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European Consumers Prioritize the "Functional" in Functional Beverages

European consumers are increasingly interested in sports and energy drinks that can deliver more than just a hydrating energy boost. Learn about opportunities in the functional beverage market for adding ingredients that provide the most in-demand benefits—with a focus on brain and eye health.

Strong Growth Ahead for European Functional Beverage Market

Across Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA), the functional beverage market is going strong with €25 billion in sales last year.1 The EMEA functional beverage market is forecast to grow by 6.4% between 2019 and 2024.2 Functional beverages include energy drinks, sports drinks, sports protein RTD, meal replacements, and functional juices, teas, coffees, waters, and carbonates.

Trends Driving Functional Beverage Consumption

Functional beverages are appealing to the wants and needs of European consumers. For an increasing number of consumers, choosing food and beverage products is seen within the context of building and supporting a lifestyle. They’re looking to products and brands that will enhance their lives and exemplify their lifestyle. For active, health-conscious consumers, purchasing ready-to-drink (RTD) functional beverages is seen as a natural fit.

Another trend seen across CPG products is the movement toward ultra-personalization. In food and beverage, this can range from customizable flavors and formats to so-called DNA diets. Products such as functional beverages that address consumers’ specific diet, nutrient, and health needs hold a strong appeal to today’s consumers who realize that everyone’s needs are different.

Emerging Interest in Brain and Eye Health

While the most important attributes consumers seek in functional beverages continue to be energy, hydration, vitamins and minerals, and exercise support (depending on the product), interest is growing in products that offer targeted support for specific bodily systems. For example, 21% of UK consumers show an interest in sports or energy drinks that support brain function, while 24% express an interest in sports or energy drinks with eye health benefits.3

Opportunities in Functional Beverages for Brain and Eye Health 

Beverages with energizing benefits such as energy drinks, functional coffees, and functional teas may be the most obvious choice for fortifying with brain health ingredients since consumers associate these beverages with their perceived effects on mental alertness. Esports energy drinks are already making headway in this area with ingredients that address gamers’ needs for energy, focus, and mental processing speed, as well as eye health for optimal visual acuity and tracking.

For more health-conscious consumers who lean toward clean label products, functional coffees or teas may be the ideal format to deliver brain support ingredients. In fact, the functional RTD coffee and tea segment is forecast to have the highest growth in the EMEA functional beverages market between 2019 and 2024 at a CAGR of 13.9%.4 Functional teas also benefit from the perceived association between tea and improved focus and mood.

tea cup full functional bevearage

Functional waters, which are forecast to grow by 12.2% between 2019 and 2024, provide another format option that can easily work with brain or eye health ingredients and messaging.5 Growth and innovation in the functional waters segment will lie with its “refreshment with a purpose” positioning.6 From added collagen to adaptogens, the possibilities for functional waters are just beginning to be explored.

For sports nutrition consumers, sports protein beverages may be the ideal format for delivering brain support ingredients, particularly in pre-workout formulas. Since athletes are aware of the importance of a clear and focused state of mind before working out or competing, products that can support their physical and mental health are likely to appeal to them.

Choosing Ingredients for Brain and Eye Formulas

Consumers seeking products for brain health support may have different motivations, such as improving or optimizing their alertness, focus, memory, learning, or mood. It’s important for manufacturers to understand what’s driving their target consumers. There are many key nutrients contribute to normal cognitive & psychological function including vitamins B5, B6 and B12, magnesium, biotin, and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid).

Likewise, consumers interested in eye health may have different concerns. For example, a gamer may be seeking ingredients to support peak visual performance in an esports tournament, while a senior may be trying to keep age-related eye diseases at bay. EFSA approved nutrients such as vitamin A, zinc, vitamin B2 and DHA are examples of ingredients these consumers might be seeking.

Addressing Consumers’ Functional Needs

Specific health and lifestyle needs, opportunities will continue to expand for functional beverage manufacturers. A clear understanding of the target consumer’s needs along with the right ingredients to meet these needs is essential. 

Strategies range from fortifying a beverage with one trending brain or eye health ingredient to using a custom premix that delivers several functional ingredients at once. A custom premix is developed with a custom blend of ingredients that can address additional consumer needs and help differentiate a product in the market.

man on running track drinking functional bevearage

Glanbia Nutritionals offers a wide range of ingredients to support functional beverage development—from standard vitamins, minerals, and amino acids to health beneficial bioactives and functionally optimized proteins. Contact us to learn about choosing the best ingredients or formulating a custom premix for your functional beverage.


1-2. Euromonitor Passport, July 2020.
3. Mintel, A year of innovation in sports and energy drinks 2019, December 2019.
4-5. Euromonitor Passport, July 2020.
6. Euromonitor, Blurring Lines in European Functional Beverages, April 2019.

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