Soft Drink Flavor Profile Trends

In hot summer weather, ice-cold carbonated soft drinks (CSDs) can provide the utmost refreshment. But as consumers look for healthier, more natural beverages, CSDs have taken a hit. Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD) sees companies looking to new flavors and ingredients to refresh their CSD lines. Though cola and citrus formulations remain popular, leading global manufacturers are bringing natural contents and exotic tastes to their new CSD products.

Using real fruit juice has become a common way for manufacturers to "add a drop of health" into their new CSD products. Carbonated drinks face fierce competition from healthy, vitamin-enhanced juices, energy drinks and fortified waters. By formulating CSDs with real juice, manufacturers can project a healthier image and appeal to health-conscious drinkers. In the United States, Wild Oats Markets features a Natural Pink Grapefruit Italian Soda. The soda contains 12% juice and is also available in lemon, raspberry and orange passion mango flavors.

Rubicon likewise features a Sparkling Juice Drink under its Sun Exotic brand in the United Kingdom. Available in a Tropical flavor, the sparkling juice contains seven different tropical fruits and has an 11% real fruit juice content. To add to its healthy positioning, the packaging notes that Sun Exotic is free of artificial sweeteners. 

Another way CSD manufacturers are increasing the health profiles of their products is by playing on the popularity of antioxidant-rich superfruits. As superfruits like cranberries, pomegranates and blueberries become more popular across all food and beverage categories, CSD manufacturers are including them for a healthier-seeming product. During the 2007 holiday season, Cadbury Schweppes released pomegranate-flavored 7-Up in the United States. With 100% natural flavors, no caffeine and low sodium, the CSD was undoubtedly marketed toward consumers seeking a healthier alternative to a traditional soft drink.

Quanshun Beer in China also uses a popular superfruit flavor to appeal to consumers’ changing tastes and health concerns. Its King Benefit Blueberry soda is said to be refreshing and tasty. It retails in a 345 mL can.

As people around the world become more global in their food tastes and preferences, beverages have had to follow suit. Today’s sophisticated drinker may not want to pair a simple cola with his or her exotic, ethnic cuisine. So CSD manufacturers have begun to experiment with exotic flavors and ingredients to capture this market. Germany recently witnessed the launch of Matonade, a new line of organic malt soft drinks. In exotic flavors ranging from mango-chili to holunder (elderberry)-cranberry to kräuter (herb), the soft drinks clearly target a drinker used to experiencing new tastes.

In Mexico, Coordinación Industrial Mexicana S.A. de C.V. is also experimenting with creative flavors. Its Ameyal Refresco Frutal (Fruit Soft Drink) is a blend of strawberry, kiwi, peach, apple, mandarin and tamarind. This CSD combines more common CSD flavors, such as mandarin, with very uncommon flavors, such as tamarind, for a truly unique taste experience.

Because CSDs are such a well-known format around the globe, manufacturers can play around with fun and unusual flavors. Crazy taste combinations help a soft drink stand out from its myriad competitors. As more and more products go premium, CSD manufacturers have begun to tap into more “sophisticated” flavorings such as coffee, tea and cucumber. In Canada, Left Coast Trading uses hemp in its Hemp-C Big Time Lemon Lime Soda. Designed for use on its own or with alcohol, the soft drink contains hemp oil, guarana, damiana, ginseng extracts and vitamin C for a tangy and refreshing experience.

Though carbonated soft drinks can go premium, they can just as easily go goofy, especially as kids and teens are prominent drinkers around the globe. Coca-Cola turns the flavor of its Mystery Fruits Fanta into a game in Japan by encouraging people to guess its two “mystery flavors.” Drinkers can then enter their guesses on the Fanta website and win original cell phone ring tones.

The Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD) tracks new product launches, trends and innovations internationally. For additional information regarding GNPD, visit or call Mintel International at 1-312-932-0600.

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