Consumer Insights: Seeking Flavor in Unsweetened Beverages

March 3, 2022
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For over a decade, our researchers have studied the health and wellness market category enabling us to provide unique consumer insights regarding this group’s shopping behaviors and preferences. While they represent a wide spectrum of individuals in various stages of their journey to better health, one fact they are likely aware of is that reducing consumption of sweetened beverages can have a positive impact on their health.
Not only have studies linked consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks and type 2 diabetes, but more recent research at Harvard has suggested sugar can also be linked to higher blood pressure, weight gain, fatty liver disease, and inflammation, all of which can be tied to an increased risk for both heart attack and stroke. Perhaps that explains why, in our conversations with the 360 Health and Wellness community, we learned that 81% were interested in unsweetened beverages. But does the current beverage market reflect that interest and meet their needs? What opportunities exist for products or brands looking to appeal to this growing market segment?

Quantitative and Qualitative Research for Consumer Insights

One of the essential aspects of market research is ensuring high-quality data that informs both analytics and consumer insights. To do that, Leger incorporates both quantitative and qualitative research methods to ensure we have a full view of the challenge or subject of our research.

For example, when researching the unsweetened beverage market, we started by providing a short poll to members of our 360 Health and Wellness Community to get essential information that informed our next steps. Our next step, then, was fielding a 5-day online discussion board managed through 360 Market Reach’s (now Leger) community platform.

This type of 2-way communication during our research allows participants to fill in any gaps in our understanding of consumer preferences. Additionally, this discussion-based research often uncovers topics we don’t anticipate during the design phase of a study.

Through a combination of both qualitative and quantitative research methods, as well as the development of and experience with our unique research communities, we can provide actionable consumer insights for our clients, who can then make their data-driven business decisions.

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Consumer Insights: The Unsweetened Beverage Market

As we expected, interest in unsweetened beverages, among this health and wellness consumer group, was very high; as noted above, 81% of these respondents were interested in alternatives to sweet or sugary drinks. The message about sweetened vs. unsweetened beverages has been received and embraced by this particular group of consumers.

The surprise to us, however, was that while interest in unsweetened beverages was high, the level of satisfaction was surprisingly low, at 50%, compared to their interest level. This left us wondering why, with all the products on the market now, there isn’t greater satisfaction among these consumers. After all, enter any store, restaurant, or even school and it seems there are limitless options when it comes to sugar-sweetened beverages. The same, according to our health and wellness respondents, is not true of unsweetened beverages.

Although these members are already buying and seeking out all-natural and organic products, they still feel there is a limited number of products and flavors within the unsweetened beverage category. To help fill in the gaps regarding their dissatisfaction, qualitative research was crucial.

In the course open conversations, our community members noted:

– A clear lack of flavors for coffee, tea, and fruit drinks
– The lack of unsweetened beverages that feel like a treat and provide the same gratification as sweetened beverages
– Demand for more simple and natural fruit flavors or natural sweeteners like Stevia (a similar sentiment is echoed in our more recent research regarding consumer demands for fewer ingredients)
– While consumers love teas with super simple ingredients (just tea and water), they’d like to see the same variety as we see in the sweetened beverage market
– Trending flavors, like pomegranate, don’t seem to hit the unsweetened beverage market either as quickly or as widespread as other markets, according to one participant

While this research was exploratory, the takeaway is that the demand for unsweetened beverages seems to be at least partially unmet. This presents an opportunity for new products to enter the market and/or an opportunity for marketers to promote awareness of already existing unsweetened beverages products. The additional challenge facing brands and manufacturers is delivering a product line that meets the demands of health and wellness consumers which includes more variety and more flavors, particularly fruit flavors.

Through our longstanding proprietary communities, like our 360 Health and Wellness Community, we understand the specific challenges brands face. Whether it’s clear messaging or brand positioning to demonstrate simple quality ingredients or great taste, brands can find a niche in catering to the desires of this growing market segment.

When working with our clients, we’re able to tailor questions and conversations to address specific challenges and research questions. Our process can help your product stand out in the marketplace, and it can also drive strategic decisions and product development and innovation.

If you’re ready to talk about consumer insights and explore how our research can help you learn more about your target audiences, their product preferences, and unmet desires, get in touch with our team today.

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