More than half of consumers think 'hybrid beverages' are a pricey gimmick, Mintel survey finds

By Adi Menayang

- Last updated on GMT

Photo: iStock/TAGSTOCK1
Photo: iStock/TAGSTOCK1

Related tags Coffee functional beverage beverage

Despite the emerging trend of blurring category lines in the functional beverage sector, many consumers still hesitate to believe the claims and attributes on pack, let alone make a purchase, a new study from Mintel reveals. But it's not stopping the category from growing.

The results are from Mintel’s recently published Beverage Blurring​ ​report, referring to the dissolving line that once separated drinks into several categories. These are drinks like coffee drinks with added health benefits (like protein, antioxidants), or carbonation of drinks traditionally not bubbly (juice, tea).

This includes brands like Uncle Matt’s​ with its cold-pressed probiotic waters, Powerful​’s yogurt-based protein drinks, and WTRMLN WTR​, which Beyoncé invested in.

Mintel surveyed 1,650 Internet users aged 18 years and older who have tried or have interest in hybrid drinks. “Two thirds of US adults have consumed some type of hybrid drink,” ​the report said. “Hybrid drinks can help all beverage categories grow—they appear to encourage beverage trial and may improve permissibility in categories that have struggled with sales due to negative perception of health.”

'57% of consumers view the drinks as gimmicks to get them to spend more money'

Still in its emerging phase, hybrid drinks account for a small share of all beverages consumed in the US. The survey’s respondents said they were more likely to regularly drink non-hybrid products like bottled water, juice, ready-to-drink (RTD) tea, or RTD coffee.

Among hybrid drink categories, bottled water with added benefits (antioxidants, vitamins, protein) led the pack, followed by carbonated juices and bottled water with added functional benefits (energy, relaxation, etc.).

“One limitation to wider adoption of hybrid drinks is that the vast majority of consumers believe they are more expensive than other drink types,” ​according to the report, adding that “57% of consumers view the drinks as gimmicks to get them to spend more money.”

Hence, Mintel recommends brands to prove value as a way to encourage trial, and to use price promotions. “It might be that price still plays a role in keeping consumers from exploring new categories,” ​the report said. “Price promotion may encourage trial, as may justifying value by offering components that meet consumer demand for flavour and function.”

The ideal hybrid drink is juice-based, with vitamins and minerals

When asked to design their own ideal hybrid drink, close to half of respondents (47%) said that they’d like the base of this drink to be juice—a surprise as tracked sales for the juice category has been stagnant​ (in fact, in decline for 100% juices) in recent years. It led ahead of water (35%), tea (34%), cola (25%), energy drink (24%), and coffee (24%).

“Juice has struggled due to consumer health concerns, especially related to sugar consumption,” ​the report said.

Another favorable attribute was vitamin and mineral content, where half of respondents said that their ideal hybrid drink would contain and promote these two. Other attributes included antioxidants (42%) and energy (37%), which fared better than caffeine (27%).

“As consumer preferences shift toward better-for-you food and drink, consumers are increasingly searching for functional, healthful beverages,”​ said Beth Bloom, Senior Food & Drink Analyst at Mintel.

“Some of the larger US beverage categories, such as carbonated soft drinks and juice, are losing share to trending beverage types due to the fact that they deliver on consumer demand for more flavor and functional innovation, combined with lower sugar/calorie content.

“However, there are clear opportunities for the juice category among hybrid drink users, suggesting that blurring lines through product innovation that combines juice with other drink types that have a higher inherent perception of health may expand appeal among consumers,” she​ added.

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