Drinking in the Luxe Life

A look at new drinking trends and the evolution of luxury beverages.

What is the luxury frontier when we think of beverages? Wine has long been the center of attraction in this respect. The 2016 “Premium Wine Luxury Brand Status Index (LBSI)” survey by The Luxury Institute found that 90% of affluent consumers in the United States self-identify as wine drinkers, with 58% drinking wine at least once per week.

Emerging markets such as China have primarily been seduced by the allure of what used to be a typically European product. These consumers sought out prestigious imported brands but we are now seeing more emerging markets birth brands of their own, often with their own local production.

We’ve seen this before in the luxury beverage market’s history; this is exactly what happened in the now world-famous Napa area in California in the 19th century. In her New Yorker article, “Can Wine Transform China’s Countryside?” Jiayang Fan explains that counterfeits can be seen as a way to make the drink more easily available because the concept behind some of the world’s most sought after wines is rooted in prestige versus taste.

Fan goes on to quote Suzanne Mustacich, author of the book Thirsty Dragon.  “Enthusiasm for the concept of wine outpaced concrete knowledge,” Mustacich said. “[Most] Chinese people didn’t really know what wine is supposed to taste like, so it was spectacularly easy to get away with.” In her reportage, Fan shared these insights from her interview with Mustacich, “Few people understood that Bordeaux was not a brand but the name of a region. Counterfeiters started obtaining empty bottles of expensive wine and filling them with plonk, and even created ersatz wine by mixing sugar water with artificial color and flavor.”

New tastes and conspiracy theories

New generations, though, have different interests. Here, at  Nextatlas, we have been tracking a whole new set of traits younger generations are looking for in their drinks.

For example, in July 2017, the Nextatlas trend research team spotted and detailed what came to be known as the “Transparent Taste” trend geographically covering most of the globe, for the American continent to Central Europe, Russia, China and India.

More recently, Nextatlas researchers have observed the growing influence of conspiracy theories. These Theories, which contemplate things such as chem-trails, large-scale use of opaque food additives, or pharmaceutical multinationals adulterating drugs for shady purposes, provide explanations for social and political events by invoking the power of unscrupulous organizations acting in the shadows. Today, this feeling of powerlessness has found a very efficient way to resonate in the social media bubbles. So widespread are these murky narratives that a need for counter narratives has been growing proportionally making people appreciate those products and services that convey such values as purity, transparency and sincerity—especially in things that have to do with the body such as food, drink and wellness.

Demographic traits

Who are the consumers that are thirsty for luxury beverages? In general, they are young, healthy and environmentally conscious. Millennials’ influence is clearly on the rise. On social media, they spotlight their favorite pastimes and interests as well as their favorite beers, which are locally brewed, of course.

Key traits shared by luxury beverage consumers

The emergent trend for healthy, naturally sweet and low-calorie food and beverage is fueling the quest for flavored waters inspired by a “better for me” consumer’s attitude. As consumers shift their beverage preferences from calorific carbonated drinks to healthier alternatives, the bottled-water category is rife with innovation.


The demonization of soft drinks is a boost to sparkling waters, as more and more people are adopting a healthier and more natural lifestyle, but keeping an indulgent attitude and avoiding too-hard-to-follow rules.

People appreciate products and services that convey such values as purity, transparency and sincerity—especially in things that have to do with the body, such as food, drink and wellness—which extend themselves to consistently merge with the wellness of the planet.

Made using waters sourced directly from trees and plants, flavor enhancers and other new products address micro segments with extremely specific needs, e.g.,  energy waters for sporty people and gorgeous packages with cool graphics that enhance the desirability of flavored waters.

Joyful Health is another trend, identified by Nextatlas. This gentle revolution is a move against the proliferation of self-imposed diet traps. Instead of sticking to rules that are too hard to follow, people can have fun “designing” their own individual trajectories in the land of food and health—with just a pinch of common sense.

The secret “recipe” behind winning luxe beverage brands

New Nextatlas business intelligence technology, Nextventures, allowed us to not only have a clear segmentation of the audience of such trends but also to find the correlating emerging brands. Through this scouting tool, we were able to identify the key features of some Exquisite luxury beverage brands:

Leveraging on new ingredients

A+ Water is the name of a new beverage made with artichokes. Since it is impossible to squeeze, the vegetable is left simmering whole in order to best extract antioxidants and nutrients. It is a vegan, low-glycemic, lactose free, gluten-free and cholesterol-free. Lemon, apple, spearmint and pandan leaves are added for flavor.

Artichokes are a staple of the always trending Mediterranean diet. This ingredient appeals to health conscious active audience. In this version, either cold or hot, artichokes can easily become part of one’s daily diet.

Harnessing plant power

Happy Tree Maple Water was created by brothers Ari & Chaim Tolwin when they were tapping maple trees to create maple syrup in the Catskill Mountains of New York. They discovered that the raw maple sap straight from the tree tasted delicious, and after a little bit of research developed their brand that now comes in several other combinations including fresh organic juices and organic, fair-trade coffee. The beverage contains only organic maple water and organic lemon juice.

Leveraging new ingredients

BLk. Dark Water is what happens when fulvic minerals are added to water. Blk. is the result of fulvic minerals being infused with Canadian spring water. Blk. contains no coloring, dye or additives and is 100% natural. The fulvic minerals that they use to infuse with spring water are black in color so naturally change the color of the water. Fulvic minerals are plant matter derived from millions of years ago that have combined with fulvic acid forming rare fulvic mineral deposits.

Ávita–e sparkling caffeine water is healthy hydration with an all-natural energy boost. Sparkling Ávita–e is available with different caffeine levels: 125 milligrams in Energy Blast, 90 in Energy Boost, 45 in Energy Kick. Black Cherry, Raspberry Lime, Berry Kiwi and Mandarin Passion Fruit flavors are also available. They contain zero calories, sugars or artificial ingredients. The caffeine is obtained directly from green coffee beans.

Leveraging on eco-friendliness

A “superior craft” soda, Sipp was founded by Beth Wilson-Parentice and now features an array of sparkling varietals from Ginger Blossom to Lemon Flower. Its website offers hint on food pairing and recipes for mixologists including martinis and margaritas  that leverage Sipp’s flavors.

Leveraging the package

Claiming to be “America’s first and only sparkling water made with real, squeezed fruit,” Spindrift sparkling water has put a notable stress on its packaging. Cans are chromatically split in half transversally focusing on the ingredients; They are clearly and immediately visible and recognizable by consumers. Bright colors connect with flavors and identify the fruits, core of the brand image. No artificial sweeteners, no concentrate juice and no artificial coloring. All fruit ingredients come from the United States.


Luigi Garella is insights manager for Nextatlas.