Functional Beverage Trends Support Mind-body Wellness

young woman enjoying healthy beverage

The functional beverage category is growing, and so are consumer expectations about the benefits such drinks deliver

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KerryDigest Fast Facts:

  • The beverage category is rapidly expanding to offer products that provide functional benefits beyond the support of muscle growth and weight management.
  • General health concerns regarding immune system support and mind and body wellness are shaping product launches in the space.
  • New research identifies six areas of opportunity for manufacturers of functional beverages.

KerryDigest Full Scoop:

The functional beverage market is entering a new era. Mind and body wellness have come to the fore, with consumer needs now driven by general health priorities rather than aspirational ones such as fitness goals. Understanding these will be key to successful functional beverage product innovation.

New research conducted by Kerry with MMR Research delves into the myriad of reasons behind the consumption of functional beverages, highlighting the key motivations of European consumers when purchasing beverages that offer benefits beyond hydration.

Read on to discover some of the strongest consumer desires for functional beverages, which manufacturers can examine when creating new products.

Functional beverages to support immunity

Our research, which surveyed those living in the UK, Spain, Germany and Poland, found that health priorities are led by immunity. When asked about which health concerns have become more important since the pandemic, immunity rose to the top.

It comes as no surprise that consumers are clamouring for functional beverages with immunity supporting properties. The pandemic has brought attention to the importance of a functional immune system, and we expect that demand for products perceived to enhance protection against illness will continue in the future.

With immunity support securing its position as a dynamic demand space, there are opportunities for brands to develop products that appeal to both proactive and reactive consumer types and occasions through the use of immune support ingredients.

Beverages that offer mental health support

For younger audiences, health priorities extend towards mental health: 54% of the people we surveyed who were under 40 years of age claim to have a stressful lifestyle. Therefore, mental health appears to be of particular concern to Millennials.

This cohort is the most likely to attach high importance to mental health issues and express positive interest in products that can support sleep, anxiety relief and mental focus. Millennials are also likely to pay a premium for such beverages.

Millennials express positive interest in products that can support sleep, anxiety issues and mental focus.millennial woman exercising with healthy beverage

What ingredients do European consumers associate with mental health benefits? Our survey respondents ranked ginseng and turmeric highest, with both receiving votes of confidence from 77% of respondents. Gingko biloba was selected by 68% of people, and “nootropics ingredients”—the term applied to ingredients perceived to enhance cognition—found appeal amongst around 50% of respondents. The widespread recognition of nootropics suggests that this gives opportunities for growth.

Brands that offer greater transparency and quality

Consumers indicate they may be willing to pay a premium for products with functional benefits, but they will also demand more from manufacturers. This includes a desire for products that are clearly made with science-supported ingredients at a level of intake that offers a real functional benefit and brands that offer compelling sustainability stories.

Increased scrutiny has implications beyond ingredients and origin: the emerging consumer is paying closer attention to label claims and callouts as well as product appearance, flavour, aroma and mouthfeel. So, quality must remain high across the board for functional beverages.

This is backed up by our new research, which found that just over half of all Europeans attach equal importance to a product’s taste and its ability to deliver a benefit.

Simple formulas with recognisable ingredients

When given a choice, consumers will generally seek beverages that are able to satisfy a demand through the use of recognisable ingredients. For example, when our survey asked people to identify the ingredients in the immunity space they were most interested in, they responded as follows:

  • Vitamin C: 85%
  • Vitamin D: 84%
  • Honey: 82%
  • Probiotics: 79%
  • Green tea: 79%

There was also notable interest in ‘health halo’ ingredients such as ginger, prebiotics and botanicals.

Fortified functional beverages

Our research reveals high levels of interest in functional beverages that are fortified with ingredients such as protein, vitamins and minerals. Indeed, 39% of the Europeans we surveyed are placing a growing level of importance on product fortification as a means to better health. This is currently strongest in Poland, where 50% of Polish consumers expressed an interest in fortified products.

Our research reveals high levels of interest in functional beverages that are fortified with ingredients such as protein, vitamins and minerals.healthy beverage with fruit and vitamins

For maximum credibility amongst consumers, brands will want to fortify beverages with well-known ‘hero’ ingredients that are able to provide functional benefits backed by scientific evidence.

Good-for-you beverages, morning till night

The consumption of functional beverages is typically associated with the morning. Functional juices and milks have long been popular amongst consumers, and functional coffees and teas are also gaining consumer acceptance.

One reason for this has to do with the way health habits change throughout the day: Kerry research suggests that consumers start the morning with healthy intentions, but these diminish throughout the day.

However, opportunities in new dayparts are emerging, with our survey registering a notable rise in demand for functional beverages in the evening. This creates an opportunity for brands, especially given new demand for products that support mental wellbeing, stress relief and sleep.

To learn more about consumer preference and beverage innovation download our eBook, “Creating Premium Functional Beverages Using Insights and Powerful Ingredients” and our whitepaper cited here, "Consumer Drivers in Functional Beverages".

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