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26/04/2022 – Trends In Trade / Health / Beverages / Immunity / ADM

DRINKING TO HEALTH, WEALTH AND HAPPINESS – The rise of the functional beverage

From their emergence in the shape of energy drinks for athletes four decades ago, functional beverages have evolved to become a daily staple for a wide spectrum of consumers seeking to boost their immunity, enhance their wellbeing, and support their weight management, as well as enhancing performance – both on the track and in the office. Jochen Kistner, Director Category Marketing – Beverage (EMEA) at multinational nutrition expert ADM, explores the key consumer demands driving the functional beverage phenomenon, and the innovative concepts and superior ingredients manufacturers can employ to leverage upon these ever-expanding trends. 

Q. Broadly speaking, could you outline the development of the functional beverages market, and describe how this segment of the market is currently performing?

Jochen Kistner (JK): “From their inception in Europe in the 1980s as energy drinks for athletes, functional beverages have now become a much broader societal phenomenon, with 68 per cent of global consumers purchasing beverages with functional benefits over the past year.1 Throughout the 1990s, the market evolved to provide a more diverse offering; starting with energy and sports drinks to then encompassing various product segments, including ‘near water’ and juice-based beverages that add appealing attributes for consumers. 

“Today, functional beverages are incredibly popular, as consumers proactively look for ways to support their overall wellbeing, including physical, mental and emotional wellness. Consumers are interested in purchasing products that contain functional ingredients to help sustain energy, support cognitive focus and mood, support immune function and more. The global pandemic has also contributed to this trend, as 61 per cent of global consumers are more conscious of the need to live a healthy lifestyle due to Covid-19.2 Similarly, consumers are increasingly looking for convenient options that are both tailored to their needs and can easily be incorporated into their individual lifestyles. Beverages are an accessible and delicious delivery format that many consumers can easily add to their routines.”

Q. Immune health is clearly a factor of growing importance in terms of what consumers are seeking in their diets. In what ways has this concern filtered through into the beverage market?

(JK): “Support for immune health has become increasingly important among global consumers, with 65 per cent more conscious of the need to support their immune function due to Covid-19.2 Consumers are associating vitamins, minerals and ingredients like vitamins C, D and A, probiotics, protein, iron, omega-3 fatty acids, zinc and fibre with support for immune function2 – and, as such, are searching for these on product packs across food and beverage categories. Drink brands are continually looking for ways to incorporate and highlight these nutrients and ingredients across a variety of offerings like smoothies, fruit juice drinks, sports beverages and ready-to-drink (RTD) tea. 

“Today’s holistic-minded consumers are also seeking ingredients they recognise and perceive to be ‘closer-to-nature’, including functional plant-based ingredients, which is impacting the beverage market. At ADM, our vast health and wellness portfolio includes high-quality botanical extracts, standardised plant extracts, high-fruit and vegetable content powders, and more. We use our diverse portfolio together with other functional ingredients like fibre, probiotics and postbiotics to strengthen beverages and help provide offerings that can be both nutritional and deliver an enticing sensory experience. For instance, many of our botanical extracts, like acerola and ginger extract, can offer vitamins and other nutrients associated with immune function support while adding a delightful flavour to the drink formulation, meeting consumers’ overall wellness goals.”

Q. Likewise, a rise in more holistic wellness trends is increasingly observed in F&B products. In what ways is this coming through in the functional drinks segment?

(JK): “Globally, 58 per cent of consumers perceive a connection between the function of the bacteria in the gut to wider aspects of wellbeing.3 They increasingly perceive biotic ingredients – including prebiotics, probiotics and postbiotics – to have associations with supporting gut bacteria, which they believe may be associated with holistic wellness attributes. In tandem with consumers’ focus on emotional wellness, the gut-brain axis and solutions that may be associated with it continue to be explored. Plus, 51 per cent of European consumers are more conscious of the need to support their emotional wellbeing due to Covid-192. Consequently, we’re seeing manufacturers incorporating ingredients with digestion-related benefits into beverages to meet this increasing association that consumers are making with gut health and other elements of wellbeing. Specifically, prebiotic fibre, probiotics, postbiotics and whole food ingredients are being used by product developers to elevate juices, sports and energy drinks, and dairy beverages with consumer-appealing attributes. 

“An enjoyable sensory experience should also not be forgotten, especially when it comes to supporting emotional wellness. Typically, if a product tastes great, consumers feel good. This is also key in buyer retention, as well as consumer adherence to incorporating functional beverages into their everyday routines. The beverage space is ripe for opportunity for health-forward drinks that offer purposeful indulgence with appealing flavour profiles, such as comforting notes like rose and vanilla, or more adventurous fruit profiles like yuzu and ginger.”

Q. Weight loss remains a key health goal for many consumers. What recent product innovations in the functional drink space assist in this? 


(JK): “Consumers are concerned about weight management and metabolic health. Recent changes in lifestyles, such as lower activity and higher stress levels, have driven this mindset forward, pushing people to take a closer look at how their weight is impacting their overall wellness. In Europe, 42 per cent of consumers are trying to lose weight, and 34 per cent say they will engage in more physical activity as a result of Covid-19.2 Moreover, as consumers continue to recognise the important role the gut microbiome plays in holistic wellbeing – including parameters related to metabolic health – they’re looking for functional beverages with solutions like biotics that can help.

