January = Diet culture club! It’s hard to avoid seeing constant adverts about getting healthy again in the New Year.
Fortunately, with the rise of functional beverages, the everyday consumer can improve their health with products that offer real health benefits; all without getting sucked into another health fad.
With products containing functional ingredients, people can take an ala carte approach to their health using “food as medicine”.
Though in no way an exhaustive list, here are five benefits of functional beverages for better health in 2024 and beyond.
1. Going With Your Gut – Biotics
Where gut health used to be just about being regular, now it’s regularly considered crucial for one’s overall health.
Impacting everything from digestion and immune function to weight loss and mood, demand for these products spans the generation gap.
As Anne Marie Butler, Edlong’s Global Director of Strategy & Innovation, describes in a recent article, gut health continues to be one, if not the leading category in the functional beverage space, driven mostly by fermented dairy and kombucha.
However, it’s not just about probiotics anymore, as holistic offerings, including prebiotics and postbiotics, are becoming increasingly available.
2. Good Vibes Only – Mood-Boosting & Mental Health
Stress reduction. Improved focus. Mental clarity. Emotional Well-being.
How about all of the above?
A growing list of largely traditional adaptogens and nootropic ingredients looks to provide modern consumers with both the options to wind down or dial in.
Mushrooms like chaga, reishi, and lion’s mane or roots like ashwagandha, ginseng, and Rhodiola (among a long list of other botanicals) are quickly moving from niche to mainstream.
From carbonated beverages to teas and coffee replacements, these powerful botanical ingredients continue to gain popularity.
Many of these ingredients can also aid in providing the next functional benefit.
3. Endless Energy – Caffeine and Beyond
In a world that is constantly moving, healthy energy is a necessity.
Whether it’s to sustain you throughout the day, help you power through a workout, or just a short-term jolt to get you through that post-lunch video call, various ingredients are being used to help consumers get the boost they need.
Caffeine continues to lead the way for ingredients with energy claims worldwide. Shaking off any negative perception, it is commonly found in combination with amino acids like taurine and l-theanine, which can additionally enhance its beneficial effects.
MCTs (medium chain triglycerides) continue to trend for their ability to provide sustained energy for exercise or to get you through the day.
Minerals like Zinc and vitamins, known for immune health, are being used to fortify a wide array of beverages to help provide the pick-up without the crash.
4. Feeling Salty – Rebranding Hydration
When asked what actions they’ve taken to improve their health over the past 12 months, “staying hydrated” (58%) was the number one answer of consumers globally.
Unsurprisingly, hydrating/rehydrating products were considered the most desirable and most purchased functional beverage products among the consumers surveyed.
Hydration used to be put into one of two main buckets: water and sports drinks. This is quickly changing.
Sodium and electrolytes are quickly becoming less of an add-on and more of a standard expectation for everyday consumers.
This creates unique opportunities, particularly for developers targeting younger millennials and Gen Z consumers.
With many of these young consumers labelling themselves “sober curious” or claiming to practise mindful drinking, hydrating alcohol-free alternatives or products for rehydration and quick rebound the following day can be a game changer.
5. Pumping up the Protein
While not necessarily a single benefit, it’s almost impossible to talk about both better for you and functional food and beverages without first looking at protein.
Year after year, the range of products containing this macro-nutrient continues to evolve and expand.
What once was a product segment dominated by only sports nutrition offerings (where it still excels) has spread to nearly every category, even water!
This is for a good reason, too. According to Innova Market Insights 2024 Trends Survey, 42% of global consumers say protein is the most important ingredient.
From muscle growth and recovery to satiety and weight loss, the health benefits of a diet rich in protein can benefit just about anyone of any age and market demographic.
The Secret Ingredient – Taste
Functional ingredients allow people to personalise their approach to health and wellness, unlike anything we’ve ever seen.
Yet, no amount of tailored nutrition can make up for a poor-tasting product. The truth is food as medicine is only successful if the food doesn’t taste like medicine.
About the Author: Emily Sheehan, Applications Manager, EMEA
Hi! I’m Emily Sheehan. I’m the Applications Manager, EMEA at Edlong, and my job is rooted in creating exciting new possibilities for our people and processes. It’s inspiring to reflect on how much Edlong has achieved and even more amazing to be involved in such thoughtful innovation. We enjoy pushing boundaries in food and flavour, and we welcome everyone in the food industry to join us. If you’re in need of expertise or inspiration, I’d love to collaborate and help you design flavour solutions that resonate with consumers!
 Innova Health & Nutrition Survey 2023