A survey of more than 6,500 consumers across 12 countries conducted by Kerry revealed botanicals appeal to 97% of consumers globally for their familiar flavors, unique taste experiences and perceived physical benefits – including digestion, cognition, heart health and others – and emotional connections, such as peaceful, energetic and fun.
Interest in these benefits, and botanicals more broadly, have fueled a 47% increase in beverages containing botanical extracts between 2017 and last year, according to Kerry, which predicts the global market for botanical beverages and foods will reach $1.48tn by 2025.
Manufacturers hoping to tap into this growth can do so by leveraging rising consumer interest in mental and emotional wellness and the positive connections they make with botanical ingredients, according to Kerry’s global taste marketing director Leigh-Anne Vaughan.
She notes that botanical flavors connect with consumers at a very positive level, beyond flavor and taste, and that negative emotions – such as boring or disappointing – rarely are associated with botanicals.
According to Kerry’s research, consumers associate botanicals with being energetic, interesting, trustworthy, safe, peaceful and fun.
For example, the top botanical flavors associated with being energetic are guarana, ginseng and ginger; the three most ‘interesting’ flavors are cardamom, bergamot and acerola; while fun and exciting are associated with raspberry, passion fruit and blueberry or guarana, passion fruit and saffron, respectively.
Lavender is associated with both peaceful and caring, while honeysuckle is associated with caring and friendly. Other ‘peaceful’ flavors include cherry blossom and jasmine, and the other flavor most associated with ‘caring’ is rosehip.
By leveraging these connections, Kerry says that brands can “transform a product into an experience with heart,” but the link between which botanical flavor evokes which emotion must be carefully balanced with products’ intention and other elements of marketing, use and packaging.
Leveraging botanicals health halo
Botanicals also have a strong health halo for physical benefits, according to Kerry’s research, which found 53% of global consumers are looking for products with botanicals to improve their health.
The most frequent associations between botanicals and health are for digestive/gut health, which was cited by 61% of consumers, immune support (55%) and heart health (53%), according to Kerry.
A deeper dive reveals that the top ten botanical flavors associated with digestive health are honey, mint, ginger, cinnamon, coconut, green tea, chamomile, basil, guava, and lemongrass.
While those associated with immune support are honey, ginger, mint, cinnamon, coconut, lemongrass, turmeric, green tea, raspberry, guava and passionfruit.
Several botanicals cut across health benefits, earning them “superfood status,” according to Kerry. These include honey, which is touted for its beauty benefits, immune support, energy support, digestive aid and healthy aging; ginger, which earns accolades for immunity, digestion, heart health, healthy aging and weight management; and mint, which consumers associate with oral care, digestion, stress management, immunity and mood management.
Clean, sustainable appeal
Beyond emotional and physical health benefits, consumers also associate botanical flavors with clean labels and sustainability, according to Kerry.
It found that 82% of consumers believe botanicals are ‘superior quality,’ and 89% believe all-natural is an important attribute of the ingredients and flavors. The importance of ‘natural’ gained traction during the pandemic, according to Kerry, which found 70% of global consumers in February 2021 said they focused more on natural ingredients as a result of the COVID-19 virus versus 46% who said the same in April 2020 at the start of the pandemic.
Kerry also notes that using some botanicals also opens the door for certain sustainability claims. For example, it notes that its Amazon Pineapple tincture supports the livelihoods of 54 families.
Finally, Kerry noted the addition of botanical flavors could allow manufacturers to sell products at a higher price point.
Pointing to research done by Innova, Kerry notes that call-outs about botanicals on the front of pack will result in a 23% price premium.