19 Oct 2020 — The tea and coffee sectors are brewing with innovation – even more so since consumers are on the lookout for immunity-boosting ingredients with health being top of mind, alongside indulgence, as we settle into the winter months. FoodIngredientsFirst speaks with key players in the beverage market, with experts spotlighting the latest trends in flavors and formats.
Ready-to-drink (RTD) teas and coffees are popular today but are typically considered an out-of-home luxury for consumers who get their flavor fix on-the-go. That is according to Vicky Berry, business development manager at Synergy Flavours.
Consumption habits amid the pandemic
“With many consumers staying at home to protect their health and finances, there is a growing space for manufacturers to cater towards in-home consumers by offering a touch of both convenience and sophistication to their usual tea or coffee beverages,” she explains.
We also see tea and coffee use within the energy drink sector, as energy drink manufacturers are moving towards a more natural positioning to capture mindful consumers who need an energy boost, Berry notes.
“Coffee and tea are well-positioned to gain share in this area with natural caffeine content, offering manufacturers another space for innovation.”
Moreover, Synergy has observed some fundamental changes in consumer purchasing decisions since the pandemic began.
“Ingredients with immunity-boosting claims have been attracting consumers, such as herbs and spices, which may be reflected in tea and coffee flavor variations as consumers continue to experiment with products,” remarks Berry.
Indulgence remains a priority for many consumers, especially considering the restrictions that have been in place throughout 2020, which has seen many consumers look to “treat-in” and seek indulgence while staying at home.
“We have also witnessed the growth of the ‘at-home barista,’ a trend driven by Millennials who have grown up accustomed to the coffee-shop experience with access to coffee machines,” Berry continues.
“This has allowed many consumers to continue to experiment and hone their skills throughout the pandemic, and means that products such as reformulated plant-based milk alternatives or flavored syrups may become increasingly more accessible to everyday consumers via the supermarket.”
Consumers focus on indulgence
Coffee, tea, and cocoa are among the areas ripe for “premiumization,” specifically as consumers are looking to treat themselves during stressful times.
According to Julie Gattaz, strategic marketing director for beverages at Kerry, consumers in most regions focus on indulgent flavors, such as caramel macchiato. Still, they are embracing long-term traditional favorites, including vanilla.
“In Latin America, coffee drinking is going back to basic traditional flavors – chocolate, vanilla, hazelnut and marshmallow, for instance – and combining these with coffee. Indulgent dessert beverages, such as Arroz con Leche (a sweet rice dessert), are also gaining a following,” she explains.
Tradition with a “twist”
For this coming winter season, anything that reminds us of the holidays and creates the sense of a “different season” will be a customer favorite, says Karine Tetreault, strategic marketing manager for beverages at Kerry.
“We see it each year with pumpkin spice; a flavor people associate with the start of the fall season,” she notes.
“Some of the interesting seasonal beverage themes and styles we can expect this year include Mexican chocolate, coffee nut, marshmallow, colored and flavored foams or whipped creams, white chocolate, mint, red velvet, peppermint, pan de Muerto, churro, praline and cranberry,” explains Tetreault.
Given the situation around COVID-19, Kerry suspects consumers will be looking for the comfort of time-honored traditional flavors this Christmas.
“Therefore, in Europe, the festive drinks for the season will be based around providing these traditional offerings with a ‘bit of a twist’ that is sure to reinvigorate the classics,” adds Tetreault.
Kerry’s range of recipes has been designed following an in-depth analysis of consumer trends. The company’s proprietary research shows that the public is searching for beverages that meet the following criteria: a twist on traditional festive beverages, healthy ingredients and indulgence at a premium level.
Flavors such as caramel, vanilla and hazelnut, which have formed the leading festive beverage flavor profiles over the last three years, “will remain in the top tier this winter,” according to Tetreault.
Plant-based options expand
One key emerging coffee indulgence for consumers everywhere and particularly in the US and Canada is the rise of non-dairy milk toppers.
