Honing in on hydration: Functional beverages boom as immunity, energy and relaxation drive innovation
17 Feb 2023 --- Across global geographies, consumers reach for beverages throughout the day, inspiring innovation for both functional and sensory experiences that fit different consumption patterns. FoodIngredientsFirst speaks with key suppliers in the space, who delve into the latest trends in hydration and flavors.
According to Micah Greenhill, marketing director of beverages at ADM, the top five categories where beverage consumption has increased are; functional juices/waters, protein beverages, isotonic drinks, vitamin-instant drinks and coconut water.
Hydration in the spotlight
As functional beverages continue to trend, ADM sees a “heightened focus” on hydration this year.
Greenhill believes hydration is becoming a leading claim for functional beverages, popping up in carbonated soft drinks (CSDs), enhanced waters and energy drinks.
“We’re even seeing sports beverages moving into the rapid hydration space. This is blurring the lines between traditional functional beverages and alternative categories that also may formulate to include expanded wellness attributes, such as support for digestive health, immune function, relaxation and more.”
On top of that, energy drinks are being integrated into other parts of the day, including main meal occasions like breakfast and lunch, he adds.
Ticking boxes for functionality
Healthy drinks are soaring, as well as drinks having functional benefits such as CBD-infused beverages, adds Kévin Bangratz, senior marketing researcher at Prova.
Meanwhile, Sarah Seidelmeyer, product manager of beverages at Silesia, says that “near water” beverages are in demand, not least because of the increasing healthy lifestyle of many consumers and the associated sustainable nutrition goal.
“These customers are looking for products that go hand in hand with their key drivers like health benefits and affordability,” she notes.
Michelle Schneider, category marketing manager, BU Beverages EAME at Symrise, believes the new consumer mantra for 2023 is: “Prevention instead of curation.”
“This has made functional beverages boom,” she claims.
“From hydration to energy to relaxation, more and more consumers are turning to beverages to support a wider variety of health needs. Immunity continues as a sought-after function and consumers are looking for other things too.”
“More than half of them get multiple types of benefits via beverages they consume, including those for immediate needs like a boost of energy, solutions that provide digestive support, or help consumers invest in better sleep,” Schneider adds.
In light of upcoming major sporting events in 2024, such as the Olympic Games in Paris, Silesia predicts the trend for functional water with micro-nutrition and electrolytes will keep rising.
Fun with flavors
As consumers gravitate toward beverages that can help fill specific areas of well-being, flavors that fit with these functional beverages are also making a splash.
Schneider says there are also “elaborate flavors on the horizon such as marshmallow in combination with other fruity flavors.”
Greg Peel, Firmenich VP of global beverage SBU, says that next to well-established classics, “we anticipate seeing innovation focusing on exciting/novel/strong/bold flavors, as consumers around the globe signal a high tendency to try new tastes in beverage categories.”
Meanwhile, ADM’s Greenhill observes that “watermelon and dragon fruit flavors pair well with thirst-quenching rapid rehydration beverages, as well as energy and isotonic drinks.”
He explains that these flavor profiles can also help balance the perception of saltiness, which may come from the electrolytes included in active nutrition drinks.
“Flavors reflect these focus areas in beverages,” Greenhill outlines, adding that “light and refreshing notes permeate throughout beverage offerings.”
“Taking on regional twists, we’ll see dragon fruit continue to shine, along with emerging flavors like calamansi, prickly pear, finger lime and lychee.”
Silesia’s Seidelmeyer affirms that Asian customers love pear’s multi-faceted flavor and use it in various beverages. “That is why we are promoting pear as its ‘flavor of the year’ on the Asian market. We offer different taste profiles, like steamed, baked and stewed pears, etc.”
Furthermore, even though it’s not seen as a trend yet, we are seeing an increasing interest in mint flavors for beverages, she adds.
Citrus and ginger’s appeal
Soft drinks are commonly flavored with exciting fruit varieties such as yuzu or grapefruit.
“North America has a big demand for mango or pineapple flavors and in Western Europe, raspberry or orange flavors are trending,” Seidelmeyer notes. In the hot drinks space, she sees ginger in high demand in Asia and West Europe, followed by lemon flavors.
Bangratz at Prova adds that ginger is a taste that is currently growing and is particularly popular in beverages with a healthy positioning.
Schneider at Symrise says that when taking a closer look at the latest launches of the past three years globally and all beverage applications, the top four flavor tonalities include orange, apple, lemon and chocolate.
“The classic tonalities are dominating the globe. In addition, we always see smaller noticeable developments of ingredients mostly linked to a specific region that is expected to grow, such as ginger. We will more likely pair such an ingredient with one of the top sellers like, e.g., lemon-ginger.
Backing this notion, Pilar Darre, innovation category lead of beverages, dessert and ice cream, cocoa, olam food ingredients (ofi), underscores spices as “a good fit for plant-based beverages.”
“For example, consumers associate spices such as turmeric and ginger with various health benefits, while chili can mask undesirable aftertastes. Our spices team has noted that younger consumers, in particular, find the range of flavors exciting.”
By Elizabeth Green
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