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Better-for-You Beverages for Wellness-Minded Consumers

August 30, 2017

ECRM/MMR Buyers Choice Award Winner for Beverages, Bottlegreen, incorporates sustainable practices into its production process
In the same way that wellness has permeated the snack and dry grocery categories, as I touched on in my previous post from ECRM’s Summer Snack & Dry Grocery EPPS, it’s also driving much of the activity in the beverage category.

According to retailers and suppliers interviewed during the ECRM Beverage EPPS, consumers are seeking more transparency, more functionality, and more sustainable practices around the beverages they purchase, whether it’s vitamin-enhanced water, energy drinks, or ready-to-drink coffee and tea. The common theme among most of the attendees was that wellness was the driving force behind beverage sales today.

Andrew Mandzy, Director of Strategic insights – Health & Wellness for Nielsen, noted during his educational session during the EPPS that several factors are driving this health and wellness movement. First, there is the aging population, with 16 percent over the age of 65 today. Then there are chronic diseases – like diabetes, hypertension, and digestive health issues – which are experienced by four out of every 10 households. On top of this, rising healthcare costs are driving consumers to be more proactive about their health. Finally, there is the demand for transparency partially driven by the Internet, which enables consumers to quickly and easily find information about the products they are considering (see video below).


Here are some of the ways, according to Nielsen’s Mandzy, in which these factors are driving beverage purchases:

Aging population: Older consumers are seeking out specific ingredients in the products they buy, such as enhanced or functional beverages. They are also looking for easy-to-open packaging, and easy-to-read labels.

Chronic diseases: Many shoppers with chronic ailments, as with older consumers, want beverages with specific ingredients in them or else the absence of specific ingredients. For example, diabetics will buy beverages with low glycemic indexes and no added sugar. Meanwhile, those with digestive issues may buy beverages with probiotics. According to Nielsen, about 19 percent of households say that probiotics are important to them, and among these consumers, sales of products with probiotics are growing fast. “While only 5 percent of the refrigerated tea category are products with probiotic claims,” says Mandzy, “Sales of these items are up 80 percent.”

Rising healthcare costs: The increased cost of healthcare is driving consumers to take better care of themselves and focus on preventive health, and this is impacting their food and beverage decisions.

Focus on Transparency, Sustainability
Because of this greater focus on wellness, shoppers demand more transparency and clean labels; they are shying away from artificial ingredients and are doing more research on the ingredients that are in the products they purchase. “They are shifting away from conventional products and toward those with more health and wellness-related claims,” says Mandzy. “This is also leading retailers to improve their private label offerings to be more transparent, whether they are organic or natural or non-GMO. And shoppers are willing to pay more for this transparency.”

The same goes for products made with sustainable practices. Nielsen found that sales of products with sustainable messages are up 7.2 percent. These messages include a variety of factors, such as using recycled materials, Fair Trade and ethical business practices, or a low carbon footprint.

The ECRM/MMR Buyers Choice Award winner, Bottlegreen, is an example of one such company, as it uses recycled water to rinse and sterilize its bottles, saving upwards of one million gallons of water per year.

Other key trends noted by retailers and suppliers attending the Beverage EPPS include:
  • Alkaline water (such as Buyers Choice Award Finalist MoodWater’s naturally alkaline Canadian Spring water – the company seeks to add fun to bottled water consumption be socially-shareable packaging printed with “Moodicons” with related hashtags, such as #grumpy or #silly.)
  • Plant-based hydration – which addresses the growing vegan trend.
  • Maple-infused beverages
  • Coconut water and energy drinks: These have been popular for a while, and suppliers continue to develop new varieties to keep interest strong
  • Cold brew coffee and tea
  • Private label water
Nielsen's Andrew Mandzy on wellness and the beverage category
ECRM/MMR Buyers Choice Award Finalist: MoodWater's Alkaline Canadian Spring Water
ECRM/MMR Buyers Choice Award - 1st Place: Bottlegreen's Elderflower Sparkling Presse
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