delivered by natural ingredients such as tea and coffee. In an increasingly competitive marketplace, offering natural, sustainable products that tap into health trends, without compromising on taste, is essential to attract modern consumers who want it all.”