“COVID-19 has been a real ‘before and after’ moment for the food industry with winners and losers so it’s important for beverage manufacturers to stay on top of trends,” said Kelly. “Certainly, one of the most enduring trends of COVID-19 is an acceleration of consumer-led health strategies; these are very much targeting physical well-being, immunity, and mental well-being and doing so in a sustainable way.”
The health and wellness market represents a significant opportunity for the food and beverage industry, with Euromonitor estimating that health and wellness products accounted for about one fifth of total packaged food and beverage value sales globally in 2020.
Ingredient supplier Kerry recently conducted a global survey to identify consumer desires and concerns and understand how these impact their purchase decisions for drinks. Based on the findings, it has identified strong demand for functional beverages in Europe and globally.
Kerry’s survey found that in Poland, 56% of consumers would like to buy drinks that offer a functional benefit, followed by 47% in Spain, 37% in the UK and 29% in Germany.
“As opposed to water, juice, milk, or soft drinks that are drunk more for hydration, functional beverages are driven by consumer needs and health priorities; [people] want an added benefit […] and one of the trends we’re seeing in this area [is] health and wellness being more targeted,” said Kelly.
“Rather than having a multi-vitamin drink or tablet, it’s about having something that offers a very targeted effect. For example, if people want [to feel] calm, an ingredient like chamomile comes through very strongly; for digestive health, probiotics have proven benefits or ginger has a health halo related to settling the stomach.”
Functional beverages are also expanding beyond the traditional drink formats they previously occupied.
“When we look at the functional beverage area historically, we would have thought of traditional soft drinks or waters or dairy products being fortified but this is really […] opening up into lots of different categories,” said Kelly.
“We are seeing plant-based beverages being fortified, sports and sports nutrition drinks, or energy drink [brands] that are looking for more healthy and natural energy sources. We’re even seeing some traditional alcohol companies looking to expand their portfolios beyond the alcohol base and move into the healthy functional category. It’s an area of interest for all beverage manufacturers from retail to foodservice because they all see there is a big growth opportunity.”
From guarana to ginseng; chamomile to caffeine
Brands looking to create new products need to think about which ingredients to use based on the health benefits they bring, and position the product accordingly in a way that delivers sustainable nutrition.
Chamomile, lavender and cherry blossom, for instance, are associated with a calming effect while guarana and ginseng are known for their energy-promoting properties. Peppermint and elderflower, meanwhile, are believed to have digestive benefits.
Eighty-eight percent of consumers surveyed by Kerry said they associated omega-3 with cognitive health while 72% cited ginkgo biloba, 71% said caffeine and 69% iodine.
Although only 51% see nootropics as ingredients that support brain health, Kerry expects this figure to grow as more brands introduce the term. Nootropic ingredients include functional mushrooms such as reishi, cordyceps, and lion’s mane.
According to Kelly, ingredients such as proteins, probiotics, fibre and botanicals fit well with three other beverage trends: the move away from sugar, a demand for health ingredients with more functionality, and more premium offerings.
Botanicals have a premium positioning; they bring their own perceived benefits to the product, thus creating a health halo; and they are often used in healthy drinks with a low sugar content.
“There are lots of positive benefits in putting botanicals into drinks,” he added.