We talked last year about this year’s alcoholic drink trends, so this month we’re looking at soft drink trends. Don’t underestimate the soft drink market in the world, especially in Vietnam.

The global carbonated soft drink market had a total revenue of US$286,3 billion two years ago, growing at 6% from 2011 to 2015, with growth expected to increase between 2017 and 2020.

The US is the largest consumer of carbonated soft drinks in the world, but these numbers represent just fizzy drinks. What about the rest?

Last year, sales of bottled water grew 8.3%, energy drinks 10%, and RTD (Ready To Drink) tea 10%.

Rising health concerns have forced manufacturers to reformulate their products to produce the right combination of sugar, flavour and differentiation from competitors. These issues will continue and major soft drink players must adapt and market their products accordingly.  

Sugar content – Sugar taxes on certain products are leading to alternative low sugar flavours that are also pushing the balance of taste towards bitter and sour.

Adult soft drinks  The function of this category is to substitute alcoholic drinks, in order to be able to be consumed during the whole evening. The problem with this is that you need to wean people off alcohol (hard to do in a bar), and onto a flavoured drink that is catchy enough so you want to drink more of it. Usually these drinks contain a surprising ingredient and a unique flavour. For example, spicy ginger, chili, pepper, turmeric, cayenne and a very specific herbal combination. Most of the time these drinks are carbonated, refreshing and not too intense in terms of flavor profile.

Naturally-brewed tea – This is becoming the solution for less sweet beverages as the consumers are already used to the taste of unsweetened tea at home. The negative emotions associated with a very bitter drink are not present in naturally-brewed tea as the taste is sweeter in comparison to a drink made with just tea extracts.

Flavoured water – We will see more products that are simply flavoured water. The addition of natural water is without the calorie or sugar content so it’s a refreshing upgraded water solution.

Every consumer wants refreshment and more are willing to pay for it than ever before. However, what they buy, where they buy it and from whom is as much an open question as ever.

Statistics are one thing but it’s the word on the street that counts, especially here in Vietnam, where many influences from the street find their way into more gentrified packages in the shops and bars around the country. One thing that’s certain is that 2018 won’t be a boring year for the drinks industry, that’s for sure.

Shri Restaurant and Lounge manager Richie Fawcett is an artist who sits on Asia’s 50 best bars voting panel.