Niche Offerings and New Flavours for Functional Beverages

bottled plant-based beverage with healthy ingredients

The scope of functional beverages continues to expand as consumers expect products to offer new health benefits and taste experiences 


KerryDigest Fast Facts:
  • The functional beverage market continues to grow worldwide.
  • While there’s still opportunity in traditional categories including high protein beverages, consumers are also embracing more niche drinks, such as flavoured milks and gentler energy drinks.
  • Within these emerging functional beverage categories, brands can stand out through the use of novel and on-trend flavours.

Get KerryDigest articles delivered to your inbox

KerryDigest Full Scoop:

Beverages such as kombucha and fortified waters were niche in the marketplace just a few years ago, but with consumer mindsets shifting to health and well-being, these products are becoming increasingly mainstream around the world and new opportunities in functional beverages continue to appear.

As we recently reported, the pace of demand and innovation in the functional beverage space presents massive opportunity for growth and premiumisation of existing products, including even tea and coffee.

However, with a higher price point comes heightened expectations. From muscle mass and fitness benefits to immune support and even cosmetic health, consumers expect more from their drinks, including product advantages such as premium taste, novel flavour, scientifically proven functionality, protein, fibres, cultures and new and improved delivery formats. We explore recent innovations in the sector, including functional beverage flavour trends within each growing category.

Functional waters
Functional waters provide benefits beyond hydration, such as added protein. These products are designed for consumers interested in transparency and clean labelling as well as improving their health. They are also viewed as a premium—and healthier—alternative to soft drinks.

bottle of water with functional ingredientsFunctional waters provide benefits beyond hydration, such as added protein or fibre.

Digestive health claims are also common in new functional water products, including kefir waters, and new launches in this space range from detox drinks to waters with beauty benefits. Another emerging area to watch is functional flavoured waters containing added fibre.

Trending flavours for functional waters include lemon, orange, raspberry and peach.

Elevated smoothies and juices
Most juices and smoothies are already associated with functional health benefits. New trends suggest the addition of immune supporting ingredients can drive growth, with recent launches including immune-defence smoothies and juice shots. Less traditional juice sources are also trending. Juices from vegetable sources such as beetroot are available on the market and are mainly associated with detox benefits while seeds such as chia, flax and hemp can add texture and function.

In labelling, stressing the benefits and naturality of products and adding powerful ingredients such as live cultures, fibre or plant-based protein can help manufacturers and brands stand out. However, manufacturers need to address consumer concerns around high sugar content in juices and smoothies.

Orange and lemon continue to be popular flavours for juices and smoothies with vegetables such as kale, spinach and beet gaining traction amongst consumers seeking healthy halo ingredients.

Plant-based super drinks
Consumers interested in sustainability and personal health are moving towards products that are clean label and made with plant-based protein sources. Brands are catching up with demand: between October 2018 and October 2019, 13% of total launches in performance nutrition featured a vegan or no animal ingredients claim.

Launches made from innovative bases such as oat, pea, quinoa and hemp are increasingly common in this category due to inherent functional benefits such as protein content, vitamins and minerals. Consumer interest in complete plant proteins is a growing source of innovation for new product development.

Though consumers are still interested in traditional protein drink flavours such as banana, chocolate and strawberry, we are also seeing coconut, mango and pineapple come to the fore.

Flavoured milk
Flavoured milks are popular with families and amongst adults seeking a post-workout protein boost and flavour experience. Due to consumer concerns around traceability, sustainability and animal welfare, dairy and protein products from grass-fed cows are in demand: studies suggest milk produced by grass-fed cows may have an increased nutritional value when compared to that produced by grain-fed cows.

milk pouring into mugDairy and protein products from grass-fed cows are in demand due to consumer concerns around traceability, sustainability and animal welfare

When developing products that use grass-fed dairy, manufacturers and brand owners may aim to create foods and beverages that carry the below claims, which are some of the most sought after by consumers.

  • Non-GMO
  • Organic
  • No additives/no preservatives
  • Made with real ingredients
  • Sustainably produced

In the flavoured milk category, drinks with a chocolate, vanilla, strawberry or banana flavour tend to be popular. Flavour innovation such as chocolate-mint, coffee and fudge could shake up the category.

Energy drinks with whole food ingredients
The energy drinks market is growing across Europe, with consumers looking for products with natural, more gentle functionality rather than the high sugar and caffeinated formats that pioneered the market. Also in demand are products with no or low calories and reduced sugar and, especially amongst younger consumers, energy drinks with exciting flavour combinations.

Incorporating whole food energy drink ingredients with ancient medicinal significance or proven health benefits—such as ginseng and gingko biloba—can lend credibility and authenticity as well as a cleaner label.

Flavour trends in energy drinks include cinnamon, pear and agave, as well as the more familiar tastes of grapefruit, coffee and pineapple.

For more insights on creating functional beverages using insights and powerful ingredients, download Kerry’s eBook on developing premium functional beverages.

Back to KerryDigest

Related content:

Get KerryDigest articles delivered to your inbox