While consumers are demanding better-for-you beverages—fewer calories, natural ingredients, functionality—that doesn’t mean they are excluding themselves from having a treat every now and again, minus the guilt.
Teresa Olah, beverage marketing manager for Sensient Flavors, based in Hoffman Estates, Ill., recounts that consumer expectations are changing with regard to how they eat, particularly snacking.
“There has been an evolution in the industry on how we eat,” she says, “ and snacking has become a new way of eating. We are no longer eating three meals a day.”
The definition of a “snack,” she explains, has changed. Three or four years ago, many would define a snack as pretzels, grapes or nuts, for example. But today, the idea of a snack also includes beverages and sometimes those that would be considered indulgent.
“Beverages have really entered that portfolio of snacks,” says Olah, “and I think that CPG companies and a lot of beverage manufacturers are really trying to understand how they fit into that trend and how they can be perceived as a snacking opportunity if we are no longer eating lunch and we are eating at 3 in the afternoon.”
Such meal replacement-type beverages include indulgent smoothies that contain servings of fruit and sometimes benefits like immunity, or protein, which gives consumers a more full feeling, and antioxidants with superfruits blended into the drink. The combination of those ingredients and healthy benefits allows consumers to indulge in a beverage that might be high in sugar and calories without feeling bad because they are replacing a meal with it.
Gary Hemphill, managing director and COO, Information Services, Beverage Marketing Corporation, based in New York City, believes that there is an opportunity for indulgent drinks to market themselves as a treat in the midst of health and wellness chatter circling the industry.
“Health and wellness is a huge ongoing trend that impacts virtually all of the categories,” he says. “But consumers don’t want to be good all the time and they want some balance. People want to change pace occasionally and they want to indulge, and that’s where indulgent-type beverages fall.”
In addition to fruit smoothies (RTD as well as foodservice) premium sodas formulated with cane sugar, RTD chocolate shakes and drinks and coffee drinks, hot and cold, all fit into this category.
“I definitely think that this is an area that hasn’t been explored quite as much, at least at the high-end,” notes Hemphill. “The greatest focus has been on healthier drinks, but as people want some balance in their lives, and they want to indulge, there is an opportunity for products like those that tend to be full calorie, tend to be richer. They aren’t products that you would drink all the time or even drink every day, but products that you would drink as a change of pace when you want to treat yourself.”
A recent Mintel report recounts that consumers in the U.S. are indulging in frozen coffee drinks, for example. Overall, frozen coffee drinks have increased by 20 percent in U.S. foodservice from 2008-2012, according to Mintel Menu Insights.
Jonny Forsyth, global drinks analyst, Mintel, explains that frozen coffee drinks, such as a frappucino, are seeing a “huge uptick” while iced coffees have declined as people prefer to go for a more indulgent frozen choice. “Consumers are turning more towards cold coffee because having grown up with soft drinks they are looking for refreshment,” he says. “Blended frozen coffees also tap into a trend towards indulgence, especially as they work particularly well with sweet flavors (such as vanilla, hazelnut), which satisfy today’s ‘sweet tooth’ millennial generation.”
Millennial or not, everyone deserves to have an indulgent treat every now and then.