Research has established that cherries, particularly sour or tart cherries, have a high antioxidant content, and that claim is increasingly being used. Newer research, focusing on potential benefits in terms of reducing inflammation, painkilling properties and improving sleep quality is being published and publicized, and may already be adding impetus to sales, as consumer awareness rises.
Developments have been particularly marked in the U.S., where tart cherries are a traditional American fruit. North America accounted for 16% of juice drink launches containing cherry, but as well as the more traditional blended products, there have been an increasing number focusing on more specialist cherry juice lines with a strong health image. Cherry is also becoming a more popular flavor in launches in Europe, accounting for more than 50% of the 2011 global total, led by the U.K. and Germany.
“Cherry juices are clearly increasing in popularity and increasingly carrying a ‘superfruits’ branding in the wake of a growing body of research linking sour cherries to a whole range of health benefits,” said Lu Ann Williams, research manager for Innova Market Insights. “This, combined with their unique sweet-sour taste properties, looks set to boost demand and carry cherries still further up the rankings in terms of soft drinks flavor use.”
Innova has also seen growing levels of interest in the relatively mature ready-to-drink or iced coffee market, not only in the relatively well-established U.S. market, which is the number two global market after Japan, but also in Europe, led by initiatives from multinational beverage and dairy companies. The market remains relatively limited so far in terms of soft drinks as a whole, however, as does the level of new product activity. According to Innova, iced coffee accounted for just 3.5% of total soft drink launches recorded in the 12 months to the end of September 2011, although this was up from 2.7% five years previously. Activity also remained relatively low when compared with launch numbers of traditional hot coffee products and indeed iced tea launches, both of which saw twice the launch numbers over the same period.
According to Ms. Williams, demand for iced coffee drinks of all kinds now appears to be developing, not only geographically, but also beyond its original home in the foodservice sector of many countries, particularly the U.S. “With the growth of the market and the need to compete with alternative beverages, more traditional coffee variants in the RTD sector have been joined by a whole range of increasingly sophisticated flavor choices, as well as light options. At the same time, further value has been added with the use of organic and/or fair-trade coffees, as well as coffees of specified type and origin, and the introduction of more user-friendly and convenient packaging formats, including cartons, bottles and lidded cups,” she noted.