Q&A: What Will Drive Post-Pandemic Beverage Innovation?

July 2021

Many beverage categories saw a boost during the COVID-19 pandemic, as consumer habits and preferences shifted during shutdowns. The online alcohol segment was one of the biggest winners, with online sales of hard seltzers and other ready-to-drink alcoholic beverages rising 63% in 2020.1 In the non-alcoholic segment, consumers flocked to functional beverages for their preventative health benefits.

How are these trends playing out as restrictions loosen and consumers return to pre-pandemic habits? We talked with Renee de Ravin, APAC Sales Director at Chaucer Foods, about the pandemic’s impact on the industry and the product trends that will shape innovation in the year ahead.

How has COVID-19 influenced innovation in alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages in the last year?

During the pandemic, bottled cocktails and cocktail kits became very popular as consumers attempted to re-create drinks at home. With bars and restaurants shut down, we also saw significant growth in luxury and premium alcoholic beverages, especially in Asia-Pacific regions like China and Australia.

In non-alcoholic beverages, innovation focused on better-for-you products and ingredients that could support immunity and gut-health claims. Plant-based ingredients, such as fruits and vegetables, remained very popular as a way to add nutrition along with natural color and flavor. In the tea category, fresh fruit flavors such as strawberry, blueberry, juicy peach, and lychees grew in popularity.

What new product trends are you observing in the beverage category?

The increased focus on health and wellness has continued post-pandemic, with many new product launches focused on plant-based ingredients and functional ingredients (such as probiotics). We’ve also seen growing interest in kombucha and other fermented drinks that can help with digestive health and building immunity.

Convenience also remains a key product trend, with new launches in canned wine, RTD cocktails, and RTD cold brew. We also expect the trend toward luxury and premium alcoholic beverages to continue as consumers seek out sophisticated and elevated drinking experiences, whether they’re at home or dining out at bars and restaurants.

What are some trending flavors or ingredients in this category?

Berries such as strawberry, raspberry and blueberry remain staples, but there is also growth in elderberry, cranberry and blackcurrant flavors. In Europe, banana is being used to create flavors akin to banoffee pie. We’re also seeing companies use a combination of traditional fruits and botanicals with new fruit flavors from Asia such as the yuzu. Fruits are often combined with other functional ingredients like collagen and probiotics in products targeting beauty and weight loss.

Learn more about how you can use freeze-dried fruit and vegetables to elevate your beverage innovations, or contact us at customer.services@chaucerfoods.com to request a sample or more information.

1 “U.S. Alcohol Sales in 2020 Were at Their Highest Levels in 18 Years,” Food & Wine. June 17, 2021.

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