The beverage of 2021 is nothing; 2022 will bring bold flavors

Beverage formulator shares its annual “drink of the year,” while highlighting flavor trends to consider for private brand juices, waters, alcoholic drinks and more.
Dan Ochwat
Executive Editor
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The drink that summarizes 2021 is “Nada Colada,” so says custom beverage developer Flavorman, who annually concocts a fictional drink that embodies the passing year.

The Louisville, Ky.-based company works with companies to produce beverages for retailer private brands and its stock formulations have also helped create unique formulations for brands like Jones Soda, Crispin Hard Cider and more.

an empty glass

Whereas 2020 earned the drink flavor “Dumpster Fire,” a spicy, smoky ginger drink with bittersweet grapefruit to resemble the sentiment of flaming trash, the 2021 drink is a glass of nothing, per Flavorman.

The company teased that the Nada Colada beverage is one with no flavor at all, no color, zero sweetness or sour, it’s a bland beverage of nothing. It’s the “Seinfeld” of beverages.

When you think of a 'nothing' flavor, you think of flat carbonation or a soft drink without syrup. Or, a glass of slightly infused water left stagnant overnight," said David Dafoe, founder and CEO of Flavorman. "We thought 2021 would be a positive year but it just felt like a slow-motion continuation of 2020 with unfulfilled hope of a return to normal, so we are naming the beverage and flavor ‘Nada Colada’ and hoping next year’s flavor will be much more exciting for us all. The positive is that 2022’s flavor should be much more enticing since we're starting from nothing.”

New Year Flavor Trends
Not to simply focus on nothing, Flavorman did highlight some beverage trends to keep an eye on in 2022:

Big and bold: Flavorman said the seltzer boom is driving beverage makers to keep up with the wild flavors by getting even bigger and bolder in flavor types. “Client requests have taken a 180-degree turn on flavor, especially where seltzers and sparkling waters are concerned,” said Tom Gibson, Flavorman’s chief flavorist. “Whereas before, clients would be looking for a gentler spritz of nuanced flavors in their drink, we are now seeing more clients ask for loud and proud, single-note flavors."

Different types of beverages in a row

Guilt-free indulgence: The company said floral profiles like hibiscus, lavender and elderflower are becoming more mainstream in beverages, making way for the earthier, more herbal flavors of turmeric, anise and rosemary. The flavors bring a balanced, healthier sense to indulgence.

Flavorman added that because premium is also often associated with quality, ingredients like juice and full sugar are also becoming more popular in beverages marketed as high-end. Consumers indulging in these drinks aren’t as concerned with calorie restrictions or sugar because they recognize that they are treating themselves to a unique experience, the company said.  

A return to simplicity: Drinks that provide a source of comfort during a time when life feels like it has become much more complicated could stand out in 2022. The ongoing “clean label” trend demonstrates that quality of ingredients, not quantity, is shaping consumer perceptions of the value of a beverage. It also explains why drinks with simple ingredient statements continue to be consumer favorites.

“Transparency has, time and time again, proven to be important to consumers,” said Clark. “Many clients seeking compliance with Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and other ‘better-for-you’ food and beverage retailers have simply opted to do away with sweeteners or added colors instead of combing through the accepted ingredient lists. Consumers don’t seem to mind.”

For even more flavor trends, the company released a video discussing a guide to 2022 flavors: