Consumers soak up the latest offerings in water beverages

September 2, 2015
Consumers soak up the latest offerings in water beverages

When it comes to enjoying a family-friendly beverage with a meal, Canadians have long favoured traditional choices such as coffee, tea, soft drinks and juices. But there are a few new kids on the block in the non-alcoholic beverage category, and they come from the most original of sources – water.

From new flavours in bottled and carbonated waters to an increasing variety of plant- and herb- enhanced waters, beverage menus across Canada are going beyond the basics. Canadian Restaurant & Foodservice News recently spoke to purveyors of some of these exciting new water-based beverages to hear what they had to say about consumer beverage trends, the benefits of such drinks for both consumers and operators, and how chefs and bartenders can find creative uses for these healthy thirst quenchers.

Panellists:

John Challinor, Director of Corporate Affairs, Nestlé Waters Canada
David Hemmings, President, Todays Food Trends
Howard Ketelson, CEO, Arty Water Company
Dr. Ayala Laufer-Cahana, Co-founder, Herbal Water Inc.

What are some of the most exciting new trends and developments in bottled or plant waters for 2015?

John Challinor: The Canadian sparkling water category is currently experiencing a 15 per cent annual growth rate, making it one of the fastest growing segments in the non-alcoholic beverage industry. While an increasing number of Canadians are consuming sparkling water instead of carbonated soft drinks, juices and other beverages with caloric content for reasons associated with better health, many are choosing zero-sugar, zero-calorie sparkling waters for pure enjoyment and simple fun. The trend in sparkling water is towards packaging that enables its consumption anyplace, anywhere – from elegantly designed glass and PET bottles in fine dining to aluminum cans at a sporting event. The range of flavours is also expanding, making water a great choice for stand-alone consumption or enjoyment alongside any type of food.

David Hemmings: In the last year or so, some new players in the plant water category are starting to make their way onto retail and foodservice shelves in Canada. The most popular of these new options are cactus water, birch water and maple water. Birch water has exciting new varieties such as elderflower, ginger-lime, raspberry and blueberry. Cactus water will soon have a lime version of the already popular natural version.

Ayala Laufer-Cahana: Customers’ palates and desires have changed dramatically in the last few years. People are looking for natural drinks to minimize sugars and sweeteners, and they’re seeking out plant-based ingredients for both their nutritional value and their great flavours. In this way, herbs are the ultimate water enhancer; they add exotic new flavours without adding any calories and can contribute many other beneficial properties as well.

How are the above trends reflective of current consumer behavior and preferences?

DH: Canadian consumers are, more than ever, looking for and demanding healthier beverage selections from their favorite restaurants and quick-service establishments. In recent focus groups, consumers were given a choice between sugary sodas and other beverages and healthy plant waters — more than half chose the plant waters.

Howard Ketelson: Based on our research, consumer behavior in the last three years has been shifting towards more functional beverages that have added health benefits. At Arty Water, we use fresh ingredients like artichokes, spearmint, apples and lemons, and we lightly sweeten the products with natural monk fruit and agave nectar. One bottle of Original Arty has only 40 calories (similar to coconut water).

A L-C: Many people are now carefully scrutinizing nutritional panels and ingredient lists. They are especially attentive to calories, sugar, and to ingredients that can’t be pronounced and don’t sound like food. “What’s in it” and “who made it” weigh in to the decision to purchase a drink, as people are consciously trying to reduce their consumption of drinks they now perceive as unhealthy.What are some of the benefits for consumers for choosing bottled or plant waters over traditional soft drinks?

JC: Sparkling waters afford consumers the zero-calorie hydration they need without sacrificing fun or flavour.

DH: The first and most obvious benefit of choosing plant-based beverages over traditional soft drinks is the health factor. Cactus water, birch water, maple water and aloe water are made from nature. They have health benefits that traditional soft drinks or sodas can’t match.

HK: The fresh artichokes that Arty Water contains have many health benefits. Artichokes are reported to help reduce cholesterol, improve cardiovascular health, aid in weight loss and promote maintenance of healthy skin.

A L-C: Waters infused with herbs offer the ultimate solution for people seeking natural, unprocessed aroma and flavour, since whole herbs can be infused into water, adding wellness and deliciousness without adding calories.

What are the benefits for restaurant operators in offering bottled or plant waters?

JC: Sparkling waters are one of the three most profitable offerings available to restaurant operators – the other two being alcohol and coffee. The range of sparkling water pricing and flavours enables restaurateurs to mix and match them with food offerings and allows them to differentiate their daily or special menus from their competitors’.

DH: Typically, what consumers think of as “healthy” drinks have been products such as fruit smoothies and juices that require equipment, time and fresh ingredients. Although there is definitely a place in the market for smoothies and juices, operators can now offer something that has similar health benefits in a grab-and-go format, without the labour, equipment costs and mess.

HK: We’ve found that restaurant operators who offer Arty Water have been quite creative. The simplest option is to offer it as a standalone healthy drink option, but many are using our product as a complement to their food menu, or finding a place for it in enhancing cocktail offerings.

What are some creative ways bartenders or chefs can use bottled or plant waters to create new beverage options?

HK: We had a one customer who enjoyed adding Arty Water to his workout shake every morning. Another used Arty Water to make ice cream, which turned out delicious! Behind the bar, we’ve heard of it being used to make an “Arty Martini.”

A L-C: Herbal water can be a tasty alternative to sugar-laden mixers in cocktails. Herbal infusions are all the rage in the mixology circuit, and herbal water is a quick and easy way to add a complementary combination of herbs to drinks, and to create a lighter, healthier beverage. Herbal water adds a fresh, bright, and less-filling ingredient, replacing syrups and fruit juices, and creating ‘skinny’ drinks with sophisticated flavour.

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