According to the Tea Association of the U.S.A., sales of ready-to-drink teas grew 4% in 2016, an impressive number considering competition from bottled water and other drinks. The category’s growth in part is due to tea’s perceived health halo from consumers looking to drop calorie-laden drinks from their diets, according to the Tea Association of the U.S.A. Inc.:
Tea has been around for thousands of years, is currently experiencing a growth surge and carries a positive health perception from consumers seeking all-natural products.
In many ways, the honey and tea industries are alike. They also are the perfect complement to each other. For ages, consumers have added honey to their teas brewed at home. With the rapid growth of the RTD tea market, consumers can now pick up their honey-sweetened teas at supermarkets, convenience stores and restaurant chains.
Beverage processors are responding to increased demand with innovation. From clean labels to unique flavor pairings, the tea market represents one of the most exciting categories in the beverage industry.
Why use honey in teas
Parallel product positioning: Tea is perfectly positioned to pick up consumers fleeing the soda aisle. It’s key for tea makers to select a sweetener, such as honey, which most likely aligns with their product goals.
Honey provides an energy boost: Honey gives an additional energy boost to caffeine, thanks to honey’s 17 grams of carbohydrates per tablespoon.
According to a Fortune article, overall sales of carbonated soft drinks are amid their 11th consecutive year of declines. With the negative connotation of artificial in the air, beverage manufacturers are making the switch to natural sweeteners.
And with more than 300 different varietals found in the U.S. alone, honey is a sought-after solution for an all-natural sweetener.
Humble Honey Soda uses two teaspoons of honey in every soda bottle, Sprecher Brewing Co. Inc. uses Wisconsin honey for its sodas, ranging from cherry cola to grape soda, and Old Dominion also uses local honey for its top-rated Dominion Root Beer, just to name a few.
When switching to a cleaner label, honey is a solution that can be shared by all categories in the food and beverage industries.
Why use honey in carbonated beverages
Honey is a natural sweetener. Honey is made by bees, not in a manufacturing facility. And consumers know and appreciate this. When producing a cola, the sweetener should always be natural and carry a positive perception with consumers
Honey cleans up labels: Most sodas are not allowed in schools, and some government officials have made soda taxes a priority. More than ever, consumers are looking at the ingredients in carbonated beverages. Make sure they’re looking at honey.
Honey is great for marketing: Honey is all natural and timeless. It’s the perfect marketing tool to use on the front of a carbonated beverage when the ingredient is incorporated into a product.
Sports and protein drink companies have a new customer. These energy-driven companies have traditionally marketed to athletes, but the consumer base is beginning to shift.
Many non-athletic consumers are using protein drinks as meal replacements or supplements to support special diets.
With this expanded consumer base, sports and protein drinks now need to appeal to athletes, as well as casual consumers. Companies believe that clean labels and natural ingredients may be key to attracting this new consumer base.
Many sports and protein drinks use honey as a natural ingredient to boost energy and provide an all-natural sweetener that delivers flavor, functionality and energy.
Why use honey in sports drinks
Honey is an all-natural sweetener: Most sports drinks, especially ones high in protein, need a sweetener to round out their flavor profiles. Honey accomplishes this task while maintaining a clean label.
Honey is a great marketing tool: Most new sports drinks products are positioned as better-for-you options, and honey is the perfect all-natural sweetener to use not only in the product, but also in the product name and packaging graphics.
Honey is a pure source of energy: With more than 17 grams of carbohydrates per tablespoon, honey delivers energy for athletes and consumers who just need an afternoon pick-me-up.
Milk makes a body strong, but milk with honey makes a body strong and full of energy.
From chocolate milk to muscle-building milks, this traditional beverage has been co-opted by endurance athletes and weightlifters as the perfect beverage pre- and post-workout. By adding honey to milk, processors are gaining further marketing benefits, capitalizing on honey’s ability to provide a natural energy boost through its 17 grams of carbohydrates per tablespoon.
Milk with honey also tastes great, and in the dairy aisle, flavor dominates. From milks to drinkable yogurts to nondairy milks, flavor options are grabbing shelf space from their traditional counterparts. But it’s not just any flavor. The flavor has to be natural, and familiar.
It’s no wonder why honey has become the go-to flavor for many dairy beverage processors. It’s natural, loved by consumers and functional.
Why use honey in dairy products
Honey is an all-natural sweetener: The dairy aisle is experiencing a flavor awakening, and honey is playing an important role in bringing sweetness to dairy products while still maintaining a clean label.
Honey is a great marketing tool: Most dairy drinks are positioned as better-for-you options, and honey is the perfect all-natural sweetener to use not only in the product, but also in the product name and packaging graphics.
Honey is a pure source of energy: With more than 17 grams of carbohydrates per tablespoon, honey delivers energy to complement milk’s high-protein content.
Beverages as medicine? The growth of the functional beverage market points to consumers looking for more than hydration from what they drink.
From kombucha to aloe water, new beverages are appearing daily in mainstream supermarkets that promise the deliverance of a functional benefit. Honey is the perfect flavor enhancer for these products, not just for its sweetening ability, but also for its ability to mask or round-off flavors from many functional ingredients.
In functional beverages, numerous sensory issues reduce consumer acceptance of the end product. Because most functional beverages are designed to increase the amount of protein per serving, manufacturers add soy protein and whey protein isolates. These ingredients often provide a chalky coating to the palate and lower acceptance regarding product mouthfeel.
To improve this product limitation, the use of honey has been proven to improve mouthfeel.
With a great flavor profile and the ability to mask off-flavors, honey is the perfect sweetener for any functional beverage.
Why use honey in functional beverages
Honey is an all-natural sweetener: Most functional beverages need a sweetener to round out their flavor profiles. Honey accomplishes this task while maintaining a clean label.
Honey is a great marketing tool: Honey is the perfect all-natural sweetener to sweeten products and attract consumer eyes via popular iconography such as bees, hives and honeycomb.
Orange, cranberry, grape, cherry, apple—the fact is that one can take just about any fruit and make a great-tasting juice out of it.
Add honey to the equation and you have a sure new product winner. According to data research firm Mintel, the juice market has hit the $15.5 billion mark, and new product launches rose 25% from 2009 to 2013.
Fruit-based drinks sweetened with honey are helping drive the category’s growth. In these nonalcoholic beverages, honey serves as a carbohydrate/high-energy source and provides flavor, sweetness, color and mouthfeel.
While several fruit-based juices with honey are on the store shelves, the market for combining honey with vegetables, fruits and botanical ingredients remains relatively untapped.
Honey-sweetened beverages combined with botanicals were successfully produced by researchers at the Food Processing Center. The optimal level of honey in fruit juice beverages was approximately 17%. Shelf-life studies revealed very little change in beverage color, pH, percent soluble solids and clarity during six-month storage. Both beverages were microbiologically stable during storage. Sensory analysis revealed the lemon-chamomile and cranberry juice drinks were acceptable for 180 days, with the highest degree of acceptability at 90 days.*
*Preston. M.B. 1997. Honey in Non-Alchoholic Juice Beverages. University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Food Processing Center.
Why use honey in juices
Parallel product positioning: Juices are perfectly positioned to pick up consumers fleeing the soda aisle. It’s key for juice processors to select a sweetener, such as honey, which most likely aligns with their product goals.
Honey provides an energy boost: Honey gives an additional energy boost to beverages, thanks to honey’s 17 grams of carbohydrates per tablespoon.