Healthy, Functional Drinks Dominate the Market
Immunity products with healthy attributes on the rise
Even before COVID-19 hit the United States last year, consumers already were taking a more holistic approach to health and wellness, scanning store shelves and searching online for clean labels and functional beverages, powders and supplements to help them be as “fit as a fiddle.” As a result, beverage companies are striving to be “as right as rain” to give consumers the innovative new products they’re thirsting for.
Over the past 11 months, the pandemic has changed the way consumers shop, socialize, entertain as well as the types of foods and beverages they consume. Although vaccines have been developed and are in distribution, the pandemic is affecting beverage trends and overall health and wellness, expert note.
Nick Viriyasiri, a flavor scientist at Beck Flavors in Maryland Heights, Mo., suggests that the beverage industry has benefited a lot from the pandemic — both in the health and wellness sector and in the innovative/indulgent side of market. “Even though we are not able to go out and experience beverage innovation in a public setting, consumers are still willing (if not more willing) to try new products in the form of [ready-to-drink] (RTD) beverages found at the supermarket,” he says.
Consumers have a plethora of functional water options from which to choose. Demand for probiotics to boost immune health also is soaring. According to the Nutrition Business Journal, year-over-year U.S market sales in immune health have grown over 25 percent to more than $4 billion in 2020, and 10 percent of those numbers are from probiotic sales.
Caleb Bryant, associate director of food and drink at Chicago-based Mintel, notes that interest in immune health will remain a top trend even as the pandemic fades.
“Consumers are taking a preventative approach to their overall health, now more than ever,” he says. “In fact, 31 percent of consumers are consuming foods and beverages with immune support claims.”
In addition to products that promote immunity and digestive health, there’s also been a rise in clean-label, organic shelf-stable functional beverages like RTD coffees and teas, Innova Market Insights’ Williams says.
“Globally, a rise was observed in 2017 where we saw a peak in new product developments of shelf-stable functional RTD beverages followed by a slight decrease until 2019; and in 2020 a regain in activity,” she says. “In 2020, shelf-stable RTD beverages with an organic claim represented 13 percent of total shelf-stable functional RTD beverages globally.
“At the same time if we look for beverages in general (no specific shelfing and functional aspects) with a clean-label positioning — organic, non- GMO, natural, no additives/preservatives — it’s stabilizing around 30 percent of overall global beverage launches over the last 5 years,” Williams continues. “While no additives/preservatives remain the largest claim, in recent year organic and non-GMO are the ones driving the clean-label platform among beverages.”
Older consumers are looking for products that will help them age in place, with functionality the key trend for the beverage industry, Mintel’s Bryant says.
He advises beverage-makers to keep in mind that 39 percent of consumers currently consume foods and/or beverage with heart health claims; 18 percent seek products to help control diabetes; and 51 percent consume products with no sugar claims.
The health and wellness trend has resulted in a lot of brands branching out from traditional categories like CSDs, juice and dairy and offering new-to-the-world products. The further you branch out from those traditional categories and incorporate novel ingredients and delivery methods, the more technically complex developing these products becomes.
Written by Barbara Harfmann
Managing Editor of Beverage Industry