Organic beverages, especially fresh juices, are the third-largest organic category, the Organic Trade Association recently reported. OTA's 2018 Organic Industry Survey found organic beverage sales were up 10.5% in 2017 to $5.9 billion.
Fresh juices and other drinks saw 2017 sales climb 24.5% to $1.2 billion, the fifth-straight year of double-digit growth, OTA noted. Some of the most popular categories were kombucha, along with kefir and other probiotic beverages, and plant-based products such as almond and coconut milk.
"Gone are the days when beverage cases were dominated by sodas and straight juice, and quenching thirst and refreshment were the only reasons to drink a beverage," the OTA said in a New Hope Network article. "Now there are opportunities to introduce flavors and benefits, functionality, probiotics, enzymes, herbal materials and healthy fat."
The U.S. organic beverage market is surging as shoppers pursue fresh products, gut health and sugar reduction. As sugary sodas decline in popularity, 62% of consumers are looking for more natural beverage options, according to the Beverage Industry's 2018 product development outlook. Some of the most sought-after categories are hybrid drinks with added protein, vitamins and antioxidants, carbonated juice, and juices with functional add-ons.
With consumers looking to eat healthier, it's no surprise that organic beverages as a whole are benefiting from the broader push toward organic. Consumers still want the flavor and convenience that come from many of these products, but they also want them to contain better-for-you ingredients grown without pesticides and other chemicals. Increasingly, that means organic — regardless of the kind of beverage.
Countless beverages, including juice, tea, beer and milk, have embraced organic, either by reformulating existing brands or introducing new product lines. Organic milk continues to remain popular, though the swell of plant-based beverages hitting the market contributed to a slip in sales for organic dairy-based milk in 2017.
In juice, Coca-Cola bought part of Suja Juice, and Hain Celestial has its BluePrint organic brand. Brands such as Honest Kids and Juicy Juice organic also are positioned to appeal to the increasing contingent of parents shunning sugary food and beverages in favor of healthier sugar-free and all-natural alternatives for their children. PepsiCo launched USDA-certified organic varieties of its popular sports drink brand Gatorade, called G Organic, in 2016 after Coca-cola did the same with Honest Sport. And Anheuser-Busch’s Michelob Ultra brand announced in March that it is adding Michelob Ultra Pure Gold, which is made with organic grains, to its lineup.
Many retailers, such as Kroger and Whole Foods, have introduced their own organic drinks through their own private-label brands, often at a much lower price point than mainstream products.
With organic demand growing, food manufacturers and retailers will need to continue offering more of the popular beverages. It soon may not be enough to simply be organic but to also offer taste and creative flavors that keep shoppers coming back.