Beverage Report: Get healthy or get going

The trend toward health and wellness is fitting right in with beverages, and private brands are answering the call. As more adults drink less alcohol and soda, they are turning to alternatives that taste great and with more health benefits.

No one wants to drink just water. Consumers are looking for drinks that provide energy, support the digestive system and sparkle enough to be Instagram-worthy. Manufacturers say retailers should look carefully at their private label assortments of ready-to-drink beverages, refrigerated juices and other items to appeal to these consumers.


One area of opportunity for growth is refrigerated juices. “Consumers continue to shop the perimeter/deli section to seek out fresh, better-for-you options,” said Brad Key, retail business development executive for Universal Pure, based in Villa Rica, Ga. 

Key said many shoppers are looking for clean-label drinks, as well as for other more specific product attributes. That includes functional ingredients that promote better hydration, more energy and increased immune response. “This is accomplished by adding ingredients like caffeine, protein, vitamins, and other natural additives to increase the wellness factor without muddying up the label,” he said. Universal Pure provides high pressure processing, or HPP, services, which, Key explained, increases the shelf life of a cold-pressed juice from three to four days to 60 to 70 days, while maintaining the nutritional content of the juice.

Cold-pressed juices have been around for a while, Key said, and now there are opportunities for growth in store brands in this category. “Retailers seeking to capture market share for their store brands are working with juice companies and co-packers to formulate their own unique blends for healthy cold-pressed HPP juices for the deli, prepared foods and produce sections,” he said.

Retailers seeking to capture market share for their store brands are working with juice companies and co-packers to formulate their own unique blends for healthy cold-pressed HPP juices.
Brad Key, , Universal Pure

In 2019, Universal Pure acquired Meriden, Conn.-based Stay Fresh Foods. Now Universal Pure has an expanded geographic footprint, and three additional HPP machines, bringing the total to 15, and the ability to blend and bottle 50 million bottles of juice per year. “The ability to blend, bottle, and HPP under one roof keeps costs down and helps retailers competitively price their private label juice lines to capture market share,” Key said.

Shelf-stable beverages also are playing in the functional space. Lassonde Pappas and Co. makes juices that answer consumer demand for functional beverages. Over the past few years, Lassonde, which is headquartered in Quebec, Canada and has U.S. operations in Carneys Point, N.J., has launched several products that respond to current trends. “We were able to introduce new low-carb/low-sugar pro- grams and many products with clean ingredient decks,” said Josianne Légaré, senior vice president of U.S. sales. “This trend was in its very beginnings.”


Today, the hottest flavors are ginger, mango, passionfruit and tart cherry. “They all offer specific health-related benefits and are considered super foods,” Légaré said. “They are all growing rapidly in the juice category.”

Tea long has been associated with wellness, and now consumers are looking for better teas, including in private label teas. “In the past, it was very simple, green tea or black tea at rock-bottom prices,” said Jason Walker, marketing director for Firsd Tea North America in Lyndhurst, N.J. “Now it’s fair trade, non-GMO, higher quality, greater range of flavors and wellness options.”


Walker noted that oolong tea is gaining popularity, and the tea reportedly offers similar health benefits to green or black tea, from heart health to decreasing the risk of diabetes to boosting metabolism. Also, consumers are becoming more familiar with kombucha, a fermented tea that has a small amount of alcohol. Versions with more alcohol are getting attention.

Firsd offers RTD, bagged and specialty tea blends, and iced tea blends. The company is developing a wellness line of teas available in brand and for private label. “If a store is not quite ready to launch their own brand, they bring in our packer label of teas,” Walker said. “They want that proof of concept.”

Other better-for-you trends include fermented foods, according to Mintel. Last year the research firm noted that consumers look for ingredients that not only contribute to a balanced diet but also play a role in relaxation, stress relief, and a healthy gut. As a result, sipping vinegars are growing.

According to Euromonitor, in a blog post about last year’s Private Label Manufacturers Association show, other trends in private label beverages include flavored and carbonated bottled waters, packaging in recycled and canned alternatives to plastic bottles, and plant-based milks in RTD coffees.

“There is a lot of interest right now in ready-to-drink teas and coffees,” said Avihu Schumacher, CEO of Miami-based Oka Products. “Also people are not drinking milk.” The company offers several RTD coffee drinks under the Okafe brand and private label. The drinks are available in cappuccino, hazelnut, mocha latte and other flavors, and also are available with almond or coconut milk.

People are turning away from sodas, so they are looking for RTD beverages that offer beneficial ingredients, Schumacher said. The company also makes branded and private label lines of alkaline waters, which have higher pH than regular drinking water, and infused waters, which have anti-oxidants. It also makes Rose Tea, available in such flavors as mango, apple and wild berries.


Beverages can still be fun, and few things are more entertaining than color and carbonation. Maud Borup, which is based in Plymouth, Minn., makes Fizzy Drink Bombs. They are available in Very Cherry and Blue Raspberry, and when dropped into 24 oz. of water, the bomb fizzes and sparkles with edible glitter. President and owner Christine Lantinen said the bombs answer several consumer trends, among them the rise of the mocktail, as well millennials’ desire for experiences and an Instagram-able moment.

“When people go to a restaurant they want more than good food, they want an experience,” she said. “In retail, it’s similar. They want to try something new, often.” In addition to offering entertainment for kids, adults can drop the product into champagne. The Fizzy Drink Bomb launched last year and is available for private label.

Despite Maude Borup’s 100-plus years in business, it knows that digital word-of-mouth can be key. “People are sharing things on social media,” Lantinen said. “What they respond to is what they find amusing or cool or weird.”