If you work in the beverage business, it’s time to drink in the latest buzz word in the biz: Probiotics. Whether you are a caterer, restaurant owner, or operate another type of eatery, probiotic drinks are dominating the market. In this update for foodservice pros, we’ll delve into why the fermented products are being included on multiple “top beverage trends for 2019” lists, and why you should be adding them to your menu.
The Dish on Probiotic versus Prebiotic
If you recall, we previously visited the topic of probiotics in our blog “How to Cater for Clients Who Want Gut-Friendly Foods,” where we learned that the body is full of ‘good’ bacteria that serve as digestive aids, that help prevent disease, and that provide a plethora of other health benefits.
We also learned that probiotics are foods that contain and supply friendly bacteria, giving rise to their popularity among wellness-seekers and a growing segment of consumers concerned with their digestive health. Finally, we learned the differences between probiotic and prebiotic, the latter referring to another category of gut-friendly edibles that increases the presence of good bacteria by promoting the fermentation process.
With consumers willing to pay top dollar for functional foods that provide an additional benefit other than satisfying their hunger, a gut-friendly menu is not only a savvy way to cater to customers’ cravings and meet consumer demand, but a surefire recipe to your business’s success.
Functional Beverage Market Heats Up
Fast-forward to 2019 and functional beverages are now following suit, with the probiotic drinks market expected to reach $46.09 billion between 2019-2024 with the number of beverage companies extending their product lines to include fermented and probiotic-rich drinks on the rise.
This is great news for foodservice owners, since according to the experts, the competitive landscape for functional beverages is heating up, with the top spots ripe for the taking. Moreover, since millennials, the largest eating-out demographic, are said to be key drivers in this playing field, your venue has an exciting opportunity to become a major contender by offering new beverage flavors featuring ingredients that nourish, refresh, and rehydrate.
Beverage Industry Update
In case you haven’t checked in lately, here is some of what we know about the recent past, present, and future trajectory of the food-and-beverage industry:
- Highly processed and sugary foods and drinks are out-of-favor with consumers
- The sports drinks, bottled water, and fresh juice sectors are all growing as consumers shun sugary soft drinks
- Milk and alternative milks continue to experience significant sales growth
- The popularity of fermented drinks is supported by their alignment with other consumer trends, i.e. demand for clean label, sustainability practices, high-fiber products, and foods and beverages that support vegetarian, vegan, and plant-based lifestyles
- Dairy-based drinks lead the probiotic market, followed by fruit-based and vinegar-based drinks
- Water kefirs and kombucha are especially taking center stage, with the kombucha market alone predicted to hit $3.5bn by 2025 in North America and its ready-to-drink (RTD) canned form making it more accessible to consumers. (Kombucha is a fermented tea filled with live bacteria that aid in digestion; it is often flavored with fruit juice or chia seeds after the fermentation process)
- Bitter and sour beverages, viewed by consumers as ‘better for you’ options, are also trending
- Celery juice is currently enjoying social media stardom while vegetable-based drinks are increasingly in demand
- Food waste management practices have led to the concoction of beverages made from by-product and discarded ingredients (i.e. fruit peels, vegetable shavings, wonky fruit)
- Finally, expect to see prebiotic beverages and supplements becoming more widespread in the health-and-wellness arena, featuring garlic, leeks, onions, artichokes, beans, apple peels, and other fiber-dense foods
Why Consumers are Thirsty for Kefir
If water kefir is not currently on your menu, it’s time to get with the times and learn why the tangy, tart, yogurt-like beverage made with kefir grains and teeming with yeast and good bacteria is being guzzled by the gallons and enjoying a surge of popularity in the probiotic beverage world.
Also known as California bees, Japanese water crystals, and tibicos, kefir grains first debuted in the late 1800s, promoted as beneficial for gut health and digestion. Interestingly (here’s tidbit of trivia for you), its name is derived from the Turkish word “keyif,” which means feeling good after eating.
Unlike traditional kefir drinks which are made with milk, water kefir is made by combining kefir grains with sugar water and leaving the mixture to ferment for 24-48 hours, resulting in a beverage rich in beneficial bacteria and additional health benefits.
How to Make Kefir
Note that kefir is lactose-free and vegetarian, making it the perfect addition to your dairy-free and plant-based menu items. With yet another way to cater to your customers with special dietary needs, here is how your chefs can make kefir from scratch:
- In a jar, combine 1/2 cup hot water with 1/4 cup of sugar
- Swirl ingredients together to dissolve
- Add 3 cups of room-temperature water to the jar, along with a handful of water kefir grains
- Cover, place in a warm area – 68-85°F (20-30°C) – and allow it to ferment for 24-48 hours
- Ready to drink, you can now separate the water kefir grains from the mixture and re-use with a new batch of sugar water
- Finally, let your chefs experiment with and create new water kefir flavors by adding ingredients such as fruit juice, frozen fruit, vanilla extract, mint leaves, and more
New Product Releases
To stay competitive in the biz, it’s important that you stay abreast of new products which may pave the way of the future in the food-and-beverage world. Currently on the fermented drink horizon are new product releases such as kefir smoothies and two recently launched new flavors of Captain Kombucha’s line of sparkling fruit drinks made from tea and Kombucha probiotic culture. Vegan, gluten-free, preservative-free and without artificial colors, flavors or sweeteners, the new Cayenne Pepper and Pineapple Peach flavors join the existing Original, California Raspberry, Ginger & Lemon, and Coconut varieties.
As a beacon for all success-hungry foodservice operators, here is what Caoptain Kombucha’s UK director James Hudson has to say: “Our vision is to be the world’s largest non-alcoholic fermented drinks company and 2019 is set to be a breakthrough year for the kombucha market. With demand for vegan-friendly, healthy produce on the rise – and more awareness about gut health than ever before – there’s no better time to expand on our existing range with new flavors to delight our loyal customers and appeal to new ones. The launch of the larger bottles is also a direct response to customer demand. Our turnover continues to grow at an amazing 350% year-on-year; testament to the growing popularity of kombucha in an ever-more health conscious world.”
The probiotic beverage sector is growing and evolving. This gives you and your chefs an unprecedented opportunity to experiment with new ingredients and flavor combinations and create the next best fermented drink favorite. Your customers will love it, your business will thrive, and no one will remain thirsty in 2019.