“If you aren’t making waves, you aren’t kicking hard enough.” – Unknown
There’s no doubt functional beverages are the hottest category in the beverage industry today. This increasingly competitive, complex, and highly technical category requires proactive collaboration across various disciplines and perspectives. Functional beverage development teams are looking towards the future and combining expertise in ingredient technology, sourcing, formulation, and commercialization to create the newest, innovative beverages. They’re making hypotheses and testing concepts while focusing on improving their ability to respond to the right opportunities at the right time with well-designed products and approaches.
Here are a few exciting places we expect to see functional beverages find and leverage the ingredient innovations that will make waves in 2022.
Converting Supplements to Beverages
The line between supplements and functional beverages is blurred, with both categories expanding at a rapid rate. According to a survey by Kerry, 44 percent of global consumers reported purchasing more dietary supplements amid the worldwide crisis, and 42 percent have purchased more functional or fortified foods and beverages since the COVID-19 pandemic broke out.
Companies that understand the supplement world can uniquely approach the beverage format, creating more value for the overall market. Beverages like Boomerang Energy are helping consumers open their minds to meeting their nutritional needs with a variety of interchangeable formats.
We expect to see more creativity emerge at the intersection of supplements and functional beverages.
Integrating Functionality into the Mainstream Market
Consumers are already opening their minds to using beverages to enhance their health and everyday lives. But bringing functional beverages more mainstream requires continued innovation to meet consumers’ expectations for flavor, shelf-life, functionality, quality, convenience, and cost.
Products like Masq Fusions Hard Tea, whose functional ingredients include a proprietary adaptogen blend, showcase creativity in blending functional beverages into different lifestyles and habits. That creativity can open new spaces and opportunities that didn’t exist before.
In 2022, leading brands will develop more concepts centered around offering customers the opportunity to experience functional beverages in places and ways they might not have ever expected.
Moving Unregulated Ingredients Forward Safely
Yet another area of focus for functional beverage innovators is designing for the current and future regulatory environments of unregulated ingredients. Finding ways to integrate or prepare to integrate elements like CBD and other adaptogens and botanicals that are not yet regulated by the FDA safely and legally into the beverage market is exciting and risky work.
Companies are grounding their strategy in a deep understanding of the regulatory path for functional ingredients. Teams are using what they learn watching other ingredients evolve within different regulatory environments to take calculated steps forward. Functional ingredient innovators also gather and analyze data on the safety and efficacy of ingredients and products, building the credibility and cohesion needed for category growth.
Fast-growing functional beverages will be at the forefront of predicting and paving the path forward for a host of innovative ingredients in 2022 and beyond.
Taking Clean Label to the Next Level
Functional beverage creators are tracking the momentum of the clean label movement. The most prominent product characteristics consumers are looking for on product labels are “natural” and “organic,” followed by “non-GMO” ingredients, according to a global survey by the International Food Information Council (IFIC).
While there’s no single definition of “clean label,” functional beverage companies are working to understand how customers use the term and how that translates to product desires and expectations.
Some examples of ingredient innovations that are helping functional beverages take on the clean label challenge are Kerry’s allergen-free, vegan protein for low pH beverages and a host of innovations in sweeteners and functional extracts.
Some categories may see the clean label movement as a limitation, but forward-thinking functional beverage teams will continue to use clean label pressure to implement and advance ingredient innovation.
Supercharging Stability and Shelf Life
According to SPINS data presented at Natural Products Expo West Virtual, shelf-stable functional beverages grew almost 100% among conventional products. From formulating beyond liquid to exploring new cultivation and processing techniques, problem solvers across the food and beverage space are exploring ways to extend the shelf life without compromising the quality of their functional beverage brands. New developments in shelf-stable probiotics and other ingredients and additives allow brands to build functional beverages that can compete with quality, flavor, and shelf life.
Over the next year and beyond, functional beverage innovation will build momentum around helping products maintain integrity for longer periods and under more varied conditions.
These are just a few of the many opportunity spaces where functional beverage teams will come together in 2022 to envision and create the functional beverages of the future. It’s rewarding to be in an industry that’s committed to pushing against the boundaries of what is possible today to create a better tomorrow.
Here’s to another exciting year of beverage innovation and collaboration!