Food for Thought: Watering down innovation

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So, here’s my hot take: “Water not included” is going to become a calling card for a lot of beverage brands (or anything fluid-y, really) in the coming decade.

Over the last couple of years, we’ve been noticing that a number of beverage companies have been launching powdered drinks that consumers just need to add water to. This isn’t a new format by any means in any market, but linking the format to sustainability is. And sustainability is slowly starting to become an important consideration for consumers while grocery shopping.

This is where water comes in… or rather, gets taken out. Good ole H2O is a key ingredient for most drink manufacturers, but it’s heavy and it takes up a lot of space. Moist environments are also a magnet for all kinds of undesirable organisms to grow and thrive in, and once this happens, you’ve got no choice but to throw the food/drink away.

In light of this, there are benefits to having dehydrated products that are light and shelf-stable even after being opened.

  • Dry powders are significantly lighter and easier to transport than their wet counterparts; more can be transported with fewer trips.
  • Powders require less specialized packaging material, thus reducing packaging costs and waste.
  • Being shelf-stable means such products don’t need cold storage, which also reduces food waste.

All of this can translate into such products being easier on the wallet for companies and consumers as well as easier on the environment in the long run.

Here are a few recent examples:

1. Oat milk

Earlier this year, Mighty Drinks, a plant-based milk company from the UK, introduced its oat milk in a new powder format. MIGHTY Oat Powder comes as a 375g bag that can make up to 4 liters of oat milk with just the addition of water. The product contains only three ingredients – 90% oat extract, coconut oil, and salt – with no sugar or sweeteners. The product is shelf-stable and can help reduce waste as a result.

In fact, the company rather audaciously claims that 103,000 tonnes of CO2 could be removed from the supply chain if just 10% of shoppers were to switch to this product.

Source: Mighty Drinks


2. Juice

Kencko is a startup that provides packets of shelf-stable powdered fruits and vegetables that can be mixed with water to consume or added to smoothies or meals. The company uses freeze-drying technology on fresh produce to lock in the nutrition and also to reduce waste from spoilage.

Fresh produce is delicate and requires specialized cold storage and transport, which the powdered form does not. This is also a good way of utilizing the so-called ugly fruit and veg that does not even make it to store shelves. The company says that by using freeze-drying technology, it is able to cut down on spoilage in the supply chain and help consumers waste up to 30% less.

Source: Kencko


3. Ketchup

Why should beverages have all the fun? This idea can be expanded to other not-so-liquid categories as well.

AWSM Sauce offers a range of powder-based sauces and ingredient mixes that aims to “eliminate single-use plastic in the kitchen”. The sauce powder comes in small sachets along with a reusable glass jar. Add the powder and water into the jar and shake. The company has said that it uses a patent-pending “powder-to-pour” technology.

The company claims that using their sauce powder packets in place of the standard single-use plastic bottles, people can reduce the amount of plastic used per sauce bottle by 95%.

Source: AWSM Sauce

4. Beer

And where would we all be if we couldn’t have something to help us be the life of the party (or cry alone in the basement – either way, we don’t judge) – all planet-friendly, of course.

East German brewery Klosterbrauerei Neuzelle says that it has created the world’s first powdered beer, and they claim all you have to do is add water et voila – beer! It’s like magic, but with more hops and barley and even froth, apparently. The first version is zero alcohol, but an alcoholic version is said to be in the vats.

This eco-friendly innovation is expected to help the company save on logistics and reduce their carbon footprint: it can be shipped at 10% of the original weight by getting rid of bottles, cans, and crates (not to mention the water–beer is 90%-plus water).

It may not be for the beer snobs out there, but it may be perfect for places with less-developed beer markets. Either way, it is definitely an interesting idea.


“Sustainability” is at different stages of maturity across different countries and categories, and the reality is that brands cannot afford to ignore this [very broad] claim. There are many routes to making a product sustainable, while also appealing to consumers. The scope and understanding of food sustainability is wide and consumers associate the overarching theme with a number of other topics, including waste and plastic reduction.

Source: Ai Palette

Country Category Data Points 2-year CAGR 4-year CAGR Maturity
UK Plant-based 2.3M -2.54% -8.97% Declining
US Beverages 1.1M 33.40% 14.20% Growing
US Ready-to-eat 1.3M 12.35% -6.36% Declining
Germany Alcoholic Beverages 317K -5.23% 15.50% Mature

Source: Ai Palette Foresight Engine (As of April 2023)

It remains to be seen how much the dry format will appeal to consumers, especially as powdered drinks tend to be thought of as highly processed and bad for health. In this age of “natural” being equated to “healthy”, will companies be able to sell powdered drinks as “healthy” for the planet?