Alex Beckett
Global Food & Drink Analyst, Alex is responsible for tracking consumer and innovation trends in a wide range of categories including ice cream and bottled water.

Confined by a depleted travel industry and social distancing measures, consumers are yearning to travel. This is a mindset which drink companies should embrace and empathise with by creating ‘transportive drinks’.  The experience of consuming a drink that originates from a particular destination, or is designed to help the consumer imagine they are there, can be the next best thing. Here, we examine how brands could develop transportive drinks to comfort consumers who are longing to travel.

Global tourism has been put on hold, but consumers will still yearn for escapism

For consumers, life in lockdown has heightened their desire to travel. In the US, almost a third of adults are most looking forward to going on vacation once the current social distancing measures are relaxed. 

Food companies have already successfully tapped into this through world cuisine, which has become more mainstream because of a consumer desire to explore new flavours and learn about different cultures. Yet, in drinks, consumers’ frustrated yearning to travel and take in new flavour experiences can inspire innovation.

This can be achieved through innovating around multi-sensory appeal, for example through flavour and aroma, authentic ingredients and packaging and a connection to the local people. 

The travel lockdown will influence consumer desires

Source: Pinterest/FB QuotesAndSayings

Transportive, exotic drinks can have a value-for-money appeal that is recession-proof

The economic downturn will mean tighter budgets for consumers which, in turn, will put pressure on premium food and drink. Nevertheless, premium drinks which deliver a value-for-money appeal will justify their higher price if consumers trust they will profit in some way from consuming them.

In the 2008-09 recession, affordably indulgent food and drink categories benefited from the psychological necessity for consumers to treat themselves to affordable, small treats which lift people’s mood in uncertain and difficult times. This bodes well for transportive drinks which offer features such as multi-sensory appeal, authentic yet functional ingredients, attention-grabbing packaging and an engaging backstory.

Drink makers should be emboldened by consumers’ already adventurous tastes

The potential for transportive soft drinks is strengthened by the existing sense of experimentation which many consumers have for soft drinks. For example, more than a third of 16-44 year-olds in the US go out of their way to try a new soft drink flavour.

It’s a sense of adventure that can be elaborated upon to create a transportive drink which is more than an exotic flavour. To boost the chances of identifying a popular yet alternative taste profile in these transportive drinks, it is useful to know which drinks flavours consumers are interested in trying, but have not yet tried, in a drink.

Mainstream brands like Diet Coke are launching more unusual flavours, such as Blueberry Acai (US)

Source: Mintel GNPD

Aroma can transport the senses… something which soft drinks should capitalise on

To provide the immersive experience that will thrill consumers during the travel lockdown, a drink should be aromatic. Smell can transport people to a different place, time or mood and, if described vividly on the packaging, aroma is something which could provide a sensory escapism for consumers who feel confined during lockdown. Using essential oils from herbs and spices can impart such an exotic scent.

While botanicals are already prevalent in soft drinks, it’s quite rare for brands to draw attention to the aroma and encourage the drinker to appreciate it, as is seen in alcoholic drinks. The exception to this is Japan, where aromas and textures are often described on drink packaging. For example, Fujiya’s Nectar Peach & Tochiotome Strawberry Mix Drink contains peach puree to deliver ‘a melting texture and a luxurious elegant aroma’.

Fujiya Peach & Tochiotome Strawberry Mix Drink (Japan)

Source: Mintel GNPD

Combine multi-sensory appeal with in-demand functionality

To cement their value-for-money appeal, drinks which seek to ease consumers’ frustrated wanderlust should also deliver a health boost; especially in light of COVID-19. The pandemic has boosted consumer interest in immunity-boosting drinks and medicinal botanicals. Indeed, over half of adults in established European markets and the UK agree that plant/botanical ingredients (such as herbs, spices) can have medicinal benefits (for example, treat ailments).

These findings should suit the kind of natural recipes and plant-based ingredients which transportive drinks would prioritise using. For example, vitamin C-rich citrus fruit and berries, and herbs and spices like amla, ginger and turmeric, are associated with immunity and can also be affiliated with certain regions of the world.

Moringa Pandan Drink (Philippines)

Source: Mintel GNPD

Moringa plant ingredients are antioxidant-rich and prized in Asia for their various health benefits, such as immunity-support. In the Philippines, moringa powder is added to orange juice and sometimes with calamansi juice.

What we think

Millions of would-be holiday-makers are unable to travel abroad because of the pandemic. This extraordinary feeling of confinement and frustrated wanderlust can make consumers more amenable to drinks which evoke a particular place. Such transportive drinks can partly satisfy consumer curiosity for new, exotic flavours, offer escapism through multi-sensory qualities and deliver in-demand associations with immune health.