How is the beverage industry looking like today, during the post-COVID era?
Prior to the pandemic, the “healthy” trend was already growing vigorously and consumer purchasing power was thriving. When the pandemic hit our shores, consumer awareness of immunity increased exponentially in light of our fight against COVID. This led to the increased popularity of immune-boosting functional beverages such as probiotic concepts, herbs with anti-infection properties (e.g., ginger, curcumin and finger root) and vitamin waters.
As we enter the post-pandemic era, new habits formed by consumers will continue to stay, and immunity and health concerns will remain a focus on the mind of consumers. Recognising this, ingredients that provide health benefits and synergistic functions are being increasingly incorporated into beverage formulations.
Today, we continue to see a growing amount of beverage products on the market with added vitamin C and beta glucan, probiotics and vitamins C & D, and added minerals like selenium & zinc.
While soy and almond have become popular sources of plant-based alternative drinks, we are seeing that consumers are seeking new flavours and are excited to try other ingredients. Oat milk, barley milk, and millet milk are just some plant-based alternative drinks that have begun to gain acceptance and popularity.
Consumers are also seeking out drinks that are able to contribute to immune boosting, deep sleeping, mood boosting (calm, energy), or alleviate dry-eye symptoms from prolonged screen time.
What are beverage ingredients that are gaining popularity and are set to make a difference?
We work with our customers to develop new flavour profiles that whet the appetite and interest of consumers. Botanical extracts in beverages, such as herbal extracts of finger root, ginger, galangal and lemongrass, are gaining in popularity especially in Asia due to an increased focus on immune-boosting products.
Furthermore, we see spices such as Indian or Chinese spices including masala, turmeric and anise drawing interest from consumers, as these unique flavours offer a fresh experience for people’s taste palates.
How important are supplier-brand collaborations in the industry, particularly in the creation of innovative and targeted solutions?
Supplier-brand collaborations are an effective solution for beverage manufacturers that allow brands to formulate new flavours and adapt quickly to the dynamic and diverse taste preferences of the markets.
For example, at Jebsen & Jessen Ingredients, our innovation centre works with brands big and small to innovate and design new flavours and beverages that meet the latest ASEAN market demands. This includes leveraging our suite of technologies to develop, test, and provide technical assistance to various solutions and beverages for manufacturers. We study and develop various product prototypes and ingredient mixes to confirm that specific ingredients can be mixed and are stable for consumption.
By doing this locally in Southeast Asia, we are able to work real-time within the same time zone, shortening development time to launch new products into the market and allowing brands to quickly capitalise on any growing trend.
What do you see in the future of the beverage industry?
As our collective health consciousness keeps growing, consumers will increasingly look for beverages that can provide more than one benefit – beverages with synergistic ingredients that can boost the immune system, improve absorption and enhance bioavailability of nutrients all at the same time. We expect to see the shift from single ingredients to different combinations of ingredients.
Another trend that will be at the forefront of the Southeast Asian beverage industry is sustainability, for instance, coming up with innovative ways to utilise food waste. There are already such examples in other regions with Kellogg’s and Bro7her Brewery making beer from non-standard (throw away) cereal pieces, or Warburton’s Toast Ale, which is brewed from surplus, or “wonky”, crumpets.
Recognising these trends, we have also developed high-quality ingredients that meet the needs and wants of consumers and manufacturers alike. Some of our recent innovations include oat extracts, as well as pre-, pro- and post-biotic ingredients.
Healthy and nutritious beverages, as well as beverages with functional and synergistic properties, will continue to be in demand and on-trend in the months to come.
Insights provided by Ratana Vongmukdaporn, Regional Business Line Head for the Food and Pharma & Personal Care division at Jebsen & Jessen Ingredients.