The beverage industry is measuring up to the challenges of delivering reduced sugar drinks, alcohol free beers and functional beverages – all without compromising flavour.
Edd Brunner, Head of Global Food and Beverage Systems, discusses the challenges facing the drinks industry.
So today I wanted to discuss some of the trends in the food and beverage industry, particularly around health, nutrition and functional beverages. There’s a number of technical challenges surrounding that which I think are quite interesting and require some quite innovative approaches.
So there is obviously pressure from governments for food and beverage companies to lower the sugar content in their drinks, there’s obviously the challenge of what to replace the sugar with and the impact that has on the flavour. So there is a need for further innovation in the flavour development for those products. An approach that a lot of companies are taking at the moment is to try to duplicate the original flavour of their product but using different ingredients, which I think can be very challenging. There are signs of companies looking to create completely new types of beverages as well, which has pros and cons, in some ways it’s easy, because there is no history of what that flavour is. In some ways it’s harder in that you have to introduce a completely new product into the market, which obviously has its own challenges.
There are interesting trends in the rise of alcohol free and zero alcohol beers, they are something that are becoming more and more popular across the world, but particularly in the UK right now. There’s challenges also in the production of those to get the same flavour, the same experience you get from beer. And different companies have had different degrees of success, but that has require a lot of investment in equipment and innovative new processes.
Something I’d like to see more companies do is think about the consumer experience beyond just the flavour. How function packaging, how dispensing technologies can be used to enhance the experience through adding textures, mouth feel, to the beverages so that the consumers get something else, it’s not purely about the flavour, it’s the whole experience. This can other side benefits of just being more exciting beyond jut the health benefits.
Finally there is also an increase in the range and availability of functional beverages. Beverages and food that have particular ingredients that stimulate or calm or have other attributes. I think that provides and interesting opportunity to embrace IoT technologies, but also wearables and other things so that companies are not just selling their product, but also understanding their consumers better, learning what their consumers prefer, but also understanding how well those functional products are working when they’re deployed in the marketplace to help inform future developments of what extra features, what extra ingredients, what extra flavours consumer will really want to enjoy.