The trend in beverage flavors of 2023 is still under a heavy influence of health-conscious consumers post COVID. In addition, the rise of Tik-tok contributes to some explosive trends among younger consumeers.
At the time of writing, the 5 top trending beverage flavors of 2023 are: Non-alcoholic beverages (Mocktails), Exotic flavor profiles, Nostalgic/classic flavors, Limited/exclusive drinks and Natural, health-conscious flavors.
1. Mocktails (Non-alcoholic Beverages)
During and after the pandemic, consumption of mocktails (or non-alcoholic beverages) has exploded all over the world.
Some of the most popular mocktails are virgin mojito, virgin margarita, alcohol-free gin tonic, fauxmosa and virgin pina-colada. These mocktails are usually made with the exact recipe for their corresponding cocktails, excluding/swapping alcohol for a similar-tasting ingredient or using their alcohol-free version (like alcohol-free gin or non-alcoholic whiskey).
Even before COVID-19, mocktails had gained a lot of traction thanks to a new generation of “sober-curious” drinkers – young people who like the taste of cocktails but are unwilling to consume alcohol. Also, they were a great alternative for the ex-alcoholics who needed something to order at restaurants and bars when they go out.
But, after lockdowns began, mocktails have become an essential part in every “home office”. That is because people desperately need a drink that gives them a taste of going to a proper drinking spot, but without the consequences of being too inebriated to complete any work.
Even now, as pandemic mandates are being relaxed everywhere, their growth still remains strong. Part of the reason is the seismic shift in demographic – the rise of millenials and Gen Z, who are staying further away from alcohol to opt for a healthier lifestyle. In any case, these beverages present themselves as the perfect substitute.
It is also worth noting that these generations are slowly swapping ‘non-alcoholic beverages’ for ‘mocktails’. The logic is simple: ‘mock’ implies a slight negative meaning of a lesser drink, and ‘non-alcoholic beverages’ makes it seem more serious and mainstream.
2. Exotic Flavor Profiles
Lockdown of course means no travel. And for all the average Jane’s and Joe’s out there, that means finding ways to make up for lost travel plans. A simple, but very popular, solution is to experience the taste from all over the world.
This trend has affected all corners of the FnB industry, importing all sorts of crazy foods and drinks to satisfy customer demands.
Specifically in the beverage industry, this is characterized by the astronomical popularity of exotic fruit drink flavors. You have all your classic tropical fruit drink flavors like mango, pineapple, watermelon and passion. But now, even more bizarre ingredients – mangosteen, soursop or tamarind – are slowly entering the mainstream.
Among these flavors, citrus seems to be benefiting the most, with many varieties appearing in mainstream products like yuzu, kumquat, clementine and pomelo.
The beverage market is also having some strange newcomers, with drinks that have never crossed its country border before like: yerba mate, nata de coco and kombucha.
This may only be a fluke thanks to the pandemic. But even as people start to travel more often, their attractiveness will surely gain a large enough cult-following to remain on the shelves.
3. Nostalgic/Classic Flavors (with a Twist)
With all the political and social turmoil going around in the world, people are increasingly seeking comfort and nostalgia in their life. And despite being a staple for all taste buds, classic flavors like strawberry, chocolate and vanilla are receiving an unexpected boost from this trend.
Besides their application in classic drinks like cocoa, milkshake or milk drinks, there are some really creative ways these ingredients are used to satisfy today’s adventurous drinkers. Some examples worth mentioning include chocolate raspberry martinis and vanilla old-fashioned cocktails.
These flavors offer a unique chance for beverage formulation companies to enter the crowded beverage markets with a drink that both provokes a sense of familiarity and satisfies the craving for an exciting taste.
4. Limited and Exclusive Experiences
Millennials, Gen Y and Gen Z are generally more adventurous generations and constantly seeking new thrills. They not only crave an exclusive experience, but also need to capture them and feed their social media needs. That’s why the demand for exclusive or limited edition flavors have skyrocketed in recent years.
The most prominent illustration for this is Starbucks’ seasonal Pumpkin Spice Latte. The drink only comes out in Fall, and though the drink’s recipe does not require any seasonal ingredients, its once-a-year exclusivity has made it one of Starbucks’ most iconic drinks among younger generations.
In addition, nearly all major beverage manufacturers have released at least a few limited edition drink collections to gain more exposure among consumers. For example, Pepsi created a Smores Collection to award 2000 lucky fans, and Cocacola launched an exclusive, non-commercial line of dream-flavored soda as part of its innovation marketing campaign.
Even more extreme is Mountain Dew with all of its decision to stop producing certain flavors in its line-up. While some are just marketing stunts to attract coverage, like Doritos-flavored Mountain Dew, others are actually customers’ favorite, like Citrus Cherry Game Fuel. These discontinued flavors leave their fans constantly craving for more, creating a large cult following of MTD fans who actively seek out rare, discontinued flavors to brag about.
5. Natural, health-conscious options
The pandemic has further highlighted the emphasis on health and wellness among all generations in our society. That’s why in every aspect of life, from food and drink to all the other accessories, consumers always consider products that are more “natural” and “healthy”.
Within the beverage industry, it is giving rise to a host of “zero-added” trends.
We can now see numerous soda, fruit juice and other beverages with the signs “diet”, “no added sugar” or “zero calories” from large brands like Cocacola of Pepsi. They are all trying to capitalize on customers’ push away from unhealthy processed sugar and calories during a massive global obesity pandemic.
Consumers are also looking towards the “no preservatives” and “all natural” signs as a healthier alternative to manufactured, processed beverages. Many fruit juice brands are now focusing on juices “not from concentrate” or “made from real fruit” to market their drinks in a healthier, more natural direction.
Alongside their growth, another category is also gaining some momentum: herbal drinks. These are some exotic beverages, sought after for their healing and healthy properties and have been used by many cultures throughout history. Matcha, Yerba Mate and Kombucha are some of the most trendy drinks in this category.
In addition, we are also now witnessing the inclusion of many medicinal herbs like ginger, hibiscus, turmeric or lemon grass in classic drinks like tea, fruit juice and so on.
Above are the 5 must-know beverage flavor trends of 2023. Looking back at the last few years, it is obvious that consumer taste and preference are constantly changing, year by year. So manufacturers and customers alike must be very well informed to stay ahead of the curve.
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