The public backlash against sugar is converging with the trend for natural ingredients to create a new generation of beverages that are a far-cry from aspartame-sweetened cola.
“This desire for unsweetened options is driving this trend toward more and more creative sparkling waters, along with consumer demand for more
exotic flavours and unusual ingredients,” writes associate director of food and drink Jenny Zegler in Mintel's report on 2018 summer food and drink trends.
According to Zegler, “boldly flavoured” sparkling waters that go beyond cucumber or lemon are ones to watch. She cited US brand LaCroix, which stands out because of its “naturally and creatively flavoured” sparkling water.
Describing its beverages as “naturally essenced”, LaCroix uses natural essential oils derived from the named fruit to give a natural flavour without the use of sugar or sweeteners. Its Curate range includes combination flavours such as cucumber and blackberry or cherry and lime.
In Europe, meanwhile, French brand’s Smart Chimp’s Spirulina Antioxidant Water contains fresh micro-algae spirulina that gives a blue colour and no sugars.
Meat-free food for meat-lovers
Meanwhile, manufacturers' research and development into plant-based proteins is paying off.
"The selection, taste and quality of vegan products in the sector are reaching new heights this year,” writes global food analyst Melanie Zanoza
Bartelme. “Although barbecue selection has become more diverse with the addition of fish and cheese in the recent years, vegan barbecue might not have been a consideration for a meat-eater – until now."
Stand-out products will be “well-seasoned and flavourful”, with manufacturers using premium descriptions or origin flavours such as ‘black bean chipotle’, ‘southwest quinoa crunch’ or ‘Asian spiced’ to tempt flexitarians.
“Flavour-bursting new varieties made from innovative ingredients like Indian jackfruit, which due to its texture and flavour is becoming an increasingly popular meat substitute, will be the star of the barbecue this summer,” she adds.
US-based Upton’s Naturals, which recently launched in Europe, uses jackfruit as does UK retailer Sainsbury’s in its private label vegetarian brand, launched in January this year.
Even in traditional meat-loving countries, such as Germany and Poland, growing numbers of consumers are cutting down on meat consumption. Six out of ten (57%) Germans and over half (55%) of Poles regularly have meat-free days, according to a Mintel survey.
Healthy and indulgent
According to Mintel’s associate director for food and drink Alex Beckett, the US trend for healthy yet indulgent ice cream – seen in the success of Eden Creamery’s Halo Top ice cream, which wore its 320-calories-per-tub badge loud and proud – is set to hit Europe.
A Mintel survey found that over two-thirds of consumers in major European markets (Germany, Poland, Italy, France and Spain) say that the calorie content of ice cream should be clearly stated on pack while 54% of Spaniards said they would eat more ice cream if it were low in sugar.
“It has traditionally been challenging and even contradictory to simultaneously convey both a healthy and indulgent appeal. However, the repercussions of Halo Top’s success will, undoubtedly, change this,” writes Beckett.
Oppo is one brand aiming to meet this demand. Its salted caramel ice cream is sweetened with lucuma and stevia and contains 68% less sugar than standard salted caramel ice cream.
When it comes to snacking, however, consumers rate flavour to be among the most important important factor when choosing a snack. According to global food and drink analyst Ayisha Koyenikan, this will be “far more prominent than health concerns”.
Koyenikan also predicts that this summer will see strong flavours and textures that are specifically designed by the manufacturer to accompany alcohol.
In early 2018, Walkers launched Max Strong, a range of spicy-flavoured ridged crisps in the UK that they claim “perfectly match different types of beer”.