Delivering Better Beverage Innovations

Decision Fatigue. Analysis paralysis.

Whatever you want to call it, wading through the sheer number of options and information available around food and beverages can be exhausting.

When dining out, some 67% of adults in the UK experience “menu anxiety”, with that number climbing up to 86% for Gen Z. While some of this is brought on by inflated prices, having to choose, not finding something they want, and fear of regretting their decision is a significant contributor to this anxiety.

Why does this matter?

It’s important because, in a recent survey of 261 food and beverage brands, 75% expect to increase their spending on new product development in 2024, a 12% increase from 2023.


Two of the top three reasons for this investment were a desire to remain competitive (51%) and the need to meet consumer demand (42%).

Achieving those aims won’t come from simply providing shoppers with more offerings to choose from.

Consumers don’t just want more options. They want better options.

Chart: top-10-claims-consumers-will-pay-more-for

To quote Ingredion’s analysis of their ATLAS survey results, “As consumers pay special attention to how they spend their money, they are looking to identify the best added-value options and increasingly checking product details to ensure that their preferences and needs are being met by the products they eventually decide to buy.”

Starting Innovations Off on the Right Foot

Looking at beverages, in particular, the better-for-you and functional ingredient trends are set to drive innovations for the foreseeable future.

Yet trying to have your products be everything to everybody means you risk becoming nothing to nobody.

Does that mean certain products can’t have mass appeal? Absolutely not, but as Edlong’s Director of Marketing, Jessa Friedrich, says in a recent article, “The best place to start is to look closely at your target market.”

Making their purchasing decisions easy only comes from crafting better products tailored to their specific needs.

Edlong’s Manager–Global Sensory, Julie Drainville, agrees, “The reality facing developers is that for most consumers, these healthier or functional products contain truly new and novel ingredients.”

She continues, “This is great for innovation and moving the market forward, but the customer might not know why they need it, if they want it, or even if they can trust it. Communication is crucial, but not just once a product is ready to launch. Conversation and deep understanding of your target market has to be what is driving your innovations.”

What’s Better-for-you isn’t always Better-for-me

Developing better-for-you beverages might seem simple enough on its face.


Yet, as Drainville explains, it’s not as easy as just creating a product around reducing the “bad stuff”.

“If you survey people and ask, Do you want lower sugar? Everyone’s going to say yes. But then, when you test that low or no-sugar version versus the original, are they still going to say that? If we’re being honest, most of us will pick the higher-sugar version based on taste. Now what if they taste it again after seeing the ingredient statements? Now, which one would they buy?”

Better-for-you beverages need to balance the consumer’s ideals, taste expectations, and how much they are willing to compromise.

One consumer might demand no sugar but be totally okay with fat. In fact, they may prefer high fat.  The opposite, and every shade in between, can also be true.

Everyone might want to be healthier, but not everyone wants to do it the same way.

Tailoring Functionality

Growing concern about one’s health has become a worldwide phenomenon, and so has the use of a “food as medicine” approach for addressing it.

Furthermore, this focus on actively maintaining or improving health doesn’t only cross international borders, but generational boundaries as well.

For example, in the UK, seven in ten millennials worry about declining health as they age. In the Philippines, more than 80% of consumers over 45 seek immune-fortifying foods.

While functional beverages are exciting because of their potential to address these various needs, translating that into success tangibly requires designing a product that takes into account regional tastes and preferences.

In North America, carbonated beverages continue to be one of the primary vehicles for functional beverage innovation. With a robust energy drink, soda, and carbonated water market, it makes sense to offer this type of beverage with benefits like improved gut health, relaxation, and stress reduction, or even an immunity boost.


Now, if a developer is looking to release a similar product in a locale like Ireland, where fizzy drinks may be viewed in a more negative light, they may be facing an uphill battle.

On the other hand, in Ireland and the UK, there is tremendous development around dairy, especially cultured gut health drinks and meal replacement shakes.

Though these have become staples in other markets as well, expectations around flavour profiles and ingredient statements may vary wildly. For example, Irish and British consumers are likelier to pass on a yoghurt beverage containing hydrocolloids like Guar or Xanathan gums.

Beyond regional, generational, and other demographic considerations, you can’t forget the importance of the occasion when it comes to functional beverages.

The demand for a “yes and” from their beverage is a given, but what that is can vary wildly by when they want it.

It might be probiotics and protein in the morning, but those protein needs might differ from those at 3 PM. The same goes for hydration, energy, stress reduction, mood-boosting, and so on.

Then, of course, there’s taste.

Getting all the other things right can help get that first sale, but they might not be around for the second if it doesn’t hit on taste.

Fortunately, with Edlong’s international team of experts, we can leverage the latest marketing trend insights and unparalleled flavour expertise to help make that decision easier.


Learn how Edlong can help you deliver creative, authentic, and innovative beverages.

About the Author: Anne Marie Butler, Global Director of Strategy and Innovation

I help food stakeholders from startups to CPGs solve complex flavor problems and accelerate innovation within the food space. Through my 15+ years of experience, I’ve gained skills as a food technologist, thought partner, and leader. My clients and team appreciate my collaborative, humanistic approach to problem solving. In an increasingly tech-centric world, I think that human connection is the source of innovation. Through my work, I’ve realized how important it is to be more proactive about inviting stakeholders into conversations around flavor innovation. I’m not working alone, and I don’t want to be thinking alone either.

Topics: Better For YouBeveragesFunctional Foods
Resource Type: Article


Stay Connected

Subscribe to our monthly e-newsletter.