Creating a refreshingly exquisite healthy drink

28 July 2021, 10:14 AM
  • Its brewed botanicals may hark back to a golden age of drinks but Fentimans' newest range give a contemporary twist to iconic British flavours

Our forefathers certainly knew how to brew up some good flavours, and since the first ginger beers bottled by Thomas Fentiman in 1905, the company has been known for its joyful take on some British classics. From the gorgeously floral Rose Lemonade to the quintessential Gently Sparkling Elderflower and fresh Sparkling Raspberry, heady natural flavours ideal for a hot summer’s day have long been in evidence. Now these three popular classics from the wider Fentimans repertoire have been given a contemporary twist to please the preferences of a growing group of consumers.

Lights is a new range that gently turns down the sugar whilst delivering maximum refreshment. Each recipe represents a 30% sugar reduction on its classic counterpart, and every bottle in the Lights range contains less than 60 calories. Despite the drop in indulgence each lightly sparkling drink is still a true treat and packed with flavour. Notes of Bulgarian rose oil still sing in the Rose Lemonade; delightful scents of English hedgerows still infuse the Sparkling Elderflower, and Sparkling Raspberry is as fruity and delicately tart as ever.

Low-sugar drinks with exquisite flavour

Revisiting a recipe is a bold move for a premium drink range, so just how hard was it to create drinks with low-sugar content without compromising on taste? Subtracting sugar from an iconic flavour profile doesn’t always go well, as any of us raised on fizzy sodas in an age before sugar taxes were even dreamt of knows, so how has Fentimans managed it?

“The challenge for Fentimans was creating a light range drink using all-natural ingredients and maintaining the exquisite flavour we’re known for,” says the maker’s out-of-home marketing manager Neil Donachie.

“In other light drink ranges, compromises on overall flavour are sometimes made to meet the requirements of lower sugar and calories. Our approach was always to ensure that anything we produced would contain just as much flavour as our standard range. To do this, we have had to make adjustments and some complex reformulations to our recipes but the authentic flavour we’re known for has been maintained.”

An all-natural, artisan product

Natural and time-honoured processes have always been part of the Fentimans USP, so tinkering with the recipe required a nuanced approach. “All of Fentimans soft drinks are made using a unique, artisanal technique known as botanical brewing in which natural botanicals are infused, fermented and blended for seven days to create layers of complex flavours,” says Neil.

Indeed, Fentimans’ ‘botanically brewed, exquisitely crafted’ drinks have traditionally followed a seven-day fermentation process that creates a unique yeasted flavour profile at the heart of each drink. Next essential oils and natural flavourings are expertly blended to create distinct and complex flavour profiles within each recipe, and finally water and a little beet sugar is added before carbonation adds a little sparkle.

Pasturising the fizz both protects the shelf life of every brew but also marries together the flavours, giving a well-rounded drinking experience that has won Fentimans the loyal following of countless fans. “Our Light range of drinks still follows this same process,” points out Neil, “and this provides additional challenges in comparison to other light ranges.”

It’s clearly taken some hard work over the last few months…but the result? A collection of naturally refreshing drinks that deliver Fentimans signature flavours but in an easy-drinking, lighter form that’s a little less indulgent but a little more thirst quenching.

No artificial sweeteners or flavours are added; every drink is gluten free and vegan friendly, and the sugar content weighs in at just 4.8g per 100g of product. It’s a smart step forward if research around sugar consumption and consumer preferences is to be believed. According to research by FMCG Gurus, 40% of consumers globally are making efforts to reduce their sugar intake, while of those taking active steps to increase their immune health, 66% are reducing sugar in their diet. With health climbing up the consumer agenda in post-pandemic Britain, sugar reduction is seen as an important tool to avoid excess weight gain and support a healthy immune system.

Healthy fizzy drinks

Most importantly, the Fentimans range gives consumers more choice with healthy alternatives. Is the customer approaching the drinks chiller looking for a classic treat or a lighter refreshment? “There is definitely a growing awareness of sugar consumption across all food and drink categories as consumers become more health conscious and governments impose more and more regulations on brands and suppliers,” says Neil. “Consumers have never been more aware of their own calorie intake and are subsequently monitoring their sugar consumption.”

The rise of heath as a macro trend in fine food and drink is one that may have been impossible to imagine ten years ago. Traditionally cutting down calories has meant a compromise on the eating or drinking experience and therefore undesirable in the realm of foodies.
Multiple factors have contributed to the move towards more conscious consumption, but brands that put their customers firmly in control of their own calorie intake – and make healthy choices more appealing – are very much in step with the zeitgeist. As Neil points out, consumers today expect to enjoy a healthier drink without losing out on taste.

“The monitoring of sugar intake doesn’t necessarily translate into a direct desire for ‘less sweet’ drinks,” he says. “There is definitely a growth in products such as flavoured sodas, but what is still most important to consumers is great flavour, whether sweet, dry or savoury. Ensuring your brand delivers against consumer expectations of flavour is paramount and this will mean different things to different brands. For Fentimans it was important that our Light range delivered the authentic flavour we’re known for.”

It’s a win-win situation – Fentimans Lights serve up enviable flavour and mouthfeel whilst undeniably fresh and light on the tongue. Consumers can feel good about their drink without compromising on pleasure; retailers can stock the lighter bottles knowing that they deliver the delightful flavours confirmed fans of the brand will expect.

A premium beverage with a local twist

Summer 2021 is on track to be quite a bumper season, especially if we have a repeat of last year’s heat wave on top of a more generous unlocking of restrictions. So how does Neil feel the trend for mixers, soft drinks and low-cal drinks will fare in the months ahead? “Summer is traditionally a high-demand period of the calendar for soft drinks and mixers. One trend we’ve noticed is the growth and support from consumers for local, independent brands. Given holiday restrictions may also create a ‘great British staycation’ summer, it is likely that independent, craft, premium soft drinks and mixers such as Fentimans will see demand over and above the competition.”

Offering a truly iconic British classic has always been a sound strategy, but with Fentimans Lights in the chiller there’s a new opportunity to give the paying public exactly what they want.

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