Top 2022 Beverage Trends: Bold, Indulgent & Simple
Consumers seek balance as they celebrate the simple pleasures of life.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. —The long-term effects of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic are driving a focus on celebrating life's simple pleasures while striving for balance, according to beverage development company Flavorman's 2022 beverage trends forecast.
Drinks trends to watch out for this year include:
Going Big & Bold
Drinks with subtle displays of flavor have previously taken center stage, as with the recent seltzer boom. But as that market begins to saturate, beverage makers are seeking ways to differentiate themselves from the competition, which means 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 at 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."
Prominently featured, straightforward flavors may be particularly appreciated by consumers who have had COVID-19, which is known for attacking the senses of taste and smell, as they could provide reassurance to those recovering from virus-related sensory loss or those who are concerned with changes to their senses in general.
Beverage makers will likely continue emphasizing the presence of familiar flavors in drinks across multiple categories. Childhood favorites like watermelon, strawberry, cherry, apple, and grape will see a resurgence as consumers seek out immediately recognizable and nostalgic profiles.
Consumers are learning to strive for balance in all aspects of their life as the world grows more accustomed to the continuing challenges of a pandemic. Instead of on indulgent experiences, consumers are embracing them with some slight modifications.
Citrus flavors have long been a drinks industry cornerstone, but consumer tastes are now evolving toward botanical-forward beverages, particularly in the premium sector. Hibiscus, lavender and elderflower are among the floral profiles approaching the mainstream and making way for earthier, more herbal flavors such as 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, lab manager at Flavorman. "Consumers tend to react to these twists with greater expectations — an insight that brands can leverage in premium beverage offers."
Because premium is also frequently associated with quality, ingredients like juice and full sugar are also becoming more popular in beverages marketed as high-end, according to Flavorman. Consumers who indulge in these drinks are less concerned with calorie restrictions or sugar because they recognize that they are treating themselves to a unique experience, which can also be observed in the spirits and beverage alcohol sector.
"In the spirits world, amaretto, absinthe and other botanical spirits are seeing a renaissance," said Colin Blake, director of spirits education at Moonshine University, 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."
A Return to Simplicity
Simplicity serves as a source of comfort during a time when life feels as though it has become much more complicated. The ongoing clean label trend points to how the quality of ingredients, not their quantity, shapes 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," Clark said. "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 continue to drive trends in 2022, beverage brands will opt for simplicity in beverage formulations across the board, with simplicity taking the form of moderation in the spirits sector.
"Going low- or no-alcohol is a lifestyle choice that some consumers are rallying behind as a way to achieve holistic health goals," said Clark. "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."
Based in Louisville, Flavorman is a custom beverage development company that helps clients bring custom products to market from concept to production planning and quality control.