CHICAGO — Perishable ready-to-drink (R.-T.-D.) beverages continue to populate retailers’ refrigerators in response to consumers’ growing desire for minimal processing. Processes such as cold press and cold brew, often coupled with high-pressure processing, are proving to be suitable replacements for ultra-high temperature pasteurization and aseptic processing.
Tea and coffee, sources of natural energy in the form of caffeine, are trending, along with fruit juices intrinsically loaded with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Protein’s popularity persists while botanicals are gaining traction.
Across the R.-T.-D. beverage segment, reducing, or if possible, completely eliminating added sugars has been a goal of many product developers. And when sweet is necessary, there’s a trend toward using minimally processed cane sugar and honey, as well as natural high-intensity sweeteners such as stevia and monk fruit. Another approach is to formulate with fruit ingredients that have higher Brix, which provides sweetness, naturally.
“Consumers want transparency in their beverage brands,” said Natalie Sexton, director of marketing, Natalie’s Orchid Island Juice Co., Fort Pierce, Fla. “They want clean label with minimal ingredients. Minimal processing is also being marketed to the consumer.”
And they are buying it. Ms. Sexton believes that 2018 will be the year that the relevancy of processing becomes mainstream.
“It’s all about nutrient retention,” she said. “We market ‘gourmet pasteurized’ juices. This means we pasteurize at the minimum temperature, for the minimum amount of time, to ensure our juices retain optimum nutrition, enzymatic activity and unrivaled freshness.”