As manufacturers attempt to bring more and more of a craft aesthetic into their products, particularly expanding to offer options that are more health and wellness focused, botanicals have start to become a more prominent ingredient across various segments of the drinks market. Appealing to both the desire for more natural products and consumer interest in new flavours, use of the term “botanical” on packaging grew more than four-fold globally in the alcoholic market alone between 2011 and 2015. The herbal tea market, which has seen fairly consistent expansion, has also served as a forerunner for what botanicals can offer the drinks market. By appealing to two broadly emerging sectors, botanicals could be set to be a new boom market.
Botanical beer: natural and historical
Led by gin’s renaissance, botanicals have been steadily infiltrating other alcoholic drinks, with beer innovation using botanical ingredients growing from 3% in 2011 to 5% in 2015 according to Mintel’s Rise of Botanical Beers Offers a Myriad of Natural Flavour Opportunities report. Assisted further by rising global interest in Belgian beer-styles, such as saison, which frequently make use of botanicals such as coriander, the influence of botanicals in new beer products is on the increase. Likely assisted in no small part by the boom of the craft beer market, botanicals are offering brewers an opportunity to explore a different avenue of flavour.
According to Jonny Forsyth, Global Food & Drink analyst, in the aforementioned report, “Botanicals offer huge creative potential for brand innovation teams to create new tastes: there is a huge array of different botanicals which create different flavour harmonies when blended. The use of botanicals to balance sweetness can also help craft producers reduce their reliance on the increasingly expensive aroma hops.”
In addition to the modern appeal however, botanicals also allow brewers to play into the more historic aspects of their beer. Although beer dates back more than 7,000 years, the first documented use of hops was just over 1,200 years ago according to Craftbeer.com. The disparity suggests that botanicals were used to balance the malt before being later replaced by hops; in fact, it has been documented that ales made by Vikings in coastal Scandinavia were brewed using heather. Brewers such as Dogfish Head have played into this history with their Ancient Ales series, and the availability of such a narrative can assist producers in establishing their brand as more unique among the wide craft market.
Herbal tea: established premiumisation
In some ways treading the same path as craft alcohol, the tea market has made use of botanicals to appeal as a specialist product. The premiumisation of tea has been a growing trend over the last few years with customers demanding tea of both a higher quality than basic brands and a wider variety than typically offered. Herbal teas not only allow customers to explore a wide variety of flavours, rather than just Earl Grey or breakfast tea, but also, thanks to the common use of green tea as a base, and the inclusion of largely natural and organic ingredients, have a health conscious appeal that is likely to be popular.
“Botanicals offer huge creative potential for brand innovation”
Speaking in February of last year, Joost Pierrot, Centre for the Promotion of Imports tea consultant, said: “Although so far a small niche in the tea market (experts estimate: 5%), specialty tea is becoming very trendy in Europe. The search for individual, gourmet quality tea follows the same path coffee has travelled. Tea will become very fashionable for young people.”
The path to popularity for botanicals seems to lie in continuing to establish and maintain an aesthetic and narrative of natural sourcing and premium production. With an increasing demand for specialty products, and particularly those that cater to a health-conscious consumer base, botanicals serve as an easy way for producers to branch out and explore new flavours while maintaining a positive brand image.
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