Big and bold flavors, guilt-free indulgence, and a return to simplicity will dominate drinks in the year ahead.
Once opting for a gentle spritz of nuanced flavors, beverage makers now seek bigger and bolder profiles.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Driven by the long-term effects of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Flavorman forecasts three beverage trends that operators should keep an eye out for in 2022.
With nearly 30 years in the beverage business and more than 70,000 drink formulations, Flavorman compiles the annual trends summary through examination of beverage projects that have passed through its laboratory over the last 12 months.
The top three trends to watch are:
Big & Bold
As evidenced by the seltzer boom of the last few years, drinks with subtle displays of flavor have previously taken center stage, but that is likely to change in 2022. With the seltzer market beginning to saturate, beverage makers are now seeking ways to differentiate from the competition, opting for bigger and bolder profiles.
"Client requests have taken a 180-degree turn on flavor, especially where seltzers and sparkling waters are concerned," said Tom Gibson, chief flavorist for Flavorman. "Whereas before, clients would be looking for a gentler spritz of nuanced flavors in their drink, we are now seeing more clients ask for loud and proud, single-note flavors."
In 2022, expect beverage makers to continue emphasizing the presence of familiar flavors in drinks across categories, while childhood favorites like watermelon, strawberry, cherry, apple and grape will see a resurgence as consumers reach for those immediately recognizable and nostalgic profiles.
Consumers are striving for balance in all aspects of life, which has been amplified by the coronavirus. But rather than sacrificing on indulgent experiences, they are embracing them with modifications.
While citrus flavors have been a cornerstone for the drinks industry, consumer tastes are now evolving toward botanical-forward beverages, particularly in the premium sector. Floral profiles like hibiscus, lavender and elderflower are becoming more mainstream and making way for the earthier, more herbal flavors of turmeric, anise and rosemary.
"Many of the ingredients you would find in your kitchen spice cabinet can introduce an extra element to a drink, providing new dimensions of flavor or functionality," said Katie Clark, Flavorman's lab manager. "Consumers tend to react to these twists with greater expectations — an insight that brands can leverage in premium beverage offers."
Because premium is also so often associated with quality, ingredients like juice and full sugar are also becoming more popular in beverages marketed as high-end. Consumers indulging in these drinks aren't as concerned with calorie restrictions or sugar because they recognize that they are treating themselves to a unique experience. The same can be observed in the spirits and beverage alcohol sectors, according to Flavorman.
"In the spirits world, amaro, absinthe and other botanical spirits are seeing a renaissance," said Colin Blake, director of Spirits Education at Moonshine University, the sister company of the Flavorman Beverage Campus. "These drinks tend to have a distinctive quality due to their balance of bitter and sweet, and they are consumed in very particular ways, usually before or directly following a meal. Consumers in the premium sector have embraced the ritual involved as another way of replicating a bar experience."
Return to Simplicity
The ongoing "clean label" trend is evidence that the quality of ingredients, not quantity, is shaping consumer perceptions of the value of a beverage. It also explains why drinks with simple ingredient statements continue to be consumer favorites.
"Transparency has, time and time again, proven to be important to consumers," said Clark. "Many clients seeking compliance with Whole Foods, Trader Joe's and other 'better-for-you' food and beverage retailers have simply opted to do away with sweeteners or added colors instead of combing through the accepted ingredient lists. Consumers don't seem to mind."
As health and wellness continues to drive trends into 2022, beverage brands will opt for simplicity in beverage formulations across the board. In the spirits sector, simplicity takes the form of moderation.
"Going low- or no-alcohol is a lifestyle choice that some consumers are rallying behind as a way to achieve holistic health goals," Clark pointed out. "This trend has fueled explosive growth in non-alcoholic spirits and ready-to-drink mocktails — as well as lower ABV wine-based cocktails — that we expect to continue into the New Year."
Louisville-based Flavorman is a custom beverage development company.