According to research expert Mintel, compared to other food and beverage categories, the non-alcoholic beverage sector has demonstrated moderate compound growth (5.7 percent) over the past half-decade, showcasing robust, consistent growth.
Globally, a significant segment of non-alcoholic beverage sectors experienced considerable market expansion between 2017 and 2022. The most substantial growth was seen in the bottled water (5-year-CAGR of nine percent) and ready-to-drink (RTD) tea (5-year-CAGR of 8.8 percent) segments, with flavoured sparkling water playing a significant role in the market expansion of bottled water.
After the pandemic, consumer spending on non-alcoholic beverages became more judicious. Data from April 2023 showed that 15 percent of metropolitan consumers in China anticipated purchasing more cost-effective non-alcoholic beverage products. Concurrently, a high degree of brand loyalty is evident among most consumers, as 55 percent of consumers plan to purchase non-alcoholic drinks from the same brands.
As health consciousness rises, consumers demand more health-centric non-alcoholic beverages. Over half of the consumers stated that an ideal non-alcoholic beverage should have low or zero sugar (56 percent), calories (56 percent), and fat (52 percent).
Unique flavours (66 percent) were good areas for manufacturers to capitalise on as they drove consumers to experiment with cross-category beverages, leading to repeat purchasing (58 percent).
Nutritional value was the key feature that also caused repeat purchasing (57 percent). For senior demographics, nutritional value took the cake over novel flavours.
Conventional food and drinks have a competitive edge over health supplements in popularity as functional products. Most consumers preferred to derive functional benefits such as weight management, skincare, anti-aging, sleep support, stress alleviation, and detoxification through food and drink consumption.
In the non-alcoholic beverages sector, vitamins (63 percent) and probiotics (62 percent) rank as the most desirable additives among consumers. The preference for probiotics is comparable to that for vitamins, outstripping dietary fibres (50 percent), minerals (46 percent), and proteins (45 percent).
Consumer demand and interest in probiotics primarily come from their tight connection with health. Moreover, as much as 42 percent of consumers also find that drinks with probiotics added are tasty.
Roolee Lu, Senior Analyst of Food and Drink at Mintel, said this underscored the enduring trust and loyalty that traditional food and drinks command from consumers regarding delivering functional benefits.
"Since the onset of the pandemic, there has been a marked escalation in consumer health consciousness. Consequently, food and drink products have a golden opportunity to fulfil better consumers’ demand for healthy dietary preferences and functional benefits, particularly the ready-to-drink beverages consumers prefer," said Lu.