Innovations in Botanical Beverages
Innovations in Botanical Beverages
With a massive surge in interest for functional benefits, especially immune boosting qualities and other health benefits, botanical beverages have begun to move out of the niche health and wellness space and into the mainstream. Overall, consumers have been shown to think of foods and beverages with botanicals as premium, natural, and healthy. But what exactly are botanicals and how can you incorporate them into your next line RTD beverage flavors?
Botanicals are any plant-based material used as an additional ingredient in a product, in this case, beverages. Many of these edible botanicals will be familiar like citrus fruits, florals, and herbaceous plant ingredients. There is also a growing interest in global flavor experiences, making botanicals from Asia, South America, and Africa highly desirable for both their connection to nature and wellness as well as their adventurous and exotic qualities.
One of the key difficulties when working with botanical flavors and functional ingredients is making a product that is high quality, offers the benefits your consumer is looking for, and still tastes good all while remaining affordable and accessible. The accessibility of a product is impacted not only by the retail locations that carry it, when and where they stock it, and the price at which they sell it, but also by the familiarity and desirability of the flavor.
You’re two best options for working with botanical beverages are to use botanical ingredients in traditional drinks or botanically based drinks with recognizable flavors, better still, flavors that are highly familiar with an aspect of nostalgia to tie the experience to pleasant childhood memories. On the flip side, floral flavors have been seen to have an association with spa-like treatment, relaxation, and self-care.
Ease the guilt of indulgent products with botanical flavors or entice consumers to try healthy, functional beverages by offering a deliciously decadent flavor option that your consumer will be drooling over.
With roughly 300,000 edible botanicals to choose from, you should have no problem coming up with potential flavors. Your flavor team, like the experts at Renaissance Flavors, will help you sort through the options to select the best one for your brand, your product, and your customer.
RTD Teas and Infusions
One of the most familiar, widespread, and easy to work with botanically based beverages is tea. With the multitude of individual varieties offering a wealth of flavors and aromas, tea can be an effective beverage base or add flavor to other drinks like sodas and even spirits, but we’ll touch more on those later.
The benefits of tea are well documented partially thanks to the widespread popularity of the drink. It offers the immune-boosting benefits that consumers are looking for along with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
In addition to having the functional benefits you want in a botanical, tea also pairs really well with a wide array of flavors from sour citrus to decadent dark chocolate. Since tea is so familiar, you can also use it to test out bolder flavor options or additional functionally beneficial ingredients that consumers may not be familiar with and wouldn’t otherwise try as a stand alone flavor or beverage base.
On top of making a great base, teas can also be easily infused into most other beverages for a botanically linked flavor component to help add a perception of wellness and natural ingredients to any new drink. Having a tea flavor or infusion in your RTD beverage can even bring impact the perception of a drink that would otherwise be perceived as unhealthy.
We can’t have a conversation about beverage innovations without talking about soft drinks since they comprise the largest single potion of the entire beverage industry. This broad category include everything from clear sodas and seltzers to the classic colas and fizzy juices that line entire aisles of shelves at the grocery store.
Seltzers and clear sodas are the easiest to work with as they have the fewest competing flavors to deal with allowing you a much wider pallete of flavor ingredients including more subtle flavors. These would be your best bet if you wanted to work with florals, but be sure to balance the floral flavor with an appropriate amount of sweetness or even a citrus flavor to keep it tasting like a drink and not a bottle of perfume.
If your drink is already fruity in nature like a Fanta or Crush soda, you are likely to have a bit more difficulty in properly pairing your base flavor to another botanical than you would with a flavorless seltzer, but there are still a wide number of options available to you. An orange-base drink can easily be paired with any number of other citrus or exotic flavors; grape flavors can be enhanced by other dark fruits like black currant, fig, or the ever popular superfood, elderbery; and a cherry or strawberry flavor could offer unexpected opportunities to feature a subtle floral note that can draw in curious consumers who aren’t quite ready for a fully flower-flavored option.
Lastly, the colas pose the greatest challenge as they have such strong flavor profiles to begin with. Classic combinations like vanilla, cherry, lime, and even coffee have already been done with varying levels of success, but much of the library of botanicals remains untapped in the cola game, at least in North America.
While there are a number of flavored colas around the world, the heart of flavor innovation in this category is clearly Japan with a number of unique, botanically-inspired flavor options like apple, peach, and even green tea. Taking inspiration from these hit Japanese flavors would add an aspect of adventure appeal to your product as well as the associated benefits of having a botanical flavor ingredient.
Regardless of the type of soft drink you are working with, you’ll want to be working with a flavor team that are experts in the field that can help you select the right botanicals to balance the original taste of the beverage formulation, offer the right kind of functional benefits, and create accessibility by pairing new, bold, and exciting flavors with the classic indulgent and nostalgic flavors that draw in first time consumers.
The spirits and cocktails categories have been two of the most innovative spaces for botanical beverage innovations. Since many spirits already rely on botanical ingredients for their signature flavors, playing with variants, cousins, or complimenting flavors can yield impressive results.
Cocktails and their increasingly popular alcohol free counterparts, mocktails, have the advantage of mixable options, making the bar tender or mixologist just as crucial in the perfect presentation of flavor as the flavor chemist that create the individual products in the first place. This also opens up opportunity to create bontaically flavored beverage products that aren’t quite RTD beverages on their own.
Flavoring syrups are a great way to build an organic consumer base through partnerships with local bars and restaurants who then inspire and even instruct customers to easily make their own at home with your syrup.
If that feels too niche, then perhaps a flavored spirit, alcoholic or not, that takes the mixology out of the equation, can inspire loyalty by pairing the perception of wellness with the indulgent act of evening drinks. Check out our in depth articles on Flavoring Vodka and Other Spirits and Why You Should Be Flavoring Your Whiskey.
Similarly, the world of beer and wine are beginning to open their casks to the potential of botanical flavor additives. While fruit-based wines have been around since wine was invented with the first versions being made of dates, watermelon, and figs, they tend to have very potent flavor profiles that can be divisive, leaving most options stuck in a niche market.
Fruit flavors and other botanicals in wine coolers, and just wine coolers in general, however have become incredibly popular as consumers seek out new flavors in familiar formats. This is where you can bring the bar-made cocktail innovations to your consumers in the convenience of a can.
Break into Botanical Beverage Innovation with Renaissance Flavors
No matter what type of beverage you are looking to develop, what type of functional benefits you hope to offer, or what kinds of flavors you are looking to highlight, trust your next formulation to the experts at Renaissance Flavors.
We work with you through every step of flavor development from market analysis and idea generation to final product formulations. When you work with Renaissance, you work with a dedicated team of professionals whose only goal is to create the perfect flavor profile for your product, your brand, and your customer.