Top Functional Benefits Consumers Are Seeking
To understand which health and wellness benefits are most important to consumers right now, Mintel surveyed consumers about their functional food and beverage consumption. The top functional benefits (based on their consumption of foods and beverages making a benefit claim) are:
- Hydration (34 percent)
- Energy-boosting (26 percent)
- Calming/relaxing (25 percent)
- Immunity (23 percent)
- Digestive aid (22 percent)8
Functional Ingredients for Beverages
Functional nutrition is in demand, and beverages offer a quick and easy way for consumers to gain these benefits. Although functional beverages may be best known as go-to sources of energy ingredients (such as caffeine and B vitamins) and performance ingredients (such as protein, amino acids, and electrolytes), consumers’ ingredient demands continue to expand.
Ingredients for relaxation (such as chamomile and L-theanine) and for immunity (such as vitamin C and probiotics) have become particularly sought after during the pandemic. Adaptogens like ashwagandha and reishi are also gaining attention as consumers seek ingredients to help manage stress.
Spotlight on Protein for Functional Nutrition
The mainstreaming of protein, which has been reshaping categories throughout the food industry, is having important effects on the functional beverage market. There’s no doubt that protein has always had a prominent place in sports, nutrition, and performance drinks. But increasingly, protein is expanding throughout the functional beverage market into a variety of product types.
Protein-fortified waters, juices, coffees, and carbonates are notable examples of this new breed of functional protein beverage that speaks directly to mainstream consumers. While dairy protein remains the preferred protein source in functional beverages, plant-based proteins from legumes, nuts, and seeds continue to gain traction.