Why Young Consumers Love Functional Beverages glanbia nutritionals

Why Younger Consumers Love Functional Beverages

In the U.S., consumers ages 18 to 34 are driving increases in functional beverage purchases. Check out why functional beverages are drawing in these younger consumers, what they want, and other key findings from Glanbia Nutritionals proprietary consumer research. 

Young Consumers Driving Growth in Functional Beverages

To dive deep into the purchase behavior surrounding functional beverages, Glanbia Nutritionals conducted its own consumer research survey.1 One of the top findings: consumers in the 18 to 34 age group increased their purchases of functional beverages within the past year at much higher rates than those in the 35 to 49 and 50+ age groups. 

These high levels of increased functional beverage purchases made by consumers aged 18 to 34 are reported across a variety of retail outlets, both online and in brick and mortar locations including:

  • Traditional grocery stores (+23%)
  • General mass merchandise stores (+22%)
  • Natural foods grocery stores (+22%)
  • Convenience stores (+22%)
  • Club stores (+20%)
  • Drug stores (+17%)

Glanbia Nutritionals' survey results also showed the majority of consumers in the 18 to 34 age group also prefer formulas that are low in sugar and calories and contain no artificial colors or sweeteners.

High Usage Frequency Among Young Consumers

Glanbia's research also reveals that 18 to 34-year-old consumers are more likely to consume functional beverages multiple times a day than consumers in older age groups. While once-a-day consumption is the most common for the 18 to 34 age group, 17% of women and 23% of men report consuming functional beverages more than once a day. 

Why Young Consumers Love Functional Beverages 1

The morning daypart is the most popular usage occasion (at 56%), followed by in between meals (at 46%). This preference for having a functional beverage in between meals is much higher among these younger consumers compared to older consumers.

What Young Consumers Look for in Functional Beverages

The functional beverage industry is known for innovation, with the latest scientific findings on ingredients, nutrition, and health quickly assimilated by manufacturers to develop cutting-edge products. Consumers look to these products to address their needs and gain benefits beyond what traditional beverages can offer.

When we asked the 18- to 34-year-old consumers what their most important reasons are for choosing a functional beverage, they most frequently point to:

  • Protein content (43%)
  • Energy (34%)
  • Flavor (29%)
  • General health (23%)
  • Digestive health (21%)
  • Exercise recovery (19%)
  • Skin health (17%)
  • Hydration (16%)
  • Convenience (16%)
  • Cognitive health (16%)

Protein is #1 in Functional Beverages

While younger consumers’ motivations for purchasing functional beverages cover a wide range of benefits, protein comes out on top. This may be no surprise considering the many roles protein plays in the body and the importance of protein in general health and exercise support.

To better understand this preference for protein, we also asked which protein source they favor in functional beverages. 57% of the 18- to 34-year-old consumers prefer dairy, while 14% prefer soy, and 5% prefer pea protein. 22% have no preference in the protein source.

Why Young Consumers Love Functional Beverages 2

In addition, the most preferred protein amount was 11 to 15 grams per serving. While 30 percent preferred this amount, 27 percent preferred 16 to 20 grams of protein, and 15 percent preferred 21 or more grams. Another 13 percent preferred somewhat lower levels of protein, at 8 to 10 grams. Of these 18 to 34-year-old consumers, 65 percent agreed that the more protein there is in a beverage, the better it is for them.  

Formulating Functional Beverages for Young Consumers 

For manufacturers developing functional beverages for younger consumers, protein is a must-have, preferably at higher levels and particularly dairy-based proteins. Glanbia Nutritionals' survey results also showed the majority of consumers in the 18 to 34 age group also prefer formulas that are low in sugar and calories and contain no artificial colors or sweeteners. 

One cutting-edge protein ingredients especially useful in meeting these requirements is OptiSol® 1007.  OptiSol 1007 provides a whey-based protein solution that excels in a neutral pH beverage environment, allowing for a cleaner label to be achieved.  For more insights into functional beverage preferences among young consumers or to learn more about using Optisol 1007 in your products, contact Glanbia Nutritionals


1. Glanbia Nutritionals, Consumer Survey - November 2019, n=302

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