Progressive Grocer

MAR 2017

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Suppl E m E nt 6 | Progressive Grocer Beverage Supplement | Ahead of What's Next | March 2017 I f not outright souring on them, shop- pers are certainly rethinking their relationship with sweeteners. "Consumers have a love/hate relationship with sugar," admits Christina Bowden, director of consulting services at e Hartman Group, in Bellevue, Wash. "Consumers want sweetness and still want indulgent foods, but they are more conscious about where the sweetness is coming from." According to Bowden, shoppers are moving to more natural, less processed sweeteners with better nutritional profiles. "Consumers are tapering away from refined sugars and artificial sweeteners such as sucralose, aspartame and saccha- rine," she adds, pointing to research from Hartman's "2015 Health and Wellness Study." Natural Options As artificial sweeteners fall out of favor, natural sweet- eners such as monkfruit, yacón, sorghum, and raw or unpasteurized honey are all showing up on consumers' radar. Stevia, for one, is still on the rise in the United States. "Since it's plant-based, not chemi- cally derived, and has a low-calorie profile, it is popular as a beverage sweetener," notes Bowden. Kevin Sherman, CEO of Irvine, Calif.- based True Drinks, maker of AquaBall, says that an all-natural positioning was im- portant to the development of the product. "We chose stevia as our preferred sweetener to keep the product as natural as possible," he explains. "We spent extensive time de- veloping the formulation to ensure the right balance that would be palatable for kids." According to experts, shoppers who have already accepted the tart tastes of kombuchas and drinking vinegars are adjusting their expectations of what sweet tastes like. "Consumer palates are chang- ing," affirms Bowden. "As people think about how much sugar they are consum- ing and where it's coming from, they are accepting less sweetness. Eventually, the palate will adapt and less sweetness will become the norm over time." How Sweet It Isn't Evolving tastes and preferences are affecting the sugary beverage segment. By Barbara Sax Ongoing Experimentation Carbonated beverages, particularly boutique brands, have steadily been slashing sugar content. "Consumers are looking for less sugar, so we have to adjust to the market," asserts Kev- in Li, marketing manager at Bruce Cost Ginger Ale, made with cane sugar. e Brooklyn, N.Y.-based company launched a 66-calorie version of its ginger ale, sweetened with a com- bination of cane sugar and monkfruit, and then introduced a sugar-free stevia-sweetened optin. "We're always looking for new sweeteners that don't have an aftertaste," says Li. Manufacturers are also blurring the division between soft drinks and water by adding juice to sparkling and still wa- ters, using the natural sweetness of the juice as a sweetener. Further, manufacturers are experimenting with savory juices, and that segment of the category has grown. "Entrepreneurs are bringing new products out every day in that arena that experiment with ingre- dients," says Bowden. "We're seeing more savory juices, such as beet juice, entering the market, and more green juices that are like a salad in juice form." Products in other categories leave the sweetening to the consumer — enabling them to personalize their beverage experi- ence. "Cold-brew coffee consumers can turn those beverages into DIY by adding the sweetness in the amount and form they desire," observes Bowden. e Atlanta-based Coca-Cola Co. is identifying and nurturing brands with billion-dollar potential. Hansen's and Blue Sky, brands operated by the soft drink gi- ant's Venturing & Emerging Brands busi- ness unit, both use natural sweeteners in at least some of their offerings. PG "Consumer palates are changing. As people think about how much sugar they are consuming and where it's coming from, they are accepting less sweetness. Eventually, the palate will adapt and less sweetness will become the norm over time." —Christina Bowden, The Hartman Group Sweeteners

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