“Supported by over 10 years of research and development, ADM’s award-winning BPL1™* (Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. lactis CECT 8145) and its heat-treated BPL1™ (BPL1™ HT) counterpart, target factors relevant to metabolic health and have demonstrated positive effects on measures of body composition in clinical trials.4,5 Our BPL1™ HT is stable across applications, including functional beverages**. Plus, since it contains non-viable micro-organisms, our BPL1™ HT can withstand harsh processing conditions, such as high heat or pasteurisation, opening the door to a vast range of innovative beverage options to meet consumers’ evolving demands.

“Fibre is also particularly important to weight management solutions, and ADM/Matsutani LLC have created Fibersol®***, a line of soluble prebiotic dietary fibre ingredients, supported by over 30 years of extensive clinical research. Research finds that prebiotic fibre is the number one ingredient consumers want to add to their diets for reasons like digestion, weight management and satiety.3 Fibersol® is shown to reduce blood sugar spikes after a meal6,7, and it can delay hunger by stimulating appetite-regulating hormones8. It also helps promote the growth of gut-beneficial microbes.9,10

“In addition to what consumers are looking to add with their functional beverage purchases, they are also hoping to limit sugar and decrease calorie intake to help support metabolic health and weight management. At ADM, we use a combination of high-potency, low- and no-calorie sweeteners and enabling ingredients to help limit added sugars while also replacing sweetness, rebalancing flavour and rebuilding functionality that can be lost when reformulating some products with extensive sugar reduction.

“Trending beverage options for weight management support are functional waters and fruit juice drinks and RTD teas. By incorporating biotics and prebiotic fibres, as well as reducing sugar content, beverage brands will find success with consumers to meet their expanding demands.”

Q. What other key trends can you identify in the market today for beverage manufacturers? 

(JK): “As people’s wellness goals develop and evolve, the desire for targeted solutions is increasing. Accessible beverage formats with multiple attributes designed for consumers’ individual lifestyles are key to complement their everyday diets and habits. 

“Research shows that consumers are beginning to turn to sports beverages for more than just athletic occasions. Globally, 56 per cent of consumers say they use sports drinks as an everyday product to help them get through the day11. Along with that, the population of active nutrition consumers is expanding, with 50 per cent of European active nutrition consumers stating that they have adopted a more long-term approach to health12. With that, we anticipate both the everyday athlete and general consumer will seek isotonic beverages that can help sustain energy, support mood and hydration, and function as a tasty snack.


“At ADM, we’re actively researching and developing innovative isotonic options to help brands deliver functional wellness and performance benefits. For example, our ‘Proisotonic’ concept comes in a powdered format for convenient ease of processing for product developers, creating a drink that ticks consumers’ desires on taste as well as functional and nutritional attributes. Plus, as an all-in-one powdered blend not affected by heat, it provides key stability, longer shelf-life and sustainability for beverage formulations.

“Additionally, our RTD ‘CoolFit’ and ‘Fruitivity’ concepts provide highly sought-after refreshing deliciousness, isotonic attributes, and specific vitamins, minerals and functional ingredients to suit different consumers’ needs. From start to finish, we leverage our cross-functional teams, technical ingenuity and global library of ingredients to help beverage manufacturers bring new concepts such as these to market, proactively meeting consumers’ desires of tomorrow, today. 

“Furthermore, people have reprioritised health and wellbeing of themselves, their families and the planet. A reported 73 per cent of global consumers say they feel more positively about companies that are transparent about where and how products were made, raised or grown13. With sustainability top of mind for many consumers, we’re seeing a change in the product packaging and sourcing, as beverage brands develop more environmentally friendly options. Moreover, with consumers increasingly looking for clean labels with short and recognisable ingredient lists3, it’s important for beverage manufacturers to adapt and meet this demand. With our holistic formulation approach and global supply chains, we work with our customers to reach clean label targets while providing crucial functional attributes and retaining all-important taste with flavours, colours, sweetening solutions and ingredients derived from natural sources.”

*BPL1® is a trademark registered for Biopolis S.L. in the EU, the US, South Korea and other countries.

**Local regulations must be reviewed to confirm permissibility of ingredients for each food category.

***Fibersol® is a trademark registered for ADM/Matsutani LLC in the US.

1FMCG Gurus, Beverage Trends in 2021, February 2021

2FMCG Gurus, “How Has COVID-19 Changed Consumer Behavior”, March 2021

3ADM Outside Voice℠

4Pedret, A; et al. (2019) Int J Obes (Lond). 43(9):1863‐1868 

5Amat-Bou, M; et al. (2020) Nutrients. 12(10):3123

6Unno, T. (2002). J. Nutr. Food, 5(2), 31-39

7Livesey, G. (2009). Am. J. Clin Nutr., 89, 114-125

8Ye, Z. (2015). Nutritional Research, 35, 393-400 

9Mai, V. (2012). Clin Microbiol Infect, 18(Suppl. 4), 62-66 

10Burns, A. (2018). Nutrition Research, 60, 33-42 

11FMCG Gurus, Sports Nutrition vs Active Nutrition, 2020

12FMCG Gurus, Active Nutrition 

Survey, 2021

13Nielsen, What’s In Our Food and On Our Mind

Latest issue – Vol 1/23
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