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CircleUp June.16.2022 4 min read

Beverage Sustainability Trends You Need to Know

It’s no secret that buzzwords like “organic,” “sustainable,” “natural,” and “non-GMO” are being used across the food and beverage industry to attract consumers to their brands. In fact, some food and beverage brands have been largely focused on sustainability in the last few years and have created global teams dedicated to creating sustainable processing and packaging to support the growing demand. 

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After identifying sustainability as one of this year’s leading beverage trends, we were interested in understanding which beverage categories were leading the push, as well as the attributes companies and consumers of these categories use to describe their sustainable brands.

Who’s leading the beverage sustainability movement? 

When looking across beverage categories, Wine has the most brands with sustainability attributes with well over relevant 5000 brands appearing for these terms. Coffee is a close second with slightly less than Wine, but still more than  5000 brands. Beer and Breweries came in third with slightly more than 2000 brands that have sustainability attributes.  

Juice and Kombucha have particularly lower brand counts, but relatively high attribute counts in comparison, suggesting that brands in this category have found a thriving sustainability niche.  Of all the Alcoholic Beverage categories, Wine has one of the top brand counts, while Beer and Spirits demonstrate strong attribute counts relative to their brand counts, suggesting strong niche markets here as well.


Sustainable Attribute Count

The data suggest that some product categories may lend themselves more naturally to sustainability claims. In the case of Wine, the industry has focused on sustainability not only because it is particularly vulnerable to climate change, but also has a customer base that is sensitive to poor Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) practices. In turn, category-wide press and marketing around ESG may have further increased consumer demand for sustainable wine brands. 

How does sustainability affect growth potential? 

CircleUp’s roots in CPG venture investing mean that we designed our universal data tool, Helio, with a focus on finding emerging brands that are best suited for growth. We do that with our Helio Growth Predictor score (HGP). The HGP model incorporates data from hundreds of sources to best determine a brand’s potential for growth over the next 12 months. The score is on a scale of -1 to 1, with brands scoring a 1 having the highest growth potential. You can learn more about HGP scores here.

To understand how sustainability affects growth potential in the Alcohol category, we assessed the correlation between top sustainability attributes, such as “organic” and “eco friendly,” with average HGP score among emerging alcoholic beverage brands.


Top Sustainability Terms by HGP


Overall, “Fair Trade,” “Plant Based,” and “Biodynamic Organic” were terms that correlated with  higher than average HGP scores. “Fair Trade” and “Plant-Based” are the sustainability attributes associated with the highest median HGP, at .80 and .75 respectively. Additionally, “Biodynamic,” an attribute most commonly related to  Wine, has a strong HGP (.59) when mentioned in conjunction with “Organic.” Other standouts are “Eco-Friendly,” “USDA,” and “Verified”, all having median HGP scores higher than .50.

While “Organic” and “Natural” had the highest brand count, they were only associated with HGP scores of .52 and .51 respectively. There has been recent pushback around terms such as organic and natural due to a lack of defining parameters and regulations around what practices actually delineate natural and organic products, versus non-organic products. This sentiment grew after the USDA announced that their organic guidelines still allow for herbicides and pesticides to be used throughout the growing process. 

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Clearly, there is room for innovation teams to improve on sustainable practices and alignment of those practices with marketing claims. For anyone interested in learning more about sustainable beverage trends, reach out to our Helio insights team! We’d be happy to dive into it more with you.