Beverage futurists (and Willy Wonka) would be pleased to note that the global industry is bubbling with innovation as of late. Rapidly-changing consumer preferences, a growing push towards ESG, and a number of new cultural developments are prompting innovation on a scale scarcely seen in decades. If you haven’t seen us appear as beverage futurists or keynote speakers yet, you may be wondering: What’s next for the field? A brief tour follows, naturally…

For example: The contemporary consumer’s emphasis on wellness continues to shape the beverage industry. The shift towards “better-for-you” drinks is no longer confined to low-calorie alternatives. Instead, as beverage futurists have observed, shoppers are opting for functional drinks enriched with probiotics, vitamins, minerals, and plant-based proteins. Apertifs fortified with immunity-boosting ingredients like turmeric, ginger, and citrus have gained significant traction in response to the global pandemic’s health-focused narrative.

Moreover, the rise of nootropics, ingredients believed to boost cognitive function, has led to the development of beverages designed to enhance mood, improve focus, and reduce stress. With caffeine alternatives like matcha and guayusa also on the rise, the health-conscious beverage market is broadening its horizons.

The blend of technology and growing audience demand for personalized experiences has birthed a new trend in beverages too. Innovations like smart dispensing systems allow users to tailor their drinks according to their nutritional needs and taste preferences. Meanwhile, biotech companies are pioneering “DNA-based” beverage recommendations, mapping consumers’ genetic makeup to suggest drinks that best complement their unique dietary requirements.

And you don’t need a beverage futurist or keynote speaker to tell you that as we all grow more eco-conscious, the need for sustainable practices within the industry intensifies. Brands are investing in ethical sourcing, sustainable farming practices, and recyclable packaging. For instance, several companies are exploring plant-based packaging solutions, significantly reducing their carbon footprint.

Moreover, traceability has become a key aspect of sustainability. By employing blockchain technology, brands can provide customers with detailed product lifecycle information, from farm to glass, reassuring them of their eco-friendly practices.

Hard seltzers, low in calories and carbohydrates, have also carved out a substantial niche in the field, catering to a health-conscious audience looking for a guilt-free alcoholic experience. These lightly-flavored, carbonated alcoholic beverages have taken the market by storm, thanks to their versatile appeal and seemingly more diet-conscious persona.

On the other end of the spectrum though, beverage futurists have noted that the market for non-alcoholic craft beverages is flourishing. Drawing inspiration from the craft beer movement, options like brewed teas, specialty coffees, and artisanal sodas offer a gourmet experience for folks who’d prefer to skip the alcohol entirely and/or those looking to reduce their alcohol intake.