The following content originally appeared in Beverage Innovation issue 130, which you can subscribe to here.
Beverage Innovation spoke with Wessanen executive VP marketing Klaus Arntz.
Where does Wessanen sit in the global beverage market?
Wessanen is one of the oldest food businesses in the world and we have just celebrated our 250th anniversary this year. We focus on healthy and sustainable food in Europe and our beverages fit into our overall strategy. We are experts in organic and sustainable drinks such as dairy alternatives, green and infusion teas, organic soft drinks and juices. Our mission sums up what we care about: “Healthier food, healthier people, healthier planet.”
How do you see the beverage market has changed over the past 5-10 years?
Overall we see that the market is changing in favour of healthier, more sustainable alternatives to conventional drinks. The market for non-dairy drinks such as soy, rice and almond milk has seen double-digit growth for the past decade as people are looking to switch from cow milk to alternatives that are healthier for both people and the planet. We see similar dynamics in tea and soft drinks – green tea and infusions are for example growing at the expense of black tea. We don’t see an end to this trend anytime soon. There is clearly also a big debate about sugar in drinks and as an organic company we don’t consider artificial sweeteners but alternatives such as agave syrup to create a sweeter taste.
What are Wessanen’s main beverage brands?
We have two types of beverage brands – the beverage experts and brands where drinks are part of a wider product range. Among our beverage experts Clipper tea stands out as Europe’s No 1 organic and fair trade tea. This brand has been part of the Wessanen family since 2012 and has enjoyed tremendous growth since joining us. Apart from continued success in the UK, the brand has been a great success across continental Europe but also in export countries such as Finland, Japan, the US and Australia. The Isola Bio brand from Italy joined Wessanen at the beginning of 2015 and has already made a strong mark. It produces a very wide range of dairy alternatives such as rice, soy and almond drinks but also manufacturers specialities such as kamut, spelt and coconut. It continues to grow strongly in Italy and beyond and has recently managed to roll-out into Germany. As for the second group of brands, Bjorg is the overall organic market leader in France and also the No. 1 brand in dairy alternatives. Alongside marketing products such as biscuits, rice cakes and vegetarian meals it has led the development of soy, oat and almond drinks and is probably the only organic brand that has managed to claim overall market leadership in this category. In the Netherlands, Zonnatura is the biggest organic brand in the country and a strong player in infusion, green tea and organic – mostly vegetable – juices. Finally, it is worth mentioning our range of Whole Earth organic lemonades and colas that have enjoyed excellent growth across a wide range of countries. In the UK, the brand sells a range of other food products and is most famous for its peanut butter but it’s the drinks that have travelled the best across the world.
What are your best selling products in the beverage sector and in which sectors do these fall?
Our best sellers are in tea and in dairy alternatives. Clipper has seen remarkable success with its range of green teas and infusions in continental Europe. Especially our green tea (with lemon) and Lemon & Ginger infusion have been a runaway success in France, Germany and The Netherlands. In non-dairy drinks, we have seen a boom in almond milk over the past few years. The market used to be dominated by soy-based drinks but now more consumers are switching to non-soy versions, such as rice, oat and more recently almond and other nuts. Bjorg almond milk in France has taken the market by storm and the same goes for our Isola bio brand that from its Italian base is growing strongly across many global markets. Within the almond sector, we see that more people prefer a lighter taste as they are looking for everyday replacements for cow’s milk.
How important do you see the move to ethical and organic products?
Healthy and sustainable food is at the core of our strategy. Wessanen started as a natural products business 250 years ago but over the years has diversified into various types of food and drinks. Seeing the massive boom of healthy and organic products some 10-15 years ago, the business decided to focus entirely on this market. Nowadays, already 70% of all products we sell are organic and more than 95% are vegetarian. The bulk of our hot drinks and chocolate is fair trade. The market has seen double digit growth for many years and we don’t see an end to it anytime soon. Our success in ethical and organic products is easily described – it’s the only thing we focus on. It’s not a side business for us but the core of our activity. That’s why we have built strong expertise in sourcing organic raw materials, making superior products and marketing organic brands across all relevant channels. Clipper and Alter Eco have long established relationships with the cooperatives that grow our tea, chocolate and coffee and pay them fair prices. By and large we see that extensions of conventional brands and companies into our space lack credibility for the organic-minded consumer.
What are your latest innovations in the beverage sector?
We have launched a range of new dairy alternatives, for example Bjorg Almond Drinks with a lighter taste and highly indulgent drinks such as salted almond and caramel milk. Isola Bio has just launched ‘Sorgo’ based on an ancient cereal called sorghum. In tea, Clipper has been successful with its occasions range and variants such as ‘Snore and Peace’ and ‘Love me Truly’. Tea is not just a beverage but can also be a special moment in your day every time you drink it.
What is high on the agenda for Wessanen this year – are you looking more closely at sustainability or new product development?
We feel we are in the perfect space in the European market – that of healthy and sustainable food. So our strategy is to continue to build our core brands in our core categories. Of our seven core categories two are in the beverage space – hot drinks and dairy alternatives and we are looking to grow them aggressively. New product development and brand activation are our key focus. Sustainability is not an extra focus point for us – it’s built into everything we do!
What’s next for Wessanen in the beverage sector?
We are looking to grow our range of tea and dairy alternatives in their current core markets and to roll them out to new geographies. We see a strong interest in our brands and products as the market continues to grow. We are screening the market for suitable businesses to join our family – just like Clipper and Isola Bio have done in the past couple of years. The people on this earth and the planet itself need healthier and more sustainable food and drink choices- and that is what we are here to do.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2020
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