Americans Want to Function Better—With Beverages

Energy drinks, enhanced waters and better-for-you drinks are increasing in popularity.

November 17, 2021

Beverages Juice

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—The functional beverage category isn’t slowing down, as today’s consumers are increasingly seeking out functional, better-for-you ingredients in their drinks, reports SmartBrief. projects the compound annual growth rate of functional beverages through 2026 will be 6.96%, and The Hartman Group found that 56% of adult consumers use functional beverages for general health prevention and solutions to treat or prevent a specific condition.

“I think at the core people are looking for the things in their lives to do more,” said Lopa van der Mersch, founder and CEO of Rasa, which makes herbal coffee alternatives with adaptogenics. “It's an ‘if I'm going to eat/drink/wear something, shouldn't it give me the most benefit possible?’ kind of mentality.”

A report found that the most popular type of functional beverages are energy drinks, followed by sports drinks, vitamin-enhanced water, electrolyte-enhanced water and premium smoothies. (Energy drinks are currently one of the highest performing products in terms of sales in c-stores.) Popular claim trends include increased immunity, gut- and heart-health additives and products promising relaxation. Trending ingredients include vitamin C, collagen, matcha, mushrooms and CBD.

“Suppliers are incorporating functional ingredients like vitamin C, mushrooms and adaptogens to foster a calm headspace and support the immune system,” Whole Foods said in its “Top 10 Food Trends for 2021.” Whole Foods also says it sees the rise of functional fizzy drinks that offer prebiotics, unexpected flavors and botanicals.

Packaged beverages are a profitable category for c-store. NACS Magazine explores the category in the July Category Close-Up column.

Consumers aren’t stopping at functional beverages. They also are interested in food with benefits and leaning into the antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties of some functional foods and beverages not only for their immunity-boosting abilities but also anti-aging benefits. Examples include functional gummies; oils marketed as cosmetic oils to drink or use topically for the complexion; drinks that pair mango with collagen for protein and potential beauty benefits and turmeric for anti-inflammation; and a butterfly pea flower extract, high in anthocyanins, which are linked to anti-aging for the skin.