Trends: Consumers Want More Functional, Healthy Beverages

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Consumers approach wellness in a holistic view these days. They prefer foods that come are organic and GMO-free, and other clean label cues. This trend is taking over drinks as well as more consumers want functional and healthy beverages.

The Trend for Healthy Beverages

Innova Market Insights, a Netherlands-based company, noted that many consumers are now becoming savvy when it comes to buying their favorite drinks. In 2016, a trend regarding the rising consumption of functional beverages rose to 27.2% from 12.6% in 2012. This means that more people opt for drinks that are fortified with vitamins and minerals or those that contain high amounts of protein for muscle buildup. These drinks are touted for their health benefits. The result is many companies in the US and UK are shifting their focus to healthy beverages to supply the growing demands of the market.

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Aside from functional beverages, there is also a growing trend called “lighter enjoyment” where consumers are opting for alcoholic drinks that have lighter alcohol content and more flavor and texture to reap the benefits of the alcoholic beverage without the need to be intoxicated.

Today’s shoppers are taking health and other wellness-related matters into their own hands, and this has created a niche within the beverage industry to meet the growing demand. There is an increasing number of consumers who are following healthy routines such as training and exercising, so they need a drink to support their lifestyle.

The Effect of The Healthy Beverage Market

So why are many people turning to healthy foods and beverages instead of medicine? People who are not getting their desired results from traditional medicine are trying out health and wellness products. The trend here is an opportunity for companies to innovate their products into functional food and beverages.

This is where personalization of products comes in as people have different preferences when it comes to their health and wellness. For instance, people who follow specific diets tend to avoid specific ingredients in their beverages. So the traditional, one-size-fits-all approach to creating drinks is no longer a reliable concept for manufacturers.


Many shoppers are making more focused and informed buying decisions. They are very mindful of the types of products that they buy.  Aside from the kinds of ingredients, the “why,” as well as the “how” behind the product, is an essential factor in the decision making process of today’s shoppers. This adds another layer of complexity to the food and beverage industry to develop products that will appeal to more educated customers.

Beverages attribute to more than $11 billion in global sales, and these highly competitive functional drinks are slowly creeping up to make up a quarter of the market. In fact, functional and healthy beverages made $3.1 billion in sales last year, and the projections seem to grow more by the year.

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Functional Ingredients and Label Claims Continue to Lure Consumers

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According to the latest numbers from Packaged Facts market research, 49% of all U.S. consumers buy nutritional bars, beverages, or both. Food and beverage products using functional ingredients with functions like nutritional support, weight loss, increased energy, and meal replacement were included in their analysis. However, energy drinks, sports drinks, milkshakes, granola bars, and snack bars with no nutritional purpose were excluded from their analysis. The Packaged Facts’ National Online Survey consisted of 2,000 U.S. consumers aged 18 and over.

Convenience is Key to Category Growth

Brands have been positioning their nutritional drinks and bars as convenient, healthy, on-the-go options for the busy American. As a result, sales have skyrocketed over the past five years. The market has hit $8.8 billion in 2016 with an annual growth rate of 9.5% over the past five years. Packaged Facts predicts a bullish future for the two categories with combined sales reaching $13.1 billion by 2021.

Younger generations are key purchasers with highest use rates. Many of the Millennials and Gen-Xers see being busy as a “badge of honor” so these products are essential to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Packaged Facts found that 57% of all U.S. consumers are drinking nutritional beverages as a meal replacement.

Functional Ingredients: Superfoods and Protein


Functional ingredients are booming, and nutritional drinks and bars are using them to enter the market with a unique value proposition. The barriers to entry are low, but gaining significant market share is a different story. High protein content is expected from consumers at this point with 72% saying they look for that feature when purchasing nutritional drinks.

Some nutritional bars and drinks are turning to innovative superfood solutions to increase nutrient support claims. Brands are using products like GrandFusion to enhance their bars and drinks with natural vitamins from up to twelve fruits and vegetables without impacting flavor or texture. Interested in learning more? Click your industry in the navigation and learn more about how GrandFusion could benefit your products.

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Consumers are Replacing Traditional Breakfast with Nutritional Drinks

The adage “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” is no longer valid today, thanks to the rise in the popularity of performance and nutritional drinks. With the dietary habits of people evolving, many people opt for nutritional beverages as a favorite breakfast item these days.  About 35% of Americans agree that they do not adequately take care of themselves because they live very busy lifestyles and drinking performance drinks has become the norm for breakfast. Research conducted by Mintel indicated that 39% of people consume nutritional drinks every morning as a meal replacement while 48% consume them as part of their daily meals.


What Consumers Think About Nutritional Drinks

About 80% of consumers view nutritional drinks as a guilt-free beverage. Moreover, 69% believe that they are excellent sources of nutrients compared to tablets and pills. Many consumers drink nutritional drinks because they provide a more convenient method for eating whole foods.

Nutritional beverages are marketed very effectively by convincing consumers that they can maintain healthy lifestyles just by drinking them. The functional characteristic of nutritional drinks sets them apart from the rest of the beverages sold in the market.

Senior Food and Drink Analyst at Mintel, Beth Bloom, noted that performance drinks are the epitome of modern drinks as they provide the convenience that can fit the lifestyle and diet choices of the average American. Moreover, as many consumers move away from eating the traditional three meals a day, such beverages, fit in perfectly with their current lifestyle as they are affordable and accessible to many people who live very busy lives.

The Large Market Share of Nutritional Drinks

The favorable attributes of nutritional drinks are the reason why they are gaining a significant market share in the beverage category. Currently, there are now a lot of types of drinks under this category which includes weight loss formulas and sports drinks. Many consumers look for three basic characteristics when buying nutritional drinks including flavor, amount of protein, high fiber content, essential vitamins, and minerals.

Between 2010 and 2015, there was a surge in the sales growth of nutritional drinks of around 67% which is equivalent to $31 billion. Most of the sales come from sports drinks, which the industry growth is pegged at 22% during the same period. Weight loss drinks only have a 5% growth.

According to the Mintel’s Global New Products Database, manufacturers of products such as fruit juices, water, coffee, and tea have used the functional positioning as a platform to sell their goods to the market. Currently, many products have used the value of having functional attributes which are challenging the nutritional drinks in their strategy. Since the competition is very tough, the market has diversified the choices to their consumers. Nutritional beverage manufacturers should focus on promoting and substantiating their products’ efficacy by going for more natural products.

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