In May 2016, FDA unveiled new requirements for the Nutrition Facts panel of packaged foods, including the reporting of a product’s, added sugar content. In addition to several proprietary blends of natural alternative sweeteners driving specific product and brand growth, SPINS data also showed a number of ingredients trending across categories in the natural retail channel. Stevia, blends of stevia and other sweeteners, and monk fruit emerge as versatile natural alternative sweeteners to watch in three areas of interest: the soda space refrigerated juices and functional beverages, and drink mix products.
Perhaps due to perceived negative health connotations around soda (both regular and diet formulas), the carbonated beverages category is seeing limited overall growth. One such alternative sweetener ingredient with cross-channel success is monk fruit, with burgeoning growth (159 percent) in carbonated beverages across natural, specialty gourmet and conventional channels. Once a natural industry trend, stevia sweeteners have flourished in the mainstream market. Even stevia blends with cane sugar are emerging in the soda segment.
Refrigerated Juices & Functional Beverages
The refrigerated juices and functional beverages category, though only growing in the single digits mainstream, is up 11 percent in the natural channel.
The natural channel showed 23 percent growth in the drink mixes and concentrates category, while specialty and conventional channels see less or no growth over last year.
FDA announced most manufacturers have two years, and small manufacturers three years, to comply with recent updates to the Nutrition Facts panel. With new attention to added sugar intake in plain view on packaging, and with the current momentum of consumer culture shifting away from sugar (or conversely, artificial sweeteners), brands have an opportunity to update their formulas and develop new beverages.