Consumer Desire for 'Better for You' Beverages Persists Through Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic saw the sudden rise of consumer demands that rattled shoppers who were desperately looking for household necessities – toilet paper or cleaning wipes, anyone? The pandemic also served to strengthen existing trends. As a food and beverage market analyst, one of those trends I’m observing is how brands are responding to what’s known as the “better for you” trend.
Before the pandemic, consumers were already starting to seek products to cultivate a more holistic lifestyle. They’re seeking balance and moderation in everything, from their work/home life to their workouts to what’s in their kitchen (and at-home bars). The pandemic arrived and people worldwide were forced to asses all levels of their individual and family health — what was an emerging trend stuck, nearly overnight.
Consumer Factors Driving the ‘Better for You’ Trend
A lot is happening behind-the-scenes, particularly in the world of alcoholic beverages. Drinking habits are changing; consumers are reducing their alcohol intake. The quality of ingredients, flavor, alcohol content, and origin are increasingly important in the mind of the consumer as they seek to lead more holistic lifestyles. According to Mintel, 44% of US alcohol drinkers say they try to “select the healthiest alcohol option,” and 44% also like to review the nutritional information before drinking, jumping to a sizable 57% of 22 to 54-year-olds.
Additionally, the growing focus on health & wellness more broadly has made abstention from alcohol more evident, especially among young adults. The choice is extending well beyond the popular “Dry January.” Nearly a quarter of U.S. adults aged 22-24 claim they are not drinking alcohol, compared with 12% of all adults.
Brands Blurring Category Lines
Beverage brands are blurring category lines to meet consumer demand for products that people consider to be part of a holistic lifestyle. The rise of hard seltzer, a blend of sparkling water and alcohol, existed well before COVID, but hard seltzers further exemplify the better-for-you alcoholic drink trend. They have captured the attention of adults across all generations by being marketed as low-calorie, low sugar alternatives to beer and other beverages.
It’s hard not to notice the huge success of the hard seltzer, and this is driving many non-alcoholic brands to jump on the trend. The elements of the popular hybrid drink are expanding to other non-alcoholic drinks that are growing in popularity, particularly hard kombucha. Since more drinkers are attracted to alcoholic beverages with lower alcohol and other functional benefits, hard kombucha is a hot contender as it contains probiotics, prebiotics, and adaptogens.
Glass is a natural complement for beverage producers in the “better for you” space because of its simple ingredients – sand, soda ash, limestone and recycled glass – as well as its reputation as the kindest packaging material for the health of the planet and its people. Glass is tough and impermeable, and it does not counteract with the beverages it holds.
Evenly wine launched in 2020 with the motto: Wine Made Better. With 0g sugar and 100 calories, Evenly appeals to the consumers who are seeking balance. The brand further positions itself to holistically-minded consumers by offering a smaller, more individually sized 375ml glass bottle – a novel size in the U.S. that’s about two glasses of wine.
U.S. brewery Lagunitas has enjoyed growing success by tapping into this alcohol moderation trend. In 2019, the company launched Hop, a sparkling refreshment which is positioned as an IPA-inspired hoppy refresher rather than as an alcohol-free beer. Even more recently, Lagunitas rolled out IPNA for beer lovers who crave all the beloved hops without the alcohol.
Stone Brewing Buenavida Hard Seltzers
U.S. craft brewery Stone Brewing launches into the hard seltzer space this year with its line of Buenavida Hard Seltzers. Buenavida marks a few firsts: Stone’s first foray into distributing hard seltzer outside its taproom, as well as the first U.S. hard seltzer that’ll come in glass bottles. Buenavida begins its rollout in Stone’s home market of Southern California in summer 2021; wider distribution is expected in 2022.
FLIGHT by Yuengling
FLIGHT by Yuengling hit the market in February 2020. With 95 calories and 2.6 grams of carbs, Yuengling dubs it “The Next Generation of Light Beer,” and actively targets it toward beer lovers with “active lifestyles.”
Wild Tonic Hard Jun Kombucha
Kombucha, with its probiotics, already appeals to the holistic consumer. The Wild Tonic brand introduced a hard kombucha — Hard Jun Kombucha – which seeks to interest its already health-conscious consumer audience into being their beverage of choice for all occasions: “From your self-care routine to happy hour, Wild Tonic Hard Jun Kombucha covers every mood!”
The potential for the better-for-you space is large, and both alcohol and non-alcoholic beverage producers are throwing away the rule book and developing new offerings to attract consumers in this competitive, sophisticated and holistic adult beverage sector.