‘Sober curious’ and other trends in the beverage industry

sober curious alkoholfreier Gin
© Rheinland Distillers GmbH

Trends always play some kind of role in influencing the drinking behavior of people throughout all levels of society. Trends often have an impact that goes well beyond just the beverage industry but, in some cases, a trend also has a direct effect there. Such topics as one’s carbon footprint and plastic waste easily come to mind. Besides sustainability requirements, an individual’s well-being during consumption is growing increasingly important these days. And thanks to the “sober curious” trend, a range of new product creations have already begun to address this. Here, beverage producers receive guidance from global consumer trends forecasted for upcoming years so producers can swiftly fulfill consumer demand in such areas as the focal point here, health.

Seven key factors for consumer trends

According to the market research company Mintel, seven key factors will shape consumer markets for the next 10 years: well-being, the environment, technology, rights, identity, value and experiences.

A key issue facing the beverage industry is how to support well-being with the appropriate products — which means supporting well-being on both the physical and mental levels. In this way, the respective beverage brand can become customers’ feel-good partner.

Tailored solutions for specific target groups are very welcome. Beverages that support well-being already exist on the market, with their number is expected to rise. This can be seen in the example of Hequa, an organic apple cider vinegar soft drink from BRLO. The craft brewery located in Berlin recently developed the soft drink to have a very low sugar content in the versions spicy, dry, and medium sweet. According to the manufacturers, it’s also good for the digestive and immune systems. Or consider frozen smoothies: Henderson and Sons, for instance, supply bars and restaurants with a quick and easy option for preparing healthy drinks. The manufacturer now has 15 different fruit and vegetable mixes in its product range. According to the company, sales increased by more than 50 percent last year.

sober curious Limonade
© BRLO GmbH

Well-being is also known as ‘sober curious’

Various approaches can lead to a feeling of well-being. Here, sober curious is developing into a new catch phrase in the US and, gradually, around the world. New York–based author Ruby Warrington, who also published a book on the subject in 2018, is credited with inventing the term. The main idea behind it isn’t the avoidance of alcohol but rather the gathering of new experiences with creative drinks that contain no alcohol. This new movement has led to the market launch of an increasing number of nonalcoholic alternatives to spirits. Siegfried Wonderleaf from Rheinland Distillers is, for instance, a nonalcoholic alternative to the distillery’s award-winning Siegfried Rheinland Dry Gin. Or there’s Seedlip Garden 108, the nonalcoholic gin from the UK that Ben Branson first produced in 2015. Since then, the Seedlip founder has extended his product range with Spice 94, a beverage that features spice and citrus notes, and Grove 42, a drink characterized by the fruitiness of orange, blood orange and lemon with aromas of lemon grass, ginger and peppercorns.

Also of interest is Undone, a brand from the eponymous Hamburg-based startup that produces nonalcoholic beverages from alcoholic distillates. The labels of the four types they produce, No. 1 Sugar Cane Type, No. 2 Juniper Type, No. 7 Italian Bitter Type and No. 8 Italian Aperitif Type bearing the respective slogans “This Is Not Rum,” “This Is Not Gin,” “This Is Not Orange Bitter” and “This Is Not Vermouth,” take a fun approach to describing the nonalcoholic flavors of the various drinks. According to the company, the first 30,000 bottles of Undone were sold shortly after being first introduced at the Bar Convent Brooklyn in New York midway through last year.

sober curious selbstgemachte Limonade
© unsplash / User: Kaizen Nguy

Jochen Kistner, Product Management EMEAI, ADM Nutrition/WFSI, also sees developments moving toward nonalcoholic beverages in the area of beer mix drinks: “Currently, the trend is pointing to a mild, refreshing fruity flavor with 0.0% alcohol,” says the expert.

The sober curious example also demonstrates that a movement is often more successful if it’s serves several trends simultaneously. For instance, this “new temperance” among consumers also offers them the possibility to gather new culinary experiences and reveal aspects of their own identity.

Comprehensive utilization and locality score points

The Berlin-based startup kõkõjoo also satisfies several trends: It develops flavor-intensive beverages from the cacao fruit, which is even said to possess healing properties. Here what’s so special is the company’s plans to use the whole cacao fruit and, in doing this, pursue sustainability. Their first product, Pelure de Cacao, is a soft drink based on cocoa bean shells, a residual product from chocolate processing. It’s produced in West Africa and Germany under fair conditions. Dayog Kabore, CEO and founder of the company, explains: “With conventional processing of cacao fruits, up to 80 percent is considered waste. Our vision is to use the whole fruit and to develop innovative products in harmony with people and nature.” In other words, this also represents an identity-forming product that captures the trends identified by Mintel: well-being, environment, value, identity and experiences.

In the FOX project, the Fraunhofer ISI’s Competence Center Foresight developed future scenarios for the European food sector and identified more than 100 trends that could influence the food sector. In addition to reducing food waste, the Competence Center believes a movement toward local food chains will be very relevant. Product freshness, reduced packaging waste and a lower environmental impact due to shorter transport routes are the greatest benefits here.

esarom, an Austrian flavor and ingredient producer, has named the apple as the trend fruit of 2020. Apples are grown in around 100 countries worldwide, making it a local fruit almost everywhere. In the beverage industry, apples can create new and unexpected flavor experiences in combination with other fruits and botanicals.

Artificial intelligence to have a significant influence on food production

Dr. Björn Moller, FOX project coordinator at the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research ISI, identifies several important trends that must be taken into account when discussing future nutrition systems: “Artificial intelligence and machine learning will have a significant effect on food production. AI could also help improve the quality and freshness of food and beverages as well as reduce waste if customer requirements and demand are known in advance. Supermarkets could, for example, provide just the right amount at the right time.”

A close analysis is worthwhile

The beverage industry would be well advised to keep on the lookout for trends in order to not miss new developments. And even if trends can’t be immediately translated into suitable products at some companies, in many cases they do at least provide some incentives to pave the way for the future — possibly also a sober curious future. The latest trends can be seen at next drinktec, which will be held on September 13–17, 2021, at the Munich trade fair. Are you looking for a platform to showcase your innovative beverage ideas? Then join us at the next drinktec.

Friederike Arndt

Friederike Arndt

As a freelance trade journalist, Friederike Arndt is regarded as an expert in the area of beverages. She spent a long time writing for, inter alia, the trade magazines Getränkeindustrie (beverage industry) and Getränkefachgroßhandel (beverage wholesale trade). On the blog, she reports on the latest trends and innovations in the field of non-alcoholic beverages.