Beverage trends in Japan: functional, healthy and low alcohol

Consumers worldwide are looking for food & beverages that support a healthy and sustainable lifestyle. As such, beverages should not only contain physical health benefits, but also mental and spiritual ones. A diet should provide solutions to combat tiredness, improve digestion, boost the immune system and recover from stressful days. At the same time, the products should be natural and come with a high degree of functionality. The shipment value of foods with functional claims in Japan has been booming since 2015, with the largest growth rate recorded in the fiscal year 2016, when the market tripled in size compared to the previous year.1

More than ever before, the past year has brought about an increased level of environmental and health consciousness amongst consumers. A healthy lifestyle is closely linked to a balanced diet and is indispensable for staying fit and agile, and this greater awareness of healthy living has resulted in increasing demand for beverages with optimal nutritional and functional profiles. As is the case in many countries around the world, there is significant demand on the Japanese market for energy drinks, sports drinks and RTD coffee drinks. This segment is joined by that of what are known as “beauty drinks” – beverages that support the physical appearance and skin – as a rather specific trend amongst Japanese consumers. These markets show that the focus is more on functional beverages than on applications that stop consumers from being thirsty.

Döhler offers a comprehensive portfolio of natural and sustainably sourced ingredients that are the perfect basis to create innovative beverages with functional benefits.

Canned and bottled coffee
While added benefits are important to the success of any beverage, new ways of serving coffee have made it the most popular drink in Japan, a ranking which it still holds today. With 76 percent of the Japanese population stating they consume coffee, it is still the most popular non-alcoholic beverage in Japan,2 a popularity which, back in the 1960s, resulted in canned coffee being invented in Japan as a convenient way to consume the drink on the go.

In addition to canned RTD coffee, the beverage is also available today in PET bottles. Consumers have their pick of options – apart from coffee shops, coffee beverages are found in vending machines in supermarkets, airports, convenience stores and street corners, so that consumption on-the-go to and from the office is possible. The brewed beverage is available as both a hot or cold drink, depending on the season, with heated cans offered during winter months, whereas chilled coffee is available throughout the year. While flavoured coffee is not very popular, classic variations such as black and milk coffee are in great demand. In line with the consumer demand for products that support a healthy lifestyle, reduced sugar variations of canned and bottled coffee become ever more popular.

Functional and healthy
Reducing sugar content is also a strong driving force in other categories on the Japanese beverage market. While the beverage market as a whole is in decline, the demand for carbonated water and energy drinks is developing. The rise in sales of carbonated drinks is due to more health-conscious consumers who demand new products that are more natural and less sweet. As such, the market category is being driven by the demand for sugar-free and reduced sugar variants.

Energy drinks represent one of the most exciting and dynamic beverage categories with innovative concepts, exciting flavours and versatile positioning options. Consumers appreciate the invigorating effect of the stimulants and demand has grown for energy drinks made from naturally occurring sources of energy, such as guayusa and guarana. This new generation of energy drinks with functional ingredients such as proteins, BCAAs, vitamins or minerals offers further marketing potential for a variety of positioning options.

Döhler has a wide selection of natural ingredients that are tailored for functional beverages, such as supportive vitamin and mineral blends, trendy plant-based proteins and exotic botanical extracts. All of these ingredients provide improved nutritional value and impress with an excellent taste profile. 

Beauty & recovery drinks
Since the 1970s, beauty shots have been a long-selling category in Japan with people who had to work late at night seeking products to combat stress and tiredness. Today, these products are far more diverse and come with different and additional functionalities, such as support in recovering from hangovers, stomach aches and other ailments, as well as products targeted at beauty-conscious consumers with benefits for skin health.

By using state-of-the-art technologies, Döhler offers high-quality products from nature in different ways – from minimally processed full spectrum powders, which retain the entire healthy content from the raw material, to high-end standardised botanical extracts with guaranteed amounts of certain naturally occurring healthy compounds, like antioxidants. These valuable botanicals are paving the way for inspirational natural food and beverage applications with healthy positioning. Alongside plant extracts, strong infusions, distillates and essences, natural colours and flavours allow consumers the choice of an individual flavour and vibrant colour.

While collagen beverages are available as a diet supplement around the world, they are very popular as innovative drink shots in Japan. Enriched with vitamins, these shots are positioned as a healthy way to help boost the nutrient content that consumers might be lacking. There is also great demand for rejuvenating products which work as skin moisturisers and help reduce wrinkles.

Low and non-alcoholic
In line with the worldwide trend amongst consumers towards non-alcoholic beverages, this movement can also be seen on the Japanese market. To create delicious non-alcoholic spirits, Döhler offers natural flavours, distillates, extracts and alcohol boosters. The comprehensive selection of bonificateurs and typages provides beverages with well-rounded flavour profiles and enables top notes to stand out, while the natural ingredients supplement each other perfectly and create enhanced taste experiences with < 0.5 % alcohol content!

The most popular low-alcohol beverage in Japan is the Lemon Sour; a lemon-flavoured mix drink made with a spirit and a soft drink and usually sold as an RTD can. In order for a Lemon Sour to taste authentic and fresh, high-quality citrus ingredients are required, with citrus oils and flavours just some of the available options to create a successful beverage. Citrus oils from Döhler are available in organic quality, and are therefore the perfect option to provide 100% natural citrus flavours for organic beverages, as well as often being used as a base ingredient when creating citrus flavours. The extensive production capabilities and strategic geographical position allows the company to work with raw materials from the main sources of citrus fruits around the world, with 75% of all processed citrus fruits coming from Latin America. Whether lemon, orange or citrus as a whole, as a global producer in the beverage industry, Döhler supplies not only high-quality natural ingredients, but also a range of exciting concepts for refining spirits with natural extracts. With innovative all-in-one solutions, the company creates authentic moments of enjoyment that perfectly harmonise authentic taste and modern lifestyle.

Exotic and herbal taste profiles
While consumers demand healthier and more natural beverages, they also wish to experience new tastes and textures, with exotic taste profiles particularly popular on the Japanese beverage market. While flavours such as hibiscus and rose are well-known flavours today, orange and cherry blossom are promising taste variations. In addition, earthy flavours such as herbs, spices, roots and botanicals are on the rise, with botanical extracts particularly well suited for use in a variety of both non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverage applications. Herbal and fruit flavours therefore represent new taste experiences and meet the consumer desire for more naturalness and authentic products.

With their comprehensive portfolio of natural ingredients and product solutions, Döhler is supporting a healthy, plant-based and sustainable future for our planet. In line with the company slogan “We bring ideas to life.”, and as a provider of complete ingredient systems and integrated solutions, Döhler develops innovative and sustainable concepts with its customers – from the idea, to implementation, to the shelf.

 

1

Statista 2020: www.statista.com/statistics/820682/japan-functional-foods-market-size/


2  https://www.statista.com/statistics/880011/japan-popular-non-alcoholic-beverages

 

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Professional article: Beverage Trends in Japan | PET Planet, Edition 02-2021


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