The moment a market is identified as mature, something comes along to make us all take notice. In the non-alcohol brewed beverage category, both coffees and teas are causing a stir. The reason? Anything that might have been recognized as standard and stable must now be nudged aside, because there are new players in town. Once you realize that there are interlopers on the horizon of a rather familiar landscape, you may be less surprised to know that these new players are the direct offspring of the old players we have come to respect, though we may have possibly come to take them for granted.
Premium and “super-premium” teas are growing, with a big push for focus on natural, fresh brewed, and clean label. The category is seeing growth and new brand intros especially in kombucha/energy/recovery positioned drinks. We are also seeing more blending of tea types and herbals, plus interesting new flavor combinations. There is a big opportunity for positioning of blended tea varieties, origin claims/traceability, “fresh brewed” products and all natural/clean claims. Also a big opportunity for flavor push—creating flavor with blends of tea types (green, black, matcha, kombucha, white, herbals, etc.) plus layering of tea aromas and flavor additions. Finally there’s also a push for more functionality in tea products and focus on the health benefits of teas.
Coffees: Entering New Grounds
The competitive landscape of Ready-to-Drink (RTD) coffee is shifting, due to the influx of an ever-increasing range of flavor options, most notably among new players in the Cold Brew segment. Many new iterations are emerging, yet there remains ample room for innovation and product/flavor development, creating new opportunities for RTD coffee overall. Witness the growth of Cold Brew variations such as nitro and sparkling – not to mention previously unheard of flavor infusions like lemon. But these bull’s-eye successes are not the result of blindly throwing darts on a board. They are far more likely to be from intense focus on unique processing techniques like cold pressing, ice brewing and barrel aging. With the door now open, consumers are marching in – and buying in – to a widening category that still has lots of room to expand. The upside potential is particularly evident at the premium level, supported by authentic claims of origin and sustainability, specialty roasting and extraction, to name a few. Flavor development of coffee extracts – while maintaining the integrity of true coffee flavor – offers the best of both: indulgences such as sweeteners, dairy and flavors added to authentically brewed coffee. As flavor nuances of coffee become more important from a culinary development perspective, we will see further expansion of the super-premium coffee market.