The global market for craft soda is growing from USD575.5 million in 2020 to an estimated USD733.3 million in 2027, according to a report from Research and Market released in July 2021. China in particular is forecast to reach a projected market size of USD144.6 million by 2027.
Also known as artisanal soda or specialty soda, craft soda as all these names suggest, are carbonated drinks made in small batches, use a variety of choice ingredients, and offer unique flavours.
In Hong Kong, Mindful Sparks is confident about the success of its premium craft sodas. The company founded by nutritionist and craft beverage maker Winston Lau, only began crafting non-alcoholic sodas in 2020, but its unusual blends have instantly captured consumers seeking healthier options to CSD and alcoholic drinks. To fulfil demand, the company opened its full-scale production facility for non-alcoholic beverages in the New Territories in October 2021. FoodPacific Manufacturing Journal interviewed Mr Lau to know more about the market.
Mindful Sparks founder Winston Lau is a nutritionist and experienced craft beverage maker (Photo: Mindful Sparks)
What is the concept behind Mindful Sparks and could you share how the brand came to be? What is the vision of the brand?
Mindful Sparks is built on mindfulness, and we promote wellness and enlightenment through our products. We are proud to offer a premium handcrafted, non-alcoholic option that caters to those seeking an alcohol-free, guilt-free alternative.
Our vision is to create a premium range of craft sodas with complex aroma, colour, taste, and body which non-alcohol drinkers can appreciate mindfully. We aim to bring the consumer an evolving selection of unique seltzers, mocktails, and sparkling beverages with exciting and curious flavours to awaken the senses.
What is the current market for craft soda like in Asia Pacific? Do you see it growing in certain areas of Southeast Asia?
There are lots of alcoholic options readily available for the consumer, ranging from cheap to expensive. In Hong Kong, for example, the non-alcoholic offering consists of commercial soda, lemon tea, coffee, and other options that are not very exciting and don’t have that wow factor.
The current craft soda market is now in its infancy and exploratory stage. I cannot see the apparent growth of premium non-alcoholic beverages in Southeast Asia; however, more and more commercial beer brands are now selling a non-alcoholic version of their signature beer, reflecting the growth and demand of non-alcoholic beverages. I expect that non-alcoholic premium soda products will expand to meet this surge in popularity over the next few years.
The pandemic has impacted consumer preferences in many ways. What is the impact on craft soda consumption?
The customer’s health concern seems to be elevated due to the pandemic. This has indirectly affected their diet and their decision to choose craft sodas rather than an unhealthy alcoholic option. In this respect, we are seeing an increase in demand for alcohol-free beverages, particularly at the premium level for at-home consumption ahead of bars and restaurants.
What can you tell us about the products on offer – Signature, Teahouse, Collaborations and Experimental? How are these collections different, and are they targeted at different/specific consumers?
Teahouse is a zero-sugar, zero-alcohol range of sparkling cold brew teas to cater to Asia’s love of tea – the second most popular drink in the world after water. Our guilt-free sparkling teas combine complex flavour and aroma with a refreshing, sparkling feeling to bring a new experience to tea drinking.
Always experimenting, the limited-edition range includes rare taste and aroma combinations that are fast-changing as styles evolve and new flavours become available.
The Mindful Sparks seasonal range comprises of specialty mocktails and seltzers that change with the seasons and are available in sync with seasonal trends.
What is the intricate process in choosing flavours for your craft sodas?
For sweetness, we introduce complexity through a combination of different types of sugars, including local specialty honey, raw sugar, maltose, and white sugar.
In terms of taste, we enjoy experimenting with a combination of tea, fruit, spices, and any other unique ingredients we can get our hands on to make the most interesting premium craft sodas in the market.
For craft drinks, the natural ingredients have to be carefully chosen, too. How do you choose ingredients?
We choose quality ingredients from a global source with local distributors. We carefully taste and examine each ingredient from multiple suppliers and then make decisions on which ingredient(s) are suitable for handcrafting our premium sodas.
What made you choose Hong Kong as the site for your major production facility? How big is the facility and does it house all processes for making your beverages?
As a Hongkonger, I wanted to make something that originated in Hong Kong. Our new facility can produce up to 130 hectolitres. All processes are designed and installed for crafting, packaging, and distributing premium beverages with attention to detail and the highest quality standards.
What is the most challenging aspect in producing beverages like craft soda?
Informing our customers on why paying a higher price for a premium product is a challenge, as non-alcoholic craft soda is more expensive than commercial soda. Also, people have an assumption that non-alcoholic and soda products are cheap. Still, there is perhaps not an understanding of the workmanship and use of high-quality ingredients that go into making a more expensive product.
What can consumers expect from Mindful Sparks in 2022?
We are doing many innovative things in terms of future releases, but we must keep them a secret. Without saying too much, we are currently working on a very unique flavour combination that you may never have thought of or heard of. A flavour based on a combination of curiosity and innovation. You’ll just have to watch this space to find out more!
Furthermore, we may implement our Mindful Sparks concept to other food products or non-food products or services. We are passionate about encouraging our customer to take pause in the hustle and bustle of city life and we are coming up with new ideas to promote mindful enlightenment.
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