This article is part of Food & Beverage Insider’s July Healthy Beverage theme that explores opportunities and innovation in the beverage sector. Throughout the month we will provide industry insight into growth categories, investigate novel clean ingredients and formulation strategies, address regulatory compliance and toast successes.
What is the taste of wellness? Maybe it’s a traditionally popular fruit flavor or a trending botanical. Perhaps it’s an ingredient known for its antioxidant or nootropic benefits. Whether it’s berries, spices, tea or something completely different, certain tastes and ingredients can impart a sense of health and well-being. This association between health and flavor holds tremendous potential for beverage brands to grow their portfolios with functional and healthy drinks.
According to the Hartman Group, 62% of consumers agreed beverages play a very important role in their personal health and wellness. Furthermore, 44% said they would like for the beverages they drink to “do something” for them. Increasing numbers of consumers want their drinks to be functional and offer more health benefits.
For beverage brands, wellness-inspired flavors—such as elderberry and turmeric—or novel, wellness-inspired taste-aroma collaborations like blackcurrant apple or watermelon hibiscus, present opportunities to celebrate the healthy properties of their products. The key to realizing these synergies is to carefully pair particular flavors with particular benefits. Doing so can help brands stand out among competitors and capture the interest of new consumers.
Healthy beverages and flavors
The healthy food and beverage category is replete with beneficial ingredients and health claims, yet no standard definition exists for what makes an application “healthy.” Consumers navigating this space can become confused when trying to determine if a product is healthy; they actively look for health and wellness cues on product packaging.
Wellness flavors can help to break through on a cluttered store shelf by signaling to consumers a sensory experience they already associate with health and well-being. Brands that can harness the healthy appeal of wellness flavors will be better positioned to raise the visibility and attractiveness of their beverage applications. Although pairing flavors with need states and functional benefits is something of an art, it can be effective for getting consumers’ attention.
For example, citrus is commonly associated with immunity. Classic citrus flavors like lime and grapefruit naturally pair with vitamins A and C, as well as with emerging immunity ingredients like moringa (Moringa oleifera) and holy basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum). Likewise, sophisticated flavors like bergamot and blood orange can evoke feelings of luxury and curiosity while also conveying an appeal to wellness.
The following flavors can effectively pair with certain functional benefits or wellness-oriented need states:
- Fermented flavors + gut health: Many consumers turn to fermented beverages like kombucha with the idea of supporting gut health. Possibilities include apple cider vinegar and fruit flavors in shrubs and switchels.
- Sweet and sour flavors + immunity: Traditionally antioxidant-laden dark berries like blueberry, blackberry and cranberry carry associations with prevention and immunity. Also consider novel berry flavors that are also trending as health foods, like elderberry, bilberry, açaí and currant.
- Spices + inflammation: Some consumers seek spices with potential anti-inflammatory properties such as ginger (Nutrients. 2020;12:157) and cinnamon (Pharmacognosy Res. 2015;7[Suppl 1]:S1-6). Pairing turmeric with black pepper may improve absorption (Cancer Res Treat. 2014;46:2-18).
- Florals and fruit + hydration: Softly floral flavors like elderflower and lemongrass pair wonderfully with light fruits like melon and peach for refreshing hydration beverages.
These are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the full set of flavor possibilities with health appeal. For beverage brands to successfully launch new health and wellness applications, consumers must be enabled to make strong connections between a drink and their personal health. By leveraging flavors and aromas that communicate health and wellness, beverage brands have a uniquely powerful set of tools for attracting the wellness-oriented consumer.
With a decade of flavor and ingredient industry experience, Philip Caputo leads marketing and consumer insight development at Virginia Dare. Caputo and the distinguished flavor and extract company help brands turn ideas into innovative products with tasteful formats and flavors. Caputo has worked in the flavor industry for 10 years, with previous roles at Hagelin Flavors and Frutarom USA. He graduated with a business marketing degree from Manhattan College.