Beverage producers are continually having to think outside the box by innovating with captivating ingredients, flavors, and texture. We are having an increasingly difficult time putting these beverages into one category such as coffee lemonades or functional natural energy waters. This year at Expo West there was a combination of functional, line blurring and personalized beverages showcased. RTD coffee, kombucha, and functional beverages really dominated the expo this year and something that we are keeping our eyes on.
But first… Coffee
We all love our coffee, I mean how would we get through a day without it, so we are continually looking for the next best product. This saturated market has forced companies to innovate through experience, flavor, and format. We saw this innovation in coffee appearing in coffee shots targeted toward on-the-go consumers and development in functional beverages. StoK introduced a new cold brew coffee infused with 16g of protein and Smari debuted a coffee blended with skyr yogurt. Sunup Coffee experimented with caffeine boosts, offering a 285mg of caffeine in their new lattes. High Brew showed their new sparkling coffee line which will be offered in dairy-free black, vanilla and mocha flavors. Chameleon coffee launched a RTD coffee and organic whole milk blend in three different flavors: original, pecan and Mexican flavors. I think we will start to see the expansion into the alcohol world, as we are already seeing coffee grow in innovative cocktail programs. Cocktails in a can grew a tremendous amount last year and there may be some possibilities for RTD Coffee Cocktails.
I mean who doesn’t love kombucha?! As many consumers are fearful to brew their own batch, kombucha brands are showing a lot of promise. This functional beverage is increasing its reach and making strides toward mainstream visibility. Health-Ade, Humm, Suja and Brew Dr. all came to Expo West innovating with new flavors and formats. Brew Dr. Kombucha decided to launch a more accessible and convenient format in aluminum cans. Suja shared a “mini booch” bottled size kombucha. Humm shared their new reduced sugar kombuchas with only 5 grams of sugar in each bottle. Health-Ade took a different approach, they launched a new flavor (Jalapeño Kiwi Cucumber) in a new 8 oz bottle targeted for food service. Lastly, Uncle Matt’s Organic (well known for their juices) decided to extend their offerings and move into kombucha. This category is full of so much energy and excitement and I believe we will start to see other fermented beverages make their way into the market.
Functional beverages can offer different benefits from ingredients as far out as CBD, kava or ashwagandha. This category is blowing up right now as consumers are investing in their health. They are willing to spend more on products they believe are benefiting themselves. These benefits can be different for each consumer. I want a product that helps me relax because I can be very high strung, and my husband, on the other spectrum, may want one that gives him a boost of energy because our two-year-old runs him ragged. It is important to note that functional is growing outside of just offering energy benefits in to a more holistic approach. These include beauty benefits or very specific health needs such as qīī (pronounced ‘chee’) debuted at the expo as an all natural tea that improves your dental hygiene by cleaning plaque while you drink the tea.
Functionality was emphasized in multiple beverages and formats. Ingredients such as Oolong tea, drinking vinegar, CBD and cold pressed juices offered healthly or clean energizing benefits. We saw CBD make its entrance here in Buddha’s Teas and Tree Below Zero. The stand out here was caffeine, many companies are trying to find ways to add natural energizing elements to their beverages.
We also saw the appearance of apple cider vinegar, a fermented beverage that’s health benefits are not proven, trying to reach a more mainstream audience by introducing more palatable products. Vermont Village showed their ACV shots line extension this year with daily detox, green energy and beauty boost. Beauty boost is made with collagen, Green Energy with matcha and Daily Detox with activated charcoal and won a Nexty Award! A Portuguese juice brand called Sonatural Juices shared its new line of cold-pressed fruit juices infused with 5% ACV in each bottle.
Tea brand Matchabar and plant-based hydration company Zola both announced new energy lines at the show. Matchabar launched a canned line promising energy from matcha and green tea extract. The line launched at the Coachella music festival this April. Zola is adding a new low-calorie Sparkling Energy Water line. The line includes Pink Grapefruit, Blackberry Cucumber, Blood Orange, and Lemon Lime flavors.
Mamma Chia reformulated its energy line to include caffeine from green coffee bean extract and yerba mate, removing guayusa from the product. Green Energy Company added a lychee flavor. Naturewise launched an organic Ashwagandha Energy Drink.
The beverage market is continually evolving and it has been an adventure keeping up with the plethora of launches in the past few years. The direction into more functional beverages is really interesting and motivating and ties back into voting with your wallet, you are voting on yourself when you are buying products that are investing in your own health.