Recent consumer data analysed by Mintel revealed that a significant segment of Chinese consumers (66 percent) are more likely to experiment with cross-category drinks if there are unique flavours.
Data further showed that flavour comes first for 72 percent of consumers when choosing sparkling drinks. In comparison, 57 percent of tea drinkers preferred to try various products rather than sticking to one or a few choices.
Consumer demand for sugar reduction shows variation by product category. For example, 53 percent of consumers lean towards sugar-free bottled water, but 41 percent are content with regular sugar juices.
"Consumers demonstrate a high degree of acceptance and tolerance for the natural sugars in fruits," said Senior Food and Beverage Analyst at Mintel Roolee Lu.
"For the non-alcoholic beverage sector, innovation centred around the drinking experience continues to be the primary catalyst for consumption. Opportunities abound for in-depth exploration in numerous areas, such as exotic fruit flavours, differentiated needs in sugar reduction, texture, and visual appeal."
Of the consumers in China surveyed by Mintel, 15 percent of consumers drink non-alcoholic beverages for one or two reasons, with a majority drinking non-alcoholic beverages for numerous reasons. Lu said that this showed that consumption needs are becoming more varied and versatile, with the emotional issues widely experienced by consumers following the pandemic being a significant factor that non-alcoholic beverage brands should consider.
Lu concluded that cross-category innovation could free non-alcoholic beverage brands from conventional category limitations.
He advised that these brands should pay attention to and capitalise on consumers' evolving daily and recreational habits and spread an invigorating lifestyle to consumers through emerging activities to build a trendsetting brand persona among younger audiences.
"Collaborating with emerging outdoor activities can also help reinforce the association of relevant categories like sports and electrolyte drinks with exercise nourishment support and rehydration among outdoor enthusiasts."