Market research companies like Mintel have noticed that beverage categories, say ‘indulgent’ and ‘functional,’ are increasingly blurrier. Earthsong, who co-founded the carbonated probiotic beverage brand KeVita and formulates its products, chatted with NutraIngredients-USA at the SupplySide West 2016 show in Las Vegas about trends, from a functional beverage brand perspective, that stood out to her on the expo floor.
More vinegars, turmeric, and ginger
“Here at the show, I’m seeing a lot of turmeric, and a lot of people coming into the turmeric space and finding other ways to present it and deliver it,” Earthsong told NutraIngredients-USA. “There’s more and more ginger, and I’m seeing more certified organic ginger than I’ve ever seen before."
Additionally, she saw a trend for everything vinegary and fermented. “People believe apple cider vinegar is a cure-all,” she said. “We can’t claim that its true and we don’t claim that its true, but so many people get relief and get benefit from it that I think its going to continue to trend stronger and stronger in the beverage industry. That’s my guess, we’re going to see more and more vinegar drinks coming.”
‘Vendors are more educated now’
She noticed that the trend to hit markers such as ‘certified organic’ or ‘non-GMO’ at the show is “stronger than ever before as demand has grown.”
“It used to be that, at this show, I would go talk to a vendor and they wouldn’t understand the [organic] requirements. What I’m seeing now, vendors are smarter, they’ve caught on how things are trending and they’re going for it, they’re putting resources where they didn’t before,” she added. “I don’t even think a year ago it was as strong, which I’m thrilled about because I need certified organic ingredients!”
Aside from putting resources in getting organic certification, Earthsong also noticed more effort from ingredient manufacturers and suppliers to get non-GMO certification, including KeVita’s probiotic supplier, Ganeden, which announced Non-GMO Project Verification for its BC30 strain last month.
“There are vendors and manufacturers who were in conventional and they have now taken the non-GMO verified route and gotten their ingredients non-GMO verified, and then I see them also leaning towards organic, like their goal is organic,” she said.
Gazing into the crystal ball for probiotics
There was also an increase in probiotic strains marketed to food and beverage manufacturers, Earthsong said, but not many of them have enough clinical trials to show if the bacteria can survive an aqueous medium.
And speaking of clinical trials, she thinks that consumer awareness that probiotics are beneficial is ‘definitely’ emerging, but “consumers are still confused about quantity and use rates, so there’s still education to do out there.”
As academics and industry experts continue to research the microbiome and probiotics, this year, probiotics have grabbed the headlines of many mainstream media outlets, and there continues to be a tug-of-war in the nutrition space about how beneficial probiotics are to healthy individuals.
Earthsong added: “But the term probiotics has gained so much recognition out there, it’s so great.”