Changing consumer interests are bringing alcohol elements into the healthy products marketplace.
Alcohol and healthy drinks used to be very much different. Fast-forward to today, however, and the two are meeting somewhere in the middle.
While alcoholic drinks are increasingly adopting trends from the modern health space, such as clean labeling and regional ingredient marketing, health products are flat-out becoming boozy. Seltzers, kombuchas, and mocktails are just a few of the types of products that are blurring the lines between alcohol and health-oriented shopping. For consumers, it’s an exciting blend of cultural traditions, flavor exploration, and sometimes even holistic nutrition.
Photo from Briggs Hard Seltzer
Bitters and Botanicals
No longer just suited for alcohol, bitters are finding their way into non-alcoholic drinks as more consumers want them for flavor, aroma, and potential health benefits. Ingredients like ashwagandha, gentian, chicory root, and dandelion are some of the botanicals building up a non-alcoholic bitters market, though simpler ingredients like ginger and orange may be more accessible.
Alcoholic drinks are expanding their bitters portfolios, too. Hella Cocktail has ready-to-drink cocktails featuring aromatic flavors like apple blossom, eucalyptus, and Mexican chocolate. Beyond introducing consumers to these plant-based infusions, there’s an opportunity here for marketing regional ingredients. Case in point is Fruitbelt. The company’s sparkling tonics feature flavors like heirloom apple varieties, appealing to the Michigan agriculture area that the company is named after.
Natural sweeteners like fruit juice and honey can complement bitters platforms.
Photo from Hella Cocktail Co.
Though there are still plenty of alcohol drinkers out there, market research indicates a growing demand for non-alcoholic drinks from restaurants, including cocktail-inspired “mocktails.” The trend is extending to grocery stores in the form of ready-to-drink mocktails, which are often crafted with bitters. Seeing this opportunity for large-scale distribution of mocktails, Comax Flavors (Melville, NY) recently unveiled a Drink to Your Health flavor collection suited for the mocktail experience but also adaptable to still and sparkling waters, juices, coffees, and ready-to-drink teas. Available flavors include avocado daiquiri, blackberry lilac tea cooler, and harvest spritzer.
For even more flavor options, Comax has a beverage-friendly Classic Floral Collection complete with a variety unique and subtle floral flavors.
Photo © iStockphoto.com
Kombucha has stolen the hearts of many health-oriented beverage consumers-so much, in fact, that the fermented beverage is expanding into the realm of alcohol. As a product of fermentation, kombucha already contains small amounts of alcohol, but it must be under 0.5% alcohol by volume (ABV) to maintain its non-alcoholic status. If sold to the public at 0.5% ABV or higher, kombucha becomes classified as alcohol.
The over-21 kombucha trend has been picking up, with notable brands including Boochcraft and Flying Embers, the second of which was founded by cofounder and former CEO of well-established Kevita sparkling probiotic drinks. Flying Embers hard kombucha comes in at 4.5% ABV. Expect clean-label trends such as gluten-free, vegan, and organic to find their way into hard kombucha products.
Photo from Flying Embers
With sparkling waters exploding in sales, it’s no surprise that hard versions are popping up. Briggs Hard Seltzer and Oskar Blues Brewery are two brands with prominent launches in this space. Naturally, their offerings are based around fruit flavors. Hard seltzers are often being marketed as low in calories, gluten-free, and free of artificial ingredients.
Beer giants like MillerCoors and Boston Beer Company have their own hard seltzers, but smaller players are entering the space lately.
Photo from Briggs Hard Seltzer
Pink Gins (Alcohol)
Not to be outdone by drinks that shy away from alcohol, traditional cocktails are changing their look. Marie Wright, vice president and chief global flavorist at ADM Wild Flavors (Erlanger, KY), says that pink gin in particular is experiencing a revival with a modern twist.
First popularized in the late 1800s, pink gin is a cocktail traditionally made with gin, Angostura bitters (for a pink hue), and a lemon rind garnish. Keeping with contemporary food trends, Wright says pink gins are now concocted with ingredients that further the experience by imparting floral, berry, and spicy notes. Pink grapefruit can impart a strong citrus element in pink gins, and flavor experts say the ingredient is a trending flavor on its own.
Photo © AdobeStock.com/Michael Gray