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Fruit Flavored Soda: The History of a Consumer Favorite

7 2022

Fruity beverage trends have repeatedly swept the market, but how much do you know about the history of fruit flavored sodas? Here’s how this drink evolved from a quaint treat available at the local pharmacy to the multibillion dollar powerhouse it is today.

Fruit flavored sodas: A history

While beverage flavors are often in flux with changing consumer tastes, fruit flavored soda has remained a market staple since its inception. The precursor of modern fruit flavored drinks is lemonade, which debuted in Paris in the 17th century. Sold by street vendors toting vats of lemon, water, and sugar in tanks on their banks, the drink quickly grew in popularity.

A British chemist invented a carbonation method for water and this process was refined by German, Johann Schweppe. Mass production of bubbly, fizzy lemonade - which was promoted as replicating “a babbling brook” - made the drink available in many countries across Europe. 

Carbonated lemonade made its way to the U.S. shortly thereafter. Soda fountains became a mainstay in American pharmacies during the 19th century, with the consumption of fruit flavored drinks believed to be a health-boosting practice.

Then and Now

Fruit flavored drinks originally featured common flavors like lemon and lime, which were already well-known tastes to most consumers. You can see this in RC Cola’s traditional refresher flavors, featuring staple tastes like lemon and orange, giving customers the fresh, fruity and refreshing experience that they know and love.

But with globalization, travel, and the internet exposing audiences to a wider range of flavors, consumers became curious about more exotic tastes that were out of the norm. Leveraging this shift, RC Cola further developed the RC Q range which began exploring offerings that featured unusual and new flavors such as Mango Melon and Kiwi Strawberry. These fused exotic flavors with more familiar tastes and became an immediate hit with consumers!

The carbonated drinks industry as a whole has seen an uptick in the popularity of exotic fruit flavored soda, with the market set to grow by $23.95 billion from 2021 to 2026. There’s no sign of the segment slowing down on the horizon, and brands would be wise to respond to the growing demand for fruit flavored drinks among consumers.

How have consumers changed?

Consumers are far more sophisticated today, and willing to experiment with more daring, unfamiliar flavors than in previous generations. Tastes have changed, and many people are looking for a variety that goes beyond standard lemonade or strawberry. Mixes and exotic flavors, such as dragon fruit and lychee, are rapidly gaining a foothold in the market. 

Douglas Resh,  director of commercial marketing at T. Hasegawa, explains that according to a recent survey, “more than half of consumers have tried and liked mango and pineapple, two foundational tropical flavors, while a quarter of consumers are eager to try guava in the category. Guava is particularly popular with Gen Z and millennial consumers, so we anticipate significant growth for that flavor to continue.”

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Those unusual tastes are also part of a general shift towards looking at fruit flavored sodas as an “experience,” rather than simply sustenance. These elevated flavors are often found in craft sodas, luxe offerings that consumers - especially the younger generations - are willing to purchase at a higher price point.

As lifestyles change, so do preferences

The massive disruption of the pandemic forever changed the way that we work, socialize, and study. Despite the rolling back of many restrictions, new developments like hybrid working and Zoom meetings over face-to-face sessions show no signs of being reversed. 

During lockdowns and social distancing, consumer tastes changed, with a renewed interest in at-home cooking and premium Ready-to-Drink products gaining in popularity. Consumers’ preferences for better-for-you options and functional drinks that provide health benefits also spiked

Consumers purchasing RTD sodas want their beverage to have a purpose. You should be utilizing new and interesting fruit flavors with their perceived health benefits such as Vitamin C in citrus flavors or antioxidants from fruits such as blueberries. You can even use real fruit juice in your shelf stable beverages to strengthen that health connection. 

With this evolution in preferences for flavors with immunity boosting properties, it was found that pairing botanicals with fruit flavors, such as pear and elderflower, saw a big increase. According to the Global Senior Strategic Marketing Manager for Kerry, Coralie Garcia-Perrin, “Consumers will not only look for international flavors, but also for familiar fruits and botanicals that they recognize, which are grown locally and seasonally. Depending on the region, these familiar flavors could include strawberry, raspberry, grape, mango and papaya.”

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This, in line with exciting call outs on your packaging stating these facts, can have a very positive impact on your sales.

To keep your brand relevant, you must remain on top of beverage trends that can have an effect on purchasing habits and consumer choices liket changing lifestyles and global events.

Responding to evolving tastes is key

Although there are staple flavors that will always be a hit with customers, it’s critical to stay abreast of shifting consumer preferences towards more exotic, unique flavors, as well as greater awareness around natural ingredients. Being aware of what customers are gravitating towards gives you important guidance on how best to promote your fruit flavored soda.

RC Cola’s Q fruit flavored drinks include funky combinations like mango melon and kiwi strawberry, alongside classics like orange, strawberry, and green apple. With more consumers expressing a desire for real juice content, some RC Q drinks are meeting that preference and are formulated accordingly.

Combination drinks, which could mix classic flavors with more unusual tastes, or two tried-and-true flavors, are also proving popular with consumers. If you’d like to dip your toes into the combination market, consider debuting a slight twist on a popular offering from your brand.

In order to succeed in a crowded market, you need to keep your finger on the pulse of both what’s trending and what classic flavors are consumer favorites. RC Cola has decades of experience in beverage marketing and can help you understand the best strategies for making your fruit flavored soda stand out. Contact us today to learn more about how we can assist you in promoting your drink and boosting brand awareness for your business.

Get in touch with the RC Cola Team!