MatchaAlthough matcha has been around for centuries, it has really gained popularity in the past several years with consumers. This green tea in powder form is highly versatile and consumers are able to enjoy the health benefits while mixing into almost any food/beverage. James Oliveira, sales manager – ingredients division for Aiya America, Torrance, CA, lists some options, “from teas, smoothies, lattes, lemonade, and nutritional drinks to cuisines, soups, sauces, desserts, ice creams and dairy products, breads and pastas. The applications are almost limitless.” He notes that matcha has been trending since 2012 and more heavily in the last two years as the beverage industry moves increasingly towards natural ingredients, portability and convenience.
Matcha reaps more benefits than green tea because in its powder form the whole leaf is consumed, therefore getting 100% of the benefits, explains Oliveira. In the process the leaves are shade-grown, resulting in 90% of the sunlight being blocked out. Oliveira explains this process does three things: first, it gives matcha its well-known jade coloring because the leaves start to overproduce chlorophyll. Second, natural sweetness is preserved in the shade growing process because the amino-acids are maintained (in sunlight, tea leaves lose amino-acids as they are converted to catechins, which give a bitter taste). Finally, the leaves widen and expand due to lack of sunlight, which creates a finer powder while grinding the leaves. Oliveira says the leaves are then destemmed and deveined and the highest grades of pure matcha leaves are stone ground into powder form. Matcha has numerous health benefits that customers should be aware of. Oliveira says it is abundant with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fiber, gives the body a natural energy boost, and contains high levels of amino-acids including L-theanine. Because of these health benefits and growing accessibility for consumers, we don’t expect to see interest in matcha dwindling anytime soon. It is only going to grow, says Oliveira. “We will likely see greater applications for matcha-sourced products, such as RTDs, RTMs (ready to mix), nutraceutical applications, and protein powders to name a few,” he says. There is also a cross-functional appeal to ingredient buyers: ready-to -mix with other trending ingredients like collagen, turmeric, etc. he states. What does this mean for the industry? He says eventually all retailers, tea shops and cafes will offer matcha-based options. This is definitely a trend to keep an eye on if you aren’t already.
Is all matcha equal? Oliveira says not necessarily. Regionality is a key: Japanese matcha is the gold standard. Oliveira says the Japanese have perfected the technique while other regions may not meet the same standards. “This could be due to a variety of factors such as the growing environment, farmers’ skills in cultivating tea, and processing of the tea leaves. Some companies produce matcha but do not follow the same methods performed in Japan. For example, there are some companies that do not use the same grinding techniques/machines.” He also shares there is a difference in quality, and better grades cost more for a reason. “Better grades mean a smoother, sweeter taste, a highly vibrant jade-green color, and a fine powder that feels like eye shadow to the touch.” Both retailers and consumers should be conscious of this to make sure they are stocking or buying the best quality.
Tea TrendsGrowing popularity in exotic teas like matcha and sencha will help drive the US tea market to a $10 billion valuation by 2022, says market research firm Packaged Facts. Along with matcha, other popular teas are moringa, sencha and mizudashi. As consumers are distancing themselves from sugary soft drinks, these teas are becoming a more popular, healthier option (2).
- Moringa is similar to matcha but used in a traditional brewing method rather than a ready-to-drink format. This tea from India is rich in antioxidants, can be a natural energy-boost, can help mental and emotional balance, and support healthy blood sugar levels, according to Packaged Facts (2).
- Sencha also originates from Japan and is relatively new to the US market. Although not as popular in the states, it is Japan’s most popular tea, available in tea bags, loose tea and powder form. This tea is a very healthy option because it has higher levels of antioxidants than matcha and also contains catechins, vitamin C, beta-carotene, folic acid, saponins and potassium. Few US companies offer it but some tea bars brew rare strains including sencha (2).
- Mizudashi is the authentic Japanese process of cold brewing teas, which results in a smoother, less bitter taste and preserves the health benefits (2). Cold brew ready-to-drink teas will likely become more popular as cold brew coffee is a rapidly growing trend. Next to water, tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world and can be found in 80% of US households. Approximately four out of five consumers drink tea, with millennials being the most likely (87% of millennials drink tea) (3). It’s no surprise this category remains popular and will always be one consumers seek.
Another interesting infusion is vitamin D in coffee. “A full 40% of all US adults suffer from a vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D deficiencies cause bone and heart health problems,” explains Dr. Miller. VERA found a solution by creating Sunshine Blend CoffVee which is infused with vitamin D and resveratrol. People can lack vitamin D even in the summer months, he explains. Between not getting enough sun or blocking rays with makeup and sunscreen, customers may have a vitamin D deficiency.
