Kerry flags growing demand for healthier beverages, hard seltzers and plant proteins

Will Kreznick

11 Feb 2021 — Kerry has revealed that sugar reduction, low-alcohol beverages, hard seltzers and plant proteins are trending within the beverage space and this is driven by the COVID-19 pandemic. The taste and nutrition company has released its latest white paper entitled The Right Taste for Healthier Beverages, which […]

11 Feb 2021 — Kerry has revealed that sugar reduction, low-alcohol beverages, hard seltzers and plant proteins are trending within the beverage space and this is driven by the COVID-19 pandemic. The taste and nutrition company has released its latest white paper entitled The Right Taste for Healthier Beverages, which delves into the global demand for healthier and tastier beverages.

Touted as “immunity seekers,” consumers today opt for food and beverages with reduced sugar claims and other health credentials. 

“In 2019, we conducted consumer research in the US where 21 percent of consumers claimed that immune health was a key focus area for them. But following the COVID-19 pandemic, 61 percent of US consumers say that they have become more conscious about their immunity,” Coralie Garcia Perrin, global marketing director for Sweet Taste at Kerry, tells FoodIngredientsFirst.

The Right Taste for Healthier Beverages reviews the secular rise in people wishing to live lives more beneficial to themselves and the planet. Within that goal is a growing desire to make healthier beverage and food choices. 

Click to EnlargeKerry says its latest whitepaper could be significant to producers as they deal with the taste and formulation challenges in beverages.This presents challenges to product developers to respond without sacrificing the taste that consumers expect. 

Changing behaviors 
The COVID-19 pandemic has helped accelerate this shift in consumer behavior by revealing that comorbidities such as obesity and diabetes can lead to more severe outcomes. 

The paper outlines the technical challenges involved in creating healthier beverages in the key areas of sugar reduction, alternative dairy, low- or no-alcohol drinks and beers, hard seltzers and plant protein beverages. It then outlines optimal ways to formulate tasty, healthy alternatives that will appeal to today’s more health-conscious public.

“COVID-19 has accelerated the trend of consumers seeking healthy foods and beverages,” says Garcia Perrin.

“Our research shows that taste remains the top priority for people all over the world. Although commercial beverage manufacturing may appear fairly straightforward, almost all processing and formulation changes can affect the taste,” she outlines. 

Nutritionally appealing
As consumers demand these healthier, more nutritious and more sustainable beverages, product developers need to address their health goals while maximizing taste and mouthfeel appeal, Garcia Perrin notes. 

“In this white paper, the Kerry R&D and beverage applications team first focused on trends and formulation challenges and then drilled down to the best ways to formulate healthier beverages that retain their agreeable taste and mouthfeel and, ultimately, foster customer brand loyalty. The solutions presented in the various target areas – sugar reduction, alternative dairy, low- or no-alcohol, and plant protein beverages – should be of interest to every product developer,” she explains.  

Global health strategies
According to Kerry, there is little doubt the trend of healthier beverages is here to stay. 

Currently, more than 35 countries worldwide have implemented sugar taxes as a health strategy. Click to EnlargeCOVID-19 has accelerated the trend of consumers seeking healthy foods and beverages, says Kerry.

The public’s willingness and desire to curtail their sugar intake continues to heavily influence the industry as a whole, with sweetened-beverage taxation policies precipitating a rapid change in beverage manufacturers’ direction globally. 

However, the practice of reducing sugar leads to several unintended challenges around taste and mouthfeel, delivery that must be addressed.  

Non-dairy beverages trending
One pivotal trend is the expansion of non-dairy beverages, which are perceived as “healthier” by 71 percent of consumers. 

According to Kerry’s research, more than one-half of protein users now report “dairy-free” as their most important consideration when purchasing protein products. 

Plant-based beverages, which circumvent the outsized carbon emissions associated with animal products, are widely accepted as being less harmful to the planet. 

However, taste and texture remain significant challenges given that people will not compromise on taste, Kerry asserts. 

Click to EnlargeAnother pivotal trend is the expansion of non-dairy beverages.Low-alcohol trends put hard seltzers in the spotlight 
Another continuing trend is consumers seeking low- or no-alcohol beverage substitutes that closely mimic the taste of traditional alcohols such as gin. 

Developing these alternatives requires getting as close to the taste of real alcohol as possible, necessitating quality ingredients to boost the mouthfeel, taste and alcoholic sensation. 

Over the last five years, consumers have become aware of such novel beverages as hard seltzers, specifically in the US, and low-/no-alcohol spirits, which are increasingly available in Europe. 

“The emergence and meteoric rise of the hard seltzer and low-/no-alcohol categories in recent years is a confirmation that the beverage category is in a time of rapid change. Beverage producers that wish to emerge as market leaders in their categories must aim to develop highly appealing novel products,” adds Garcia Perrin. 

Hard seltzer variety packs with assorted flavors are leading the market in the US, she reveals. “Meanwhile, in the US, some interesting emerging flavors in cold beverages will be papaya, lychee, acai, floral notes, key lime, guava and black cherry.”

In November, Kerry revealed that the functional beverage space presents significant scope for growth and premiumization of existing products. The company highlighted opportunities for collaboration and development in the beverage sector in its e-book Creating Premium Functional Beverages.

By Elizabeth Green


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