Canadian consumers are increasingly curious to try premium soft drinks and beverages infused with health benefits, as well as wanting more variety and nostalgia in their drinks.
From low-sugar alternatives to drinks that promote relaxation, the beverage category is saturated with products that claim to benefit consumers’ health and wellbeing.
Big brands have been leading the way.
For example, in 2021, Canada Dry launched its Premium Light Tonic Water, which has 43 per cent fewer calories than the brand’s original Premium Tonic Water, in response to this thirst for healthier beverages, according to brand manager, Erika Maddox.
“One key trend that continues to grow and evolve is the interest in better-for-you beverage choices, which might include seeking more natural claims, lower calorie or lower sugar options, and the inclusion of functional ingredients,” Maddox said, per Canadian Grocer.
Beverages with low sugar and low caffeine counts are priorities for consumers, and it’s not just consumer-packaged beverage companies who have been looking to meet that demand.
Alcohol alternatives that don’t look to mimic the taste of alcohol are also in demand.
Canadian craft breweries are meeting this head-on, focusing more on producing sodas, sparkling waters, and seltzers as non-alcoholic alternatives rather than non-alcoholic beer. For example, Ottawa’s Dominion City Brewing Co. has an offshoot called City Seltzer and Toronto’s Henderson Brewery, which produces a cream soda.
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“I think we’re starting to see that more and more for two reasons: One, they have a lot of equipment to be able to produce this type of stuff. And two, I think they’re also wanting to provide the community alternatives to alcohol beverages, and it doesn’t need to be a non-alcoholic beer,” said Kris Linney, co-founder of Toronto cafe and retail shop GoodGood. “People aren’t always striving for that beer profile or taste.”
Meanwhile, in a market long dominated by citrus and berry fruit flavours, consumers are also looking for fresh tastes.
Pascale Larouche of Quebec-based Loop Mission says that some of the company’s bestselling flavours feature less common drink ingredients like beets, Swiss chard, and watermelon. “Since we work with overstock, we have access to more fruits and vegetables that other juice and soda companies cannot afford based on profit margins,” she explained.
Linney agrees that consumers are definitely trending towards flavour profiles “that are a little bit more unique”, but notes they are also looking for flavours that evoke nostalgia for childhood sodas. “You’re seeing these ‘90s [or] early 2000s throwback flavours come to life quite a bit,” he says, noting high sales of flavours like cream soda, orange cream, and cherry cola.