In the December 2020 issue of National Liquor News, Brian Chase Olson investigates how natural flavours are making waves on bottle shop shelves.
The ‘no drinking for the next year’ trend embodies the ideals of a New Year’s resolution more than the ‘better for you’ trend and consumers have latched onto it with conscious conviction when it comes to the alcoholic beverages they choose to consume.
According to a Nielsen report on “The Rise of Mindful Drinking in Australia” published in October 2019, “rising popularity of Dry January, Dry July, low-carb beer, alcohol-free spirits and hard kombucha in Australia suggests that ‘mindful drinking’ is the latest health-craze among Aussie consumers” and these “consumers are increasingly seeking options that are better for their own health.” The need for products in this space has given producers plenty of motivation to innovate the industry to meet this health-conscious demand.
“More and more of us are conscious of what we’re putting into our body – and that’s a good thing! We’re looking for options that are lower sugar, lower calorie, vegan friendly and with no artificial flavours or preservatives,” said James Purcell, Matso’s Brand Lead.
“We want drinks that are real and authentic. That said, we don’t want to sacrifice on taste and flavour to do so.”
Natural flavours and infusions span the entire drinks category, with every drink across beers, ciders, tonics, and the wave of seltzers coming to market coining their cans and cartons with the ‘naturally flavoured’ label. As summer heats up, we’re taking a look at all the refined in quality, yet unrefined in process, natural flavours hitting bottle shop shelves this season.
Classic & fresh ginger
An increasingly popular flavour taking over the drinks industry is the herbaceous and spicy root plant – ginger. While a popular seasoning for the at-home stir fry, it has found a cult-like following in alcoholic ginger beer and other fizzy sodas.
“I think there are a few reasons behind the growth in the ginger beer category. It’s a flavour that most of us are familiar with and love,” Purcell said.
“Many of us have some nostalgic connection to ginger beer. It’s also incredibly refreshing and well suited to Australia’s climate – there’s nothing better on a hot day than an ice-cold ginger beer.
Matso’s Ginger Beer is driving growth in the Australian craft beer category, growing at 44 per cent, and has become Australia’s largest independent ginger beer brand according to Purcell.
“There are people that love ginger beer and it’s their regular drink of choice. Other consumers are more traditional beer drinkers, and they enjoy a ginger beer as a nice break or change-up. And then there are drinkers who are moving away from ciders or the RTD fridge, but they still want something refreshing and sparkling that’s full of amazing flavour,” Purcell said.
For Ginger Yowie, a ginger beer from Hawkesbury Brewing Co., the process behind infusing the classic ginger flavour is of equal importance to the source of the flavour itself, which is why the product is gaining traction with a wide array of drinkers.
“Unlike non-beer or RTD style ginger beers, Ginger Yowie is brewed on a clear beer base which gives the perfect foundation to add the natural flavours to create an alcoholic ginger beer which scores high on refreshment and flavour but with way less sugar than you will find in most ginger beers,” said Paul Weaving, Business Development Director at Drink Craft, the distributor of Hawkesbury Brewing Co.
When it comes to ginger-based brews, the priority of authentic flavours over artificial sweeteners as well as the use of locally-sourced ingredients makes ginger a natural flavour stand-out in the drinks category.
“Australian consumers now have local Australian flavoured drinks options, so especially this year, you can support local independent producers while also enjoying a natural, fruit flavoured drink,” said Purcell.
“It’s even more refreshing to see local consumers shopping more consciously, for themselves and their own benefit, but also for the benefit of Australian producers and suppliers.”
Producers of cocktail mixers and non-alcoholic drinks have gone far from basic when it comes to enhancing bubbly beverages with natural flavours. And as more brands come to market with options for curated cocktails, the need to innovate and stand out is more important than ever.
“Just like in food as we have seen a surge in farm to table, restaurants calling out producers, local sourcing and a push back on preservatives – drinks [are] no different,” said Emma Evans, CEO of Capi.
“Yes, you could add a slice of lemon to a glass of water and call that natural but we live in a fast-paced consumer world. People want ‘on the go’, they like new, they like to experiment and you can have so much fun with natural elements. Why take a short cut or add in something that doesn’t have a name, but is called flavour?”
Capi has a wide range of exotic, naturally flavoured sodas, tonics and colas that include flavours like Blood Orange, Cucumber & Green Tea, and the popular Yuzu citrus fruit using premium quality, 100 per cent natural ingredients.
“There is a conscious effort to try to reduce sugar consumption with smart beverage choices. Consumers are more educated, reading labels and calling suppliers out. They want transparency and they want natural. If not natural, then what?” said Evans.
The focus on what’s on the label continues in the mixer space with the team from Nexba who released five new ‘Naturally Sugar-Free’ Iced Tea and Tonic drinks, in addition to adding a Mango flavour to its best-selling Kombucha range just in time for summer.
“You only have to scan the supermarket aisles on a Saturday afternoon now and you’ll be amazed at how many people are now reading the ingredients on food and drink labels,” said Drew Bilbe, Nexba Co-founder.
“We’re really excited to be able to bring our ‘Naturally Sugar-Free’ philosophy to the mixers category with our new Nexba Tonic Water range. We know that 65 per cent of consumers are seeking natural beverage options to mix with – that volume is staggering and [shows] how ripe the mixers market is for disruption. The future of the category will be natural alternatives that take both health and taste considerations into account in equal measure,” Bilbe said.
The new Nexba Naturally Sugar-Free Tonic flavours include a Classic variety; Pear, Jasmine and Hirami Lemon; and Lime, Cucumber and Mint. The Iced Tea range features one litre bottles of a Watermelon flavour and Limoncello Orange flavour.
When it comes to naturally flavoured mixers, it’s hard to pass the significant growth of Fever Tree who in November expanded its range with three new naturally flavoured, low calorie sodas.
The new flavour range includes Pink Grapefruit, Lime and Yuzu, and Italian Blood Orange using “naturally sourced ingredients from around the world” according to its Australian distributor, SouthTrade International.
“It takes time and passion and the company will not release the flavours till they are perfectly balanced,” said Mirabel Miranda, Fever Tree brand manager at SouthTrade International.
“[The new Low-Calorie Sodas are] a perfect mixer for the long spritz drinks for summer.”
You can find the full feature on Natural Drink Flavours, including a look into the role of seltzers and new product information, in our December issue here.