May 20, 2024

Non-alcoholic drinks, ranging from designer waters and energy drinks, will evolve to meet the key consumer drivers, reflecting rising values and priorities including health and sustainability, according to trend forecaster WGSN.

In a sample report on non-alcoholic drink forecast 2026, WGSN said premium water offerings rival other non-alcoholic alternatives by meeting the need for health and simplicity.

“Appeal to consumers by providing natural spring waters with nuanced flavors and textures to reflect their terroir, alongside key sustainability and health pledges,” it said.

Designer waters, including those with alkaline and hydrogen, will rise as alternatives to everyday drinks and as alcohol alternatives for special occasions, it added.

As priorities also include experience, texture, equity and pleasure, WGSN cited as an example US restaurant Grey Sweater which has a menu with waters from across the world, which has a silky texture and subtle sweetness.

To tap these opportunities, brands are advised to offer enhanced hydration with added vitamins and minerals or elements like hydrogen and oxygen, and capitalize on the rising trend for water sommeliers by considering how water can be paired with different foods.

The report said low mineral waters are often paired with subtle flavors, higher mineral ones are teamed with saltier dishes and effervescent options are matched with desserts, for example.

“Prioritize sustainability with a focus on sourcing, carbon footprint and premium glass, aluminum or refillable packaging,” it said.

They can also consider functionality, as it cited Dubai’s Aqua Water Bar offering over 30 “gourmet” water recipes, including Sweet Dreams with gentle mineralization and low sodium to help one sleep or focus, with equal amounts of magnesium, sodium, and sulfate for balance.

The report further said energy drinks laden with sugar and caffeine will make way for cleaner options containing natural ingredients that offer balance for wider lifestyle occasions.

“Low to no-sugar, naturally-positioned options that don’t sacrifice performance will rise, alongside low Glycemic Index (GI) ingredient innovations that provide sustained energy without blood sugar spikes. Innovate with flavor to expand appeal beyond stereotypical energy drinkers and focus on clean, all-natural ingredients with a health halo,” it said.

WGSN said brands can deliver caffeine through natural ingredients including guarana, guayusa, kola nuts, yaupon, green tea and coffee; and boost energy with caffeine alternatives such as L-theanine, yerba mate, Ginkgo biloba, and ginseng.

“Focus on reducing sugar with low GI carbohydrates such as isomaltulose that prevent blood glucose spikes,” it said.

“Develop hybrid coffee or tea-based energy drinks for consumers seeking a caffeine boost with the taste and experience of an RTD (ready-to-drink).” – Press release