The Global State of Botanical Ingredients in Food and Botanical Beverages

mint leaves in citrus frozen beverage

Interest in botanical ingredients has spread worldwide, especially in beverages—including non-alcoholic ones

KerryDigest Fast Facts:
  • The global market for botanical beverages and foods is expected to reach USD 1,489.3b by 2025, with Europe, North America and Asia Pacific leading the trend.
  • Consumers perceive food and beverage products with botanical ingredients as being premium and healthy while also valuing their taste.
  • Botanical beverages—including both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages—are a popular application; dairy, confectionery and bakery are also seeing a rise in botanical ingredients.
  • In this piece we explore the botanical market, from defining botanicals to showing how botanical ingredients are being used in food and beverage around the world.

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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 aromatic formulations. However, the use of botanical ingredients such as sage leaf and rose petal is also growing in categories including bakery, dairy and confectionery.

The interest in botanical ingredients in food 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 foods and beverages, consumers tend to consider botanicals “premium” ingredients. Local palates and availability dictate which botanicals are most popular. For example, our new white paper “Flourishing with Botanicals”, which centers on the food and beverage botanical trend in Europe, found that fruit, cocoa, vanilla, coffee, tea and floral botanicals are consumer preferred in the region.

In this article, I’ll explain why the use of botanical ingredients is growing in food and beverage, focusing on botanical taste, ease of use and perceived health benefits. I’ve also asked my global network of colleagues to weigh-in on how botanical ingredients are being used in their regions, including in the development of botanical beverages, bakery items and more. Use these insights to craft your next botanical-based product.

What are botanical ingredients?
When you transform raw material such as basil leaves, chamomile petal 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.

hot beverage in mug with mint and chocolateBotanical ingredients have a concentrated taste and a longer shelf life than fresh ingredients, which makes them especially appropriate for use in food and beverage products.

What are the advantages of working with botanical ingredients 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 made through the use of frozen raw materials while others use dried materials; the original state can change the flavour concentration. Typically, frozen materials produce a more authentic and fresh 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. Our taste portfolio includes individual botanicals 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 us with a creative brief that includes esoteric 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 and intrigue 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 ingredients such as vanilla and citrus generally 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 “UTZ”, a certification for sustainable farming, which brands may also showcase in their products.

Why do consumers buy botanical beverages and food products?
While botanicals add authentic taste to products, many also come with perceived health benefits. For example, research suggests the echinacea plant may strengthen the immune system and that green tea extract may help maintain cardiovascular health.

Our 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.

Like so much in food and beverage, making soft claims such as those surrounding the potential health benefits of botanicals requires careful wording and regulatory research to ensure phrasing is allowed and appropriate. We’ve seen some effective campaigns that speak to the original or historical uses of botanicals by native peoples. This can convey tradition and folklore without being subject to scientific scrutiny.

The Botanical Forecast in Latin America (LATAM)
Insights from Katrina Heredia, Marketing Coordinator, Kerry LATAM

Botanical beverages and products are still emerging in LATAM, but the category is growing quickly innovating with ingredients that can deliver on both attributes of functionality and flavour. In the past 10 years, there has been a 168% increase in product launches with botanicals according to Mintel; in the last five years, the categories that showed the highest growth with botanicals were carbonated soft drinks (CSDs) and flavoured waters.

In beverages, the most popular botanical profiles include florals, herbs and spices as well as specific botanical ingredients including cinnamon, lemongrass, hibiscus, ginger and mint. We’re also seeing growing interest in lavender, turmeric, guaraná, chamomile, juniper, cardamom, rhubarb and aniseed. There is renewed popularity of root beer, zarzaparilla and ginger ale, and this could be the start of a new wave of a functional and healthier twist on the CSDs category in our region.

Part of this stronger interest in botanicals is a result of new health campaigns, sugar taxes and changes in front of label packaging in the region which contribute to more informed consumers and the promotion of healthier habits. Formulating CSDs with botanicals, combined with natural sugar-reduction technologies, can help brands meet consumer demands for healthier and more natural products.

When making claims about the potential health benefits of botanicals, brands must use careful wording and regulatory research to ensure phrasing is allowed and appropriate.colorful fruit drinks with mint leaves

The Use of Botanical Ingredients in Asia Pacific, the Middle East and Africa (APMEA)
Insights from Wangbao Gan, Technology Director for Research, Development and Applications, Kerry APMEA

Brands are adding botanical extracts to wine produced and enjoyed in the APMEA region. The application of plant extracts in wine mainly focuses on plants that are considered by local consumers to be both medicine and food, such as medlar extracts and those of ginseng, maca and so forth.

In non-alcoholic beverages there is an even sharper focus on selecting botanical extracts with functional effects. As a result, many botanical beverages are marketed as diet replacement or drinks designed to improve sleep quality, enhance skin care, solve constipation or provide energy. Botanical ingredients such as rice, beans and kelp might be used with for health properties then combined with other botanical extracts that deliver taste.

Food with botanicals tends to be marketed and formulated with a focus on lowering sugar and fat. For example, sweet tea extracts introduce the concept of natural low sugar to various products, and children's biscuits and pastries that include extracts such as blueberries as well as probiotics are popular in the maternal and children food industry.

Botanicals in North America, Especially Botanical Beverages
Insights from Renata Ibarra, Research, Development and Applications Senior Beverage Director, Kerry North America

In North America, botanicals are popping up in a wide range of applications, and consumers like them for their taste as well as their perceived health halo. Many of the more popular botanical ingredients have typically adult flavour profiles. For example, in alcoholic beverages, which is a prime area for botanicals, we’re seeing requests for more botanical ingredients such as juniper, lavender and cardamom.

But the adult profile trend is continuing in the non-alcoholic space too. Here, also, juniper is popular, especially in combination with ingredients such as bitters. Rose is in demand as well. It delivers a floral note and is having some traction with lemonades, hops and hop waters. We’re even seeing combinations of typical citrus and fruit juices with botanicals, such as grapefruit with juniper or citrus with cardamom.

Coffee, too, is getting a botanical boost. The latte space is one key place in which some botanical ingredients are being explored. Some of the more popular botanicals amongst baristas and—perhaps someday in ready to drink coffees—are lavender, turmeric and ginger.

The Botanical Ingredient Trend in Europe
Insights from Paul Villis, Research, Development and Applications Director, Kerry Europe

I continue to notice an uptick in botanical-related requests, and this is captured in our regional market report, “Flourishing with Botanicals”.

In alcohol, we are seeing a proliferation of botanical requests from gin brands in the UK and Ireland and this trend is slowly migrating into mainland Europe. Although gin is typically made of a botanical blend including juniper, citrus and some roots and spices, within the category we are seeing requests for other botanical ingredients such as bergamot, flower blossom including cherry blossom, yuzu fruit and various types of teas as well as wormwood, gentian, cinchona and quassia. In Northern Europe, these botanical blends are being mixed with licorice and aniseed.

There’s also growth in premium non-alcoholic gins, whiskey and rum products. Some of the biggest spirits brands are releasing these, and the market is growing as more and more consumers seek out mocktails. These products tend to contain typical blends of citrus and botanicals including juniper, seeds of paradise, lemon, orange, coriander and cassia.

Amongst typical beverages, botanicals are making a major showing in iced teas and tea drinks. Botanical ingredients such as chamomile, mint, white tea and rooibos are recognizable to consumers and valued for their taste as well as their perceived health benefits.

Kerry offers a large collection of botanical ingredients in our Taste Portfolio, including many that have standout sustainability stories. To learn more about the potential for adding botanical ingredients to foods and beverages, contact us.

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