Innovative sugar-free beverages: appealing to consumers with taste, packaging and marketing

INDUSTRY NEWS 01/05/2018

8min read

By:  Talking Nutrition Editors

There is a growing consumer demand for healthier beverages.


  • Recent reports have found that non-caloric beverages are growing in demand 
  • However, adolescents and young adults are still consuming more than the recommended limits of sugar 
  • Utilizing appealing and novel flavors with multiple health benefits could help to encourage consumers to choose healthier products 

The good news? Sugar-sweetened beverages are being consumed less in the U.S. among children and adults. There is an increasing percentage of individuals turning to water, indicating that non-caloric beverages are growing in demand.1 The not so great news? Adolescents and young adults are still consuming more than the recommended limits of sugar. Sugary beverage consumption rates are particularly high among black, Mexican American and non-Mexican Hispanic populations.1

Obesity is linked with increased risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes and other health issues. However, there are two solutions to tackling the excess consumption of sugary beverages. The first is to continually decrease the availability of sugar-sweetened beverages. The second solution – and probably more realistic for food and beverage manufacturers – is the introduction of alternative beverage options for adolescents, young adults and populations who typically choose sugar-sweetened beverages.  

Creating new innovative beverages using sugar substitutes, exotic flavors and color may be appealing to consumers interested in cutting sugar from their diets. Rather than marketing such products as sugar-free “substitutes,” manufacturers can tout these beverages as contenders for what consumers demand: a flavorful, no sugar beverage.

Regardless of nutritional value, a poor-tasting product is destined to fail with consumers. It’s important to emphasize that sugar-free beverages do not have to sacrifice taste. The challenge of creating a good tasting beverage lies in formulation. Without attention to every nutrient and how they react with one another, it could prove disastrous for taste.2 A variety of sweeteners, including stevia, xylitol and rebaudioside  (Reb-A), can be incorporated to maintain great taste while removing some or all of the sugar in many product applications.  Utilizing appealing and novel flavors (such as fruits, botanicals and exotic flavors like acai and goji berry) with multiple health benefits can help consumers choose healthier products. For ethnic populations formulating beverages with culturally familiar flavors is a smart approach. Crossover flavors may also present new opportunities. Inclusion of these flavors in sugar-free beverages can replace indulgent treats with more sugar, fat or calories. For example, coffee with fortified chocolate flavoring can help satisfy a sweet tooth without the negative effects of added sugar. Additionally, the incorporation of other functional ingredients – such as those that cause satiety or increase energy – make sense and are a good fit for sugar-free beverages and their consumer base.  

Developing products with non-sugar sweeteners isn’t the only way to appeal to consumers interested in cutting sugar from their diets. With the right color, modern branding and smart packaging, sugar-free beverage products can – and should – appeal like every other major brand on the shelf. In fact, with the adolescent and young adult demographics, these factors could be the most important in the buying decision process. If a product’s marketing and/or packaging isn’t eye-catching, the likelihood of the target consumer purchasing and tasting the product is significantly lessened. Put simply: While parents may be attracted to purchase beverages with a low sugar content for their families, the younger generation may be more enticed by marketing and packaging attributes. 

With the decline of sugar consumption, and the call to further decrease the amount consumed among adolescents, young adults and cultural groups, comes the opportunity for manufacturers to create beverages that satisfy these requirements and can appeal across age and cultural groups. The demand for a drink that tastes good, looks good, and is good for you can be met with healthy but tasteful beverage options with strategic marketing and packaging.

Fortitech Premixes can help manufacturers to understand which combinations offer a great taste, as well as the desired flavors, colors, solubility, bioavailability, pH levels, safety, shelf-life, interactions, textures, and mouth-feel. Consumer acceptance for sugar-substitute beverages relies on this and partnering with premix experts can help to overcome challenges in the formulation arena.  

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1. Dwyer, M. (2017). Sugary beverage consumption in U.S. declining but remains high among certain groups. Retrieved from:

2. Arnold, C. (2012). Strategic Nutrition for Diabetes. Retrieved from:

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