CBD has been a trending topic lately as more companies are selling CBD oil or creating products with infusions. VERA created Wellness Blend CoffVee which is infused with resveratrol plus CBD (cannabidiol). “CBD is the non-psychoactive cannabinoid found in industrial hemp plants and is widely accepted as helpful for reducing pain and inflammation, relieving anxiety and improving sleep patterns,” says Dr. Miller. “CBD has been used for thousands of years in Asian medicine and is widely accepted as responsible for these and other positive health impacts.” He says that most importantly, people should know that CBD is not a psychoactive and doesn’t produce a high. People have many negative thoughts surrounding hemp, but as Dr. Miller explains, the high surrounding marijuana is due to THC, a different organic compound than CBD. “Using methods of extraction and purification, organic chemists like myself can isolate CBD from hemp such that it is completely free of THC,” Dr. Miller says about his Wellness Blend coffee. Consumers should know they can safely experience CBD benefits with products like this. Dr. Miller believes his products are under the category of functional coffee. Functional foods and beverages as we know are an emerging and trending category in the industry. With so many consumers focused on health and nutrition, functional coffee and other beverages are sure to continue to rise.
SwitchelTypically made from apple cider vinegar, ginger and then sweetened with either molasses or syrup, switchel is a gut-friendly carbonated drink. Ely Key, president and CEO of Up Mountain Switchel, Brooklyn, NY, says some call this drink “1700s Farmer’s Gatorade.” “This concoction helped farmers stay hydrated. Apple cider vinegar balances your pH so you can absorb water and nutrients more efficiently. They would drink switchel in conjunction with water.” Companies like Up Mountain Switchel are making this drink more popular and accessible to consumers. Up Mountain uses local organic maple syrup, local organic apple cider vinegar and organic fresh ginger root to craft its beverages. Key says he grew up with a farming background and decided to switch up his own recipe by using fresh ginger instead of ground ginger, which made a significant difference. “It not only improved flavor profile, but also nutritional quality because heating fresh ginger root is the traditional ayurvedic medical practice.”
There are many health benefits of switchel. Ginger, being a main ingredient, can help ease inflammation, while maple syrup and apple cider vinegar contain potassium, which can help boost electrolytes. Apple cider vinegar also contains magnesium and probiotics and can help detox the body. Before sports drinks, switchel was used by farmers to stay hydrated. It is now making a comeback as a popular health-boosting drink.
KombuchaKombucha is the widely-popular fermented tea. When it becomes cultured it has tons of health benefits and is rich with probiotics, amino-acids and active enzymes. Kombucha can aid in gut health because of the high content of probiotics and also help boost the immune system.
The global kombucha market size was valued at $760 million in 2016 and is likely to expand at a CAGR of 23% over the forecast period. As flavored drinks become increasingly popular, it is expected that different flavors of kombucha will become more popular among consumers as well (3). Many brands are coming up with innovative ingredient mixes for unique flavors. For instance, GT’s Living Foods, Beverly Hills, CA, has a wide range of kombucha products; some are more traditional recipes with herbs and spices, while others have unique blends of fruit juices. This beverage remains a hot trend. Some retailers say, only half-jokingly, if you’re out of kombucha, there’s no point in opening your store!
MocktailsMocktail Beverages Inc. created fun, all-natural non-alcoholic drinks for consumers to enjoy. “When our families got together, we discovered that we were all searching for fun alcohol-free drinks without the artiﬁcial ingredients, preservatives or high fructose corn syrup. Sodas of any kind were clearly out,” says the company. They began making mixology inspired beverages without the calories or chemicals in traditional drinks.
WatersAloe Vera water is made from the plant’s inner leaf and can provide numerous health benefits like hydration, digestion and a boost to the immune system. It also packs a powerful vitamin C punch. There’s also cactus water, which contains taurine, an amino-acid that acts as a powerful antioxidant in the body. It is also full of vitamins and minerals that have anti-inflammatory properties and immune system boosters (4).
The natural beverages category is ever-evolving and there are always new trends retailers should be looking out for. Many consumers are looking for plant-based and healthier options without sacrificing taste. Many natural beverages are functional beverages where customers can get a great source of protein, probiotics and vitamins. Think about stocking single-serve beverage packets at the register for a sales pick-me-up. WF
- Newhart, Beth, “Top four teas to watch: Multicultural inspiration in the US market,” https://www.beveragedaily.com/Article/2018/08/08/Top-four-teas-to-watch-multicultural-inspiration-affecting-US-market?utm_source=newsletter_daily&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=08-Aug-2018&c=sj2%2FXWk4ANDFKCf%2FmWzFtTyUmfbk3mxb&p2=
- Perkins, Shelley, “Top 5 U.S. Tea Industry Trends,” https://worldteanews.com/news/top-5-u-s-tea-industry-trends
- Grand View Research, “Kombucha Market Size, Share & Trends Analysis Report By Flavor (Original, Flavored), By Distribution Channel (Supermarkets, Health Stores, Online Stores), By Region, And Segment Forecasts, 2018 – 2025,” https://www.grandviewresearch.com/industry-analysis/kombucha-market
- Matthews, Melissa, “Does Cactus Water Have Any Real Health Benefits? A Look Into The Trend,” https://www.medicaldaily.com/does-cactus-water-have-any-real-health-benefits-look-trend-418386