Health awareness is at an all-time high, and consumers seeking better alternatives to carbonated soft drinks continue to seek out new choices. Functional beverages remain the fastest-growing sector in the functional food and beverage industry, expected to double in size from 2020-2030. Here are some of the breakthroughs driving a new generation of functional beverages. 

New Functional Applications

Today’s functional beverages are looking beyond established energy and sports drinks, with vitamin or mineral enhancements, to offer a new range of benefits and applications to consumers. The hottest trends in functional beverages are: 

  • Healthy hydration. Hydration is, naturally, the most important feature of a beverage, but young consumers are increasingly choosing enhanced water. Functional waters are often enhanced with premium ingredients, like plant-sourced electrolytes. Enhanced water that improves digestive health, with fibers and probiotics, is increasingly popular.
  • Mood-boosting. Many consumers look to functional beverages that enhance mood and provide energy. Ready-to-drink teas often include extracts and botanicals to promote positive moods, and natural energy-boosting alternatives to caffeine. 
  • Cognitive health. Beverages that boost memory, cognition, and creativity are incredibly popular. The inclusion of nootropics and other herbs into functional beverages continues to increase year over year.
  • Relaxation. Along with mood-enhancing, functional beverages that promote calmness and relaxation are growing in popularity. Ingredients like CBD, melatonin, and calming herbs help to create a feeling of calm relaxation without alcohol. 
  • Improved immunity. Immune health is the leading growth category in functional beverages, and is especially popular in juices and smoothies. Natural immune boosters like ginger, acai, and cayenne are paired with detoxing ingredients like beets and cucumbers for hydration with health. 

New Functional Ingredients

While many of these functional features and claims are based on the use of ancient ingredients like ginger, aloe, and green tea, companies in the industry are continually finding new ingredients, or using ancient ingredients in new ways. Some of the most powerful functional beverage ingredients include:  

  • Creatine. Creatine is one of the most popular ingredients in functional beverages for sport and athletics. Creatine is said to improve energy and performance while promoting muscle growth. Creatine is often combined with branch-chained amino acids and advanced hydrating ingredients for powerful sports nutrition beverages. 
  • Collagen. Beauty drinks are a rapidly growing industry, and many people are already aware of the beauty benefits of collagen. Functional beverages containing collagen, vitamin C, antioxidants, Q10, and hyaluronic acid are newer options in the beauty supplement industry. 
  • Adaptogens. Functional beverages with adaptogens are being marketed as healthy, natural, alternative cocktails, supplying the relaxation and good mood associated with alcoholic beverages. Ginseng, turmeric, liquorice, CBD, tulsi, and other botanicals are all associated with helping us promote stability and fight stress. 
  • L-theanine. L-theanine is today’s wonder ingredient for functional beverages. Advertisers claim it provides energy and promotes relaxation, improves mental focus and learning ability, lowers blood pressure, and has a host of other benefits. L-theanine does have proven benefits for mental relaxation and fatigue perception, but may not be all things in all beverages.

With functional beverages, ingredients are just part of the story. Consumers are highly motivated by natural, plant-based ingredients, transparency in sourcing, and the values of the company they buy from. They also seek beverages with attractive packaging, appealing colors, and natural flavors and fragrances. As the market continues to grow, reaching younger consumers, the range of benefits and choices will continue to expand.  

We are on the verge of a tremendous shift in how we think about, use, and consume beverages. Functional beverages appeal to a health-conscious consumer and offer the benefits of combining normal hydration with enhanced capabilities, making them more efficient than other supplements. As companies continue to innovate advanced beverages that meet multiple needs, and consumer demand shifts away from unhealthy beverages, the market will continue to grow exponentially. For beverage companies that want to be at the forefront of this incredible opportunity, and need the talent to get there, contact grapefrute today.