Consumer Chatter: What are people’s reactions towards non-carbonated and non-alcoholic beverages?
Imagine waking up from a long night out without a nasty hangover and bad breath. And no, this doesn’t just apply to a zero-alcohol commitment in Dry January or Dry July- it’s a permanent lifestyle change decided on by a growing number of people in the United States.
Not only is there an increased focus on the side effects of alcoholic and carbonated drinks, but there is also an increased variety of healthy drink alternatives available for consumers. The rise in popularity of low-alcohol and carbon drinks has led to the introduction of alcohol-free bars in New York, London, and other major cities worldwide. It has also resulted in the growing trend of Sober curiosity, or the desire to live a healthier, more curated lifestyle.
It goes unsaid that the surge in the consumption of these beverages will have a tremendous impact on the industry in the years to come.
Investigating consumer interest through search behavior
We looked at search data consisting of over 250 keywords to the months leading up to Covid-19 and compared it with that following the pandemic to investigate growing consumer intent.
Our Culture AI extracted and semiotically clustered over 5500 social media posts about non-carbonated and non-alcoholic beverages from Twitter, Instagram, and Amazon users in the United States. As a result, we were able to decode customer perceptions towards the drinks, and identified the following discourse themes relating to their popularity:
Relaxation and mental health
In times like these, consumers’ needs include purchases that stand as antidotes for stressful times, whether that’s in the area of food and beverages, entertainment or wellness. One of the primary benefits of drinks like herbal tea, organic shakes, and gluten-free beverages is that they help relieve stress and anxiety. Online discourse about this category shines light upon the fact that beverage drinkers realize the mental wellbeing benefits of these natural and organic drinks.
Searches for words related to this theme increased by 11.3% over the pandemic. Terms such as “calming tea for anxiety” and “relaxation drinks” saw a spike in search volumes, further indicating the need for drinks for mental wellness.
Endurance and physical health
Apart from the internal bodily benefits, the beverages in this segment also appeal to consumers because of their physical health benefits. The existence of probiotics in these beverages is an important contributing factor in their consumption. Keywords related to endurance and fitness saw a growth rate of 28%, with phrases such as “best energy drink” and “reign energy drink” (a beverage brand).
With the Covid-19 pandemic heightening the importance of having a strong immune system, these beverages’ benefits have shifted in priority, from being a nice-to-have to a must-have in the eyes of consumers.
A treat for taste buds
For non-carbonated and non-alcoholic beverage drinkers, it is not just the health factor that is a trigger for consumption. Natural and organic drinks such as lime water and espresso martinis have the advantage of having distinct flavorings that make them a treat for the taste buds. The blend of different pure ingredients such as honey, lime, and plant-based milk add a delicious twist to these drinks and give them an edge over carbonated beverages.
With brands like Liquid IV and NOS offering delectable drinks, this category saw a growth rate of 67.3% over the pandemic.
Who wouldn’t like trying out a novel beverage that will elevate their drinking experience?
Consumers delight in consuming creative and trendy drinks like Sakura, Dalgona Coffee, and Purple Rice Yogurt. Not only do people enjoy the unique aesthetics and flavors of these natural drinks, but the idea of trying them out at home adds a touch of excitement to their day (especially since the images of these beverages can then be posted on social media!).
Because people were locked inside their homes for an extended period of time during the pandemic, the creative, experimental aspect of non-carbonated and non-alcoholic beverages became a significant factor of appeal in their consumption. It, therefore, comes as no surprise that keywords related to drink innovation such as “fusion juices” and “beverage innovation” witnessed the highest growth rate of a whopping 90.3%.
Packaging and concerns over the climate
Even though consumers often expect the design of the good to be trendy and unique, they care more about the packaging’s environmental effects. One of the reasons behind the popularity of non-carbonated and non-alcoholic beverages is the fact that most of them come in sustainable, paper-based packaging instead of polluting plastic material.
We found that the need to be environmentally friendly propels them to opt for brands like Silk, Aspire, and Lakewood, beverage companies with lightweight yet recyclable packaging. Search volume for terms such as “biodegradable packaging” and “juice glass container” grew by 32.4% and 51.7%, respectively.
Apart from the materials used for packaging, the number of chemical contaminants is also a significant deterrent in consuming carbonated beverages. Not only are these contaminants highly acidic and harmful to the ecosystem, but they contribute to each individual’s carbon footprint. Climate-related search queries have therefore seen a 70% growth rate as consumers prefer being environmentally responsible.
One of the most critical aspects for customers when choosing a product is to ensure that the beverage’s flavors, ingredients, and origins are reliable and as stated on its label.
The most significant advantage of non-carbonated drinks is that they taste authentic, natural, and chemical-free, giving consumers the perception that these beverages are healthy and without any artificial flavoring, as is often the case in carbonated drinks. Terms such as “real fruit juice”, “organic juices,” and “natural juices” contributed to an increase in search volume by 10.9%.
The rise of the digital age and, more specifically, social media use has led to the extensive sharing of brand content. Consumers, especially those between the ages of 18 and 34, tend to discover new drinks on social channels and are thereby easily influenced to purchase them. The clarity of information available pertaining to the health benefits of non-carbonated and non-alcoholic beverages, their authenticity, and reliability (as showcased by bloggers and influencers) are primary factors influencing young people’s purchase behavior.
This particular discourse theme is one of the most noteworthy because it relies on the formation of trust between consumers on social media and can have a powerful impact on purchase decisions. Related keywords saw a search volume spike of 31.4% over the course of the pandemic.
The key takeaway for brands:
Consumer discourse regarding non-carbonated and non-alcoholic beverages signals the fact that the primary appeal of these drinks lies in their health benefits, sustainable practices, authentic sourcing, and innovation. Brands in this space must demonstrate how their products meet these customer needs if they wish to capture a large share of the market.
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