Consumer interest in botanicals is growing and can help your brand stand out on the shelves, writes Michel Aubanel from Kerry.
Consumers who want clean label and sustainable ingredients are attracted to products that contain botanicals. This is especially true in beverages, where botanical flavours add a refreshing and natural ‘pop’ to taste. The use of botanical ingredients such as sage leaf and rose bud is also growing in categories including bakery, dairy and confectionery.
BOX: The interest in using botanical ingredients in food and beverages is on the rise worldwide, with regions including Asia Pacific, North America and Europe leading the way. The global botanical extracts market—which includes all uses for botanicals—is projected to reach USD 7.59b by 2025, growing at a CAGR of 8.7% between 2017 to 2025, according to Market Watch. The market for foods and beverages that contain botanicals is projected to be valued at USD 1,489.3b by 2025, growing at a CAGR of around 3.2% between 2019 and 2025, according to Zion Research.
In food and beverages, consumers tend to consider botanicals ‘premium’ ingredients. Local palates and availability dictate which botanicals are most popular. In this article, I explain why the use of botanical ingredients in food and beverages is growing, focusing on botanical taste, ease of use and perceived health benefits.
What are botanical ingredients?
When you transform raw material such as basil leaves, chamomile flower or cardamom seeds from their native format to a liquid format, you create a botanical extract. In food and beverage, botanical ingredients have a concentrated taste and a longer shelf life than fresh ingredients, which makes them especially appropriate for use in such products.
What are the advantages of working with botanical extracts in food?
Botanical extracts bring an authentic taste because they are derived directly from plants, usually from the leaves, flowers or fruits. Some botanical extracts are obtained from frozen raw materials while others from dried; the state of the source material can change the flavour intensity. Typically, frozen materials produce a more authentic and distinctive taste than dried ones.
In addition to the previously mentioned botanical ingredients, other well-known or popular botanicals include mint, ginger, hibiscus, rhubarb, and various roots. Kerry’s taste portfolio includes individual botanical extracts as well as botanical blends, such as those made from elderflower, rose bud, chamomile, white tea, ginger, cinnamon, clove and cumin. Some customers even approach to us with a creative brief that includes specifications such as “provide a botanical extract that delivers the sensation of the seashore, from the salty water to the native plants.” The resulting formulations can provide enhanced taste complexity to products ranging from waters to spirits to wafers.
Are botanicals sustainable?
Because botanicals are natural, brands that include them in food and beverage products may choose to highlight their sustainability stories. For example, our botanical extracts such as vanilla and citrus have transparent sourcing and supply chain; some of our partners choose to make this information available to consumers through on-pack callouts and social media messaging. Some botanicals also feature recognizable certifications such as organic or Rainforest alliance certified, which brands may also showcase in their products. Some are sourced through local cooperatives in various regions, allowing farmers to remain based in their locality and avoid delocalisation to cities.
Why do consumers buy beverages and food products containing botanicals?
While botanicals add an authentic taste to products, many also come with perceived health benefits.
For centuries, plant botanicals have often been associated with traditional medicine, aromatherapy and herbal infusions. Extracts such as ginseng have associations with energy, immune health and stress management.
Kerry’s European study on botanicals revealed that while 95% of European consumers have heard of botanicals and 83% believe botanicals offer health benefits, only 11% believe they truly understand all the benefits of botanical ingredients. This makes clear that there is a need for education around botanicals, including how they might benefit a person’s health.
Botanicals requires careful wording and regulatory review to ensure phrasing is allowed and appropriate. We’ve seen some effective campaigns that speak to the customary uses of botanicals by native people. This can convey tradition without being subject to scientific scrutiny.
Botanicals and emotions
New consumer research from Kerry also revealed that botanical extracts generate several moods and emotions with consumers including energy, excitement, peacefulness and fun. The research, which uncovers the psychology behind botanical preferences and the perceived benefits consumers derive from consuming botanical food and beverages, examined 44 emotions that consumers associate with botanical extracts. Kerry surveyed over 6,500 consumers across 12 countries in North America, Europe, Latin America, Asia Pacific and Africa to discover attitudes towards over 55 botanicals flavours and ingredients.
The research shows that botanical flavours connect with consumers on a highly positive level, beyond flavour and taste. Consumers also think about botanicals as being energetic, interesting, useful, trustworthy and safe. For example, a beverage with guarana, ginseng and ginger can carry a similar connotation of ‘energy’ as a coffee or energy drink would to the consumer. Meanwhile, ingredients such as saffron, bergamot and honey are considered premium.
In a very highly competitive marketplace, brands are constantly attempting to stand out and interestingly 87% of consumers say that botanicals provide a unique taste experience. Meanwhile, according to Innova research, the use of botanicals on front of pack will result in a 23% price premium. Formulating with botanicals can certainly win consumer hearts, especially by using top appealing flavours such as mint, honey and cinnamon. Manufacturers should emphasize the link between botanical flavour, their corresponding emotions and perceived health benefits they evoke to create flavours that meet consumers’ daypart and occasion needs. These insights can be leveraged to connect with consumers to deliver a stronger taste experience in food and beverages and support product development.
A longer version of this article was previously published on the KerryDigest. Visit www.kerry.com/insights/kerrydigest for more insights from industry leaders.