Hybrid beverages that cross categories, savory and health boosting formulations, clean labels and environmental concerns are among leading beverage market trends, as outlined in the new report U.S. Beverage Market Outlook 2018, produced by Packaged Facts, Rockville, Md. This report provides comprehensive trend analysis of seven leading categories in retail packaged beverages, including juices, dairy beverages and non-dairy milk alternatives, among others.

Here are four of the most essential key growth trends for the U.S. beverage market identified:

  • Crossing categories. The trend toward crossing one beverage category with another is well underway and appears likely to expand. Carbonated juice drinks, plant milk and coffee combinations, dairy-based energy drinks—the mixing has only just begun.
  • Savory formulations. Savory beverages are among the categories that appear to be on the brink of a major breakthrough. Consumers looking for alternatives to sweet beverages and ones that offer health benefits are trying drinkable vinegars.
  • Clean label. Clean labeling is still in a relatively early stage of development as a critical factor in beverage purchasing decisions. But, it is almost certain to accelerate and reach a tipping point in the very near future as an element in marketing and packaging, as well as in the production process itself, that all food manufacturers must address. In an environment where trust is hard to come by, consumers want more certainty than ever before that their foods are safe.

    Some beverage categories tend to be more prepared to present as clean label that others. But, the need to offer a clean label impacts all of the categories and will continue to be a force for change in those that have in the past relied heavily on artificial ingredients.
  • Environmental concerns. The transparency that clean labeling represents extends to the methods of production in terms of environmental friendliness and conditions that support animal welfare, factors that are of increasing importance to a growing number of consumers and also likely to reach a tipping point that makes them a must for manufacturers. Note how some plant-based beverage manufacturers are already using the smallness of their environmental footprint as a competitive factor.

Going forward, expect that regenerative agriculture—the use of farming techniques that rebuild and restore soil biodiversity—will become especially important to the beverage industry. Manufacturers will join the movement to use techniques that reduce and possibly reverse damage to soil, water and even the air.