Simon Hague, lead for tea, coffee and cocoa at Kerry, says these offerings are becoming the coming “next big thing,” as they capitalize on the textural and sensory experiences associated with consuming hot beverages.
“For product developers, baristas and consumers alike, these alternative milks and creamers are game-changers,” he flags.
In Asia, thanks to global influences, Kerry is witnessing the growing use of oat milk in hot beverages among the middle classes throughout the region.
“Oat milk is new, exciting and on-trend; it also happens to be delicious, checking the all-important taste box for consumers in the region, where it is generally more expensive, so effectively considered a ‘status’ additive,” explains Hague.
He also points to the rising importance of companies’ rising need to support the consumer shift to lower-impact diets by incorporating plant-based milk and creamers.
“Kerry has a wide range of plant proteins that form the basis of our non-dairy creamer line,” adds Hague.
Moreover, Millennials are “particularly interested in expanding their coffee drinking habits.”
According to Kerry, dairy-free indulgence can be delivered in cold brew for the 29 percent of consumers seeking vegan options in their coffee.
For Berry of Synergy, innovation in plant-based options within this flavor space “are likely to emerge,” making these flavors more accessible and enjoyable for those who do not consume dairy.
Tea for health
The pandemic has underscored the significance of personal health. Amid a surge in consumer interest, Kerry believes the consumption of herbal teas and infusions will grow during the next few months.
“In Asia Pacific/Middle East/Africa (APMEA), herbal and spiced teas – chamomile, peppermint, ginger, cardamom and chai – are staples that are well embedded in the region’s culture and cuisine,” explains Hague of Kerry.
“What is innovative is the trend toward fortifying teas with healthy ingredients such as probiotics, vitamins, spice mixes like masala [which is said to offer anti-inflammatory benefits], and fermented ingredients like miso [believed to be good for gut health],” he details.
“Given tea’s strong reputation as a healthy drink, it is a natural choice for such fortification. We’ll see more of this trend over the coming winter and throughout 2021,” Hague maintains.
Once again, indulgence comes to the fore, so the product possibilities that combine the use of herbal teas with decadently delicious or sweet, or fruity ingredients will be both refreshing and appealing to consumers.
“Flavor continues to be the watchword, as always, and these types of drinks can provide both flavor and functionality, along with eye-catching visuals,” he adds.
For Berry at Synergy, herbal tea is “no longer exclusive to traditional hot tea.”
“Herbs and spices, such as cinnamon and turmeric, are being more commonly used across tea-based beverages to add a more ‘adult’ profile, as herbs deliver a refreshing note while spices offer warmth and depth that complements tea profiles,” she explains.
Synergy expects to see more innovation in herbal flavor options for tea and tea-based beverages, with flavors expanding in this space.
“Cold-infused teas have been extremely innovative in this area, pairing herbs, floral notes and fruits. Mint, lemon, and cucumber alongside rose lemonade are adding a refreshing twist to this area,” Berry continues.
“The RTD tea category is likely to take note of the innovation across this space and pull across profiles.”
Global influences drive the sector
Consumers today are more adventurous and willing to experiment with new flavors in both tea and coffee consumption, which is driven by “a stronger global influence,” adds Hague.
“Simply put, consumers want new taste experiences. Remarkably, the pandemic has made the public more aware of protecting their health as they seek more healthy beverage options. Yet, taste continues to be the number one driver in all regions – surpassing even health,” he argues.
“Paradoxically, for food manufacturers, there is “a reduced tendency to try revolutionary flavors due to today’s somewhat fragile business climate,” he foresees.
As an alternative, companies show a greater appetite for adapting and mixing popular favorite local taste profiles to create new and exciting offerings, such as products that “remain familiar and comforting, but which are also indulgent and new.”
“This winter presents product developers with a challenge to walk this line carefully,” Hague concludes.
By Elizabeth Green
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