AI-based Ideation: Tepache (the Mexican fermented pineapple beverage)

What is it?

Tepache is a cold drink made from fermenting pineapple skin and flesh, combined with spices such as clove and cinnamon. Traditionally served by street vendors in Mexico, it has a naturally low alcohol content, is slightly effervescent, and has a sweet, tangy flavour.

Traditionally, this sweetness comes from either added piloncillo or brown sugar, with tepache rich in nutrients such as manganese, vitamin C, phosphorus and calcium.

Being fermented, tepache is a probiotic and ‘gut-friendly’, with a 2-3 day fermentation yielding around 2% ABV. In Mexico, a splash of beer is often added to chilled tepache to up the alcohol content.

Why are we interested?

From our previous discussion about fermented Finnish lemonade (sima), we know that 16% of all UK consumer discussions about fermented food/beverages focuses on vegan (Tastewise, March), while 34% of the interest in fermented food/beverages focuses on alcoholic items.

Interest in healthy beverages is up 134% YoY (and growing on average +9% MoM).

UK interest in gut health, which is keenly linked to fermentation, is up 62% YoY, with gut health currently the number one functional motivation for fermented food and drink.

Tepache seems to fit the bill. But what does Tastewise tell us about tepache in terms of UK social media penetration (and the aligned consumer motivations)?

What does the Tastewise AI-based trend data say about tepache?

Straight off the bat, the data revealed that, over the past year, tepache has featured in just 540 social media posts in the UK. However, this is rising by +22.22% MoM.

Vegan is the dominant diet when it comes to those social conversations – rising +45.68% over the past year.

Vegetarian is also on the up when it comes to tepache discussions, enjoying a rise of +31.63%.

The three dominant nutritional call-outs for tepache are ‘Organic’, ‘Probiotics’ and ‘Natural’ – with probiotics seen as the fastest rising nutrition (+31.57% YoY).

When it comes to functional health, ‘Healthy’, ‘Fitness’ and ‘Gut Health’ are the three leading consumer drivers, with healthy (+44.5%) and gut health (+30.65%) the two fastest risers (YoY).

With tepache made with not only pineapple flesh, but also the rind, it comes as little surprise that ‘Waste’ is the key call-out when it comes to ethics, with 17% of UK social conversations about tepache including the term.

What is interesting is that this represents a +76.43% rise from last year.

With tepache still a relative unknown in the UK, the clear rise in mentions of waste with tepache is a real indication of how consumers will perceive the fermented pineapple drink, beyond the taste/health benefits, if/when it hits the UK mainstream.

And what about occasion? Well, despite the still small UK data set, it’s clear that consumers see tepache as a weekend/summer drink – with the below graph indicating a steep rise for the latter as we approach summer 2021.

The highest peak for mentions of tepache in the summer last year was 8.11%, in July. Last month, mentions of tepache with summer reached 12.77% – with this rising +20.19% YoY.

Where can I find tepache in retail?

Interestingly, The Wild Beer Co previously launched a tepache option in the UK. Pegged as a sour/wild ale, the brewery said that they “took inspiration from this naturally fermented, very low alcohol beverage and wanted to create a punchy and alcoholic sibling.

“This perfectly balanced, fruity and spiced, beer is made for the summer and those light warm evenings.”

It was essentially a spiced pineapple brown beer, coming in at around 6% ABV, with the brand recommending it “as a refreshing summer drink or as a mixer with Tequila (like any good tepache) and excellent with Mexican food.”

However, the tepache option is no longer available from The Wild Beer Co’s website, with the last mention (I can find) coming in April 2019 – before Tastewise’s AI-based data began to indicate a rise in UK interest, in both tepache and the associated health call-outs.

Early signs of UK tepache trends align well with recent US launches, however, with De La Calle debuting a line of traditional Mexican tepache drinks in cans in January.

The brand are positioning their range as “fermented and probiotic”, “good for digestion and gut health”, and “certified organic”, as well as being rich in vitamins, low in sugar, and “made with fresh pineapples”.

De La Calle’s tepache comes in four flavours – Tradicional Pineapple Spice, Regional Tamarind Citrus, Picante Mango Chili, and Moderno Orange Turmeric – with the brand abandoning the alcoholic traditions of tepache altogether, in favour of a truly health-focused approach.

Similar health claims are seen with US brand Big Easy Bucha’s new line of sparkling probiotic tepache beverages.

Available in three tropically-inspired flavours – pineapple, mango and prickly pear – the brand’s fermented drink is also organic, vegan and non-GMO certified.

Big Easy Bucha, as their name suggests, are known for their kombucha, with their tepache trio – which launched at the end of 2020 – said to contain both probiotics and prebiotics. This is due to added organic blue agave inulin, which provides the latter, with each bottle containing 3g of fibre per serving.

Each bottle of Big Easy Tepache also contains 70 calories and claims to have a third less sugar than a 12oz can of soda.

Interestingly, Remedy – the sparkling cultured drinks brand making a name for themselves in the UK with their range of kombucha – launched a tepache in Australia in 2019.

Tepache: The Verdict

There can be no doubt that the wider world of fermented drinks is beginning to offer up genuine opportunities to UK product teams.

Just look at the success of kombucha over the past few years.

“From being nearly unknown a few years ago, or at least in specialist channels such as Asian supermarkets; kombucha is now listed in every major UK supermarket,” Taste Shakers, the restaurant to retail experts, told us last month.

“While the category is still small compared to other adult soft/health and wellness categories in the UK, kombucha has grown by a massive 209% in the last year.”

Like its fermented cousin, tepache is able to tick UK consumer motivation boxes across the board – from gut-health to organic – with the latest Tastewise data backing things up nicely.

As seen in the recent US launches, tepache also has an innate versatility, in terms of flavour combinations. And, for those restaurant chefs out there, it seems to make particularly interesting sauces/glazes.

Thumbs up from me.

Tom Gatehouse
Tom is the editor of Pure NPD Insights. He previously spent three years at William Reed’s food insight platform Food Spark, was the co-founder and editor of The Cream, is a former Restaurant magazine columnist and has had chef training in fifty of the best restaurants in the UK and Europe.

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