Water is essential, but that doesn’t mean it has to be boring. Increasingly, consumers want to drink flavored water, both sparkling and still. In fact, more consumers — especially Gen Z and Millennials — are more interested in unique flavors for packaged water than functional benefits (e.g., digestion boosting), according to research from Mintel.
In many cases, consumers crave flavored water as a way to hydrate while staying healthy. Instead of turning to soda, cocktails or another high-calorie, sugary or artificial drink, consumers can indulge in natural essences added to water. That, in part, is why sparkling water sales have soared, growing by 118% from 2013 to 2018, finds Mintel.
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But that doesn’t mean sparkling and still water necessarily need to compete; they can be complementary, as consumers may want these beverages at different times. For instance, flavored still water can complement a meal or provide an incentive to stay hydrated throughout the day. Sparkling water might be used more often in situations like when relaxing by the pool or when turning to a non-alcoholic drink at bars. However they’re used, consumers want delicious flavors.
Sipping the Classics
When it comes to the top flavors for still and sparkling water, many brands have found success using the classics. Citrus flavors like lemon, lime, grapefruit and orange are all popular. Berry flavors have strong appeal too, like strawberry, raspberry and blackberry.
But there hardly seems to be limitations when it comes to flavored water. Given that water is a neutral vessel, other classic flavors like watermelon and peach work too. And if you want to provide a sense of fun through flavor, tropical fruits like pineapple, mango and coconut are all popular options.
While the classic flavors that you often find across food and beverage categories remain popular for flavored water, that doesn’t mean brands have to stick to the basics. On the contrary, many brands are starting to experiment with unique flavors, which fits well with younger consumers’ propensity to be adventurous with taste.
For example, one of the most popular sparkling water brands, LaCroix, expanded into new flavors like hibiscus and limoncello.
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Another sparkling water brand, Dr. Priestley’s, offers refreshing twists on classic flavors, such as lemon ginger and rosemary grapefruit. These flavors hit on the trend of incorporating botanicals into beverages. Another brand, Petal, offers botanical blends of sparkling water based on rose water. For example, some of Petal’s flavors include mint rose and lychee rose.
Water flavors can also be on the more indulgent side. For example, members of the Jelly Belly family founded the Joffer Beverage Co., which offers zero-calorie sparkling water with rich yet natural flavors. Varieties include orange sherbet and French vanilla, among others.
What’s Next for Flavored Water?
As the market for flavored water grows, beverage brands and restaurants have a lot of room to experiment with different varieties. The classic flavors still have strong appeal, but to continue to excite consumers and reach out to new ones, brands may also want to see how their customers react to more adventurous varieties.
One way to experiment with flavors is to simply combine classics. Spruce up watermelon-flavored water, for example, by offering a strawberry watermelon variety. Or pair blueberry with lemon.
Brands can also expand into other tropical fruits. These can still be familiar flavors to consumers, but because they aren’t fruits they often have a chance to eat, they may be drawn to their essence within water. Think flavors like passion fruit and açaí. These fruits can also easily pair with complementary flavors, such as to create a pomegranate açaí or passion fruit kiwi water.
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