The impact of Covid-19 has created a new normal in the beverage category. Health is now a greater priority given the threat of infection and the stresses of a lockdown lifestyle. Health was already trending pre-lockdown, but consumers are now even more concerned about it than ever before. According to Nielsen, in Canada we are seeing lots of growth across beverage sub-categories.1 Some of these include juice, soda, cocktail mixes and functional beverages.
Consumers turn to juice as an easy way to consume fruits and vegetables. Vitamin content is the top motivator to purchasing juice, followed by energy. While the category faced consistent declines pre-Covid, the pandemic gave it a boost thanks to rising demand for juice’s immunity boosting functional claims. Vitamin content and immune support are priority focus areas for consumers.
Despite consumers moving away from sugar, 34% of soda drinkers want full sugar sodas.2 However, while consumers were buying full sugar soda in record numbers, the zero-calorie alternative sweetener sodas continued to post double digit increases as well. Manufacturers are now providing solutions for the sugar dilemma as well as delivering on functionality, creating much innovation in the category. Functional sodas with prebiotics, probiotics, and amino acids for gut & brain health, are all giving the consumer another reason to stay in the category.
Shoppers drank at home in record numbers due to restaurant and bar closures and the mostly absent social life. Consumers stayed home in quarantine and remained social by participating in virtual happy hours. Drinking memes and “quarantini” recipes were everywhere as people started turning to alcohol to deal with the stress, anxiety and grief brought on by isolation. Overall, sales of alcoholic beverages continue to soar, with the category up 58% on a year over year comparison. 3
In contrast, despite the peak in alcoholic beverages during the pandemic, moderation was also trending. Health was the key reason many adults choose to drink less or not consume alcohol. Non-alcoholic drinks designed as alcohol alternatives with ‘better-for-you qualities’ resonated with the health conscious.
There is an increasing shift towards the consumption of functional beverages that contain ingredients to address specific health issues such as Immunity, stress relief, energy, mental health, and healthy aging. More than 55% of Canadians consumed beverages with added functional ingredients that offer additional health benefits. 4 After hydration, Canadians identify four main claims that are important to them. The most desired benefits are ‘energy boosting’, ‘calming/relaxing’, ‘immune boosting’ and acting as a ‘digestive aid’. The pandemic represents a crisis on many fronts, but first and foremost it’s a health crisis that relates to both physical and mental health. The benefits ‘calming/relaxing’ and ‘immune boosting’ speak to these concerns. Current trends in the industry include protein drinks that act as a meal replacement, low/no sugar/low calorie for weight management, high caffeine for high energy, high hydration for sports nutrition (via oxygen/electrolytes) and added functionality around added vitamins, antioxidants and adaptogens.