While there’s a plethora of beverages in today’s marketplace designed for more than hydration — think meal replacement, post-workout refuel and all-day energy — there’s a growing segment of beverages formulated with ingredients that serve highly specific functions. These are beverages with a purpose and are not necessarily appropriate for all consumers.
About a quarter of U.S. adults are trying to manage a health or medical condition through their diet, according to research by The NPD Group, Chicago. There’s growing interest in food as medicine, with a great deal of innovation taking place in the beverage space, where functional nutrients are delivered to the consumer in the form of a grab-and-go drink.
NPD’s research shows consumers are interested in ingredients that are high in antioxidants as well as ingredients for digestive health. They are also curious about cannabidiol (C.B.D.), which is the non-psychoactive ingredient in cannabis that may help treat conditions such as pain, insomnia and anxiety.
Other plant-based functional ingredients gaining traction in the beverage category include mushrooms, some of which are associated with boosting immune systems among other health benefits. The ashwagandha herb, sometimes referred to as Indian ginseng, is believed to act as a sedative. It belongs to the category of functional ingredients known as adaptogens, meaning they may help the body adapt or manage stress. Turmeric is recognized as a potent anti-inflammatory and antidepressant. Curcumin — the main active ingredient in turmeric — has been linked to preventing heart disease and improving symptoms of depression and arthritis. Ginger aids in digestion and has anti-nausea properties.
Ginger fits in nicely with the growing gut health trend, where functional ingredients such as probiotics (good bacteria) and the prebiotic fibers that fuel their growth are major players. Numerous studies show that a healthy gut is the foundation of overall wellness, as a balanced, positive human microbiome is associated with vitality and healthy aging.
The new Chia Prebiotic Squeeze and Chia Energy Squeeze line from Mamma Chia, Carlsbad, Calif., combines nutrient-rich chia with prebiotic fiber. Each 3.5-oz pouch delivers 1,200 mg of omega-3 fatty acids, 60 mg of natural caffeine, 4 grams of fiber and no added sugar.
Remedy Organics, New York, a producer of functional wellness beverages, is adding Golden Mind to its product lineup. This newest flavor nourishes the body with the omega-3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (D.H.A.). Studies have shown D.H.A. may support brain, heart and eye health.
“Most Americans are multitasking and are challenged by the need to stay focused and energized in a fast-paced, overstimulated society,” said Cindy Kasindorf, founder. “As there is a growing concern in mental decline, interest and demand have grown for products and ingredients that will keep our minds sharp.”
Golden Mind is Ms. Kasindorf’s take on the ancient ayurvedic Turmeric Golden Milk. In addition to containing D.H.A., the nutrient-dense formulation includes medium-chain triglyceride (M.C.T.) oil, various adaptogenic herbs and a 90% curcumin concentrate.
Kiito Inc., Los Angeles, markets a namesake line of plant protein functional beverages designed for keto dieters. Free from added sugars, gums and artificial flavors, a 12-oz bottle delivers 20 grams of pea protein, 1 gram of sugar and 7 grams of M.C.T.s, along with a number of other functional ingredients, which vary by variety. Vanilla Ashwagandha, as the name suggests, includes the powerful herb, while Matcha Moringa contains matcha green tea, spirulina and moringa.
Both the Remedy Organics and Kiito beverage lines are vegan, and therefore, coconut is the source of the M.C.T. oil. Another common source of M.C.T. is grass-fed butter, and it often is used in ready-to-drink coffee beverages. The M.C.T. oil appeals to keto dieters as it is recognized as a metabolism booster that assists the body with breaking down fat.
The spirulina in Kiito is a type of blue-green algae known for its nutritional content, including protein and many vitamins. Research suggests spirulina has antioxidants and inflammation-fighting properties, as well as the ability to help regulate the immune system. The nutrients in moringa plant extract are associated with a range of health and beauty benefits, such as nourishing the skin and hair to helping prevent and cure diseases, including edema, asthma and anemia.
A natural boost
Many better-for-you beverages now focus on natural energy from the caffeine found in either brewed coffee or tea. Green tea is loaded with catechins, which are phenolic compounds known to be antioxidants.
Kitu Life Inc., New York, is rolling out Super Espresso, which is a 6-oz can loaded with 180 mg of caffeine from three shots of organic espresso and no added sugar. It does, however, provide sustained metabolic energy from whey protein concentrate and coconut M.C.T. oil. It also contains l-theanine, an energy-boosting antioxidant found in green tea.
L-theanine is the star in the better-for-you energy drink from Uptime Energy Inc., Van Nuys, Calif. The drink is designed to deliver a balanced boost while promoting clarity and focus. The company also includes natural caffeine, ginseng and coenzyme Q10. Similar to a vitamin, coenzyme Q10 functions as an antioxidant. It is used by cells to produce the energy the body needs for cell growth and maintenance and helps sustain heart health and blood pressure.
Seattle-based Jade Leaf Matcha is introducing Matcha Latte Infusions in four functional formulations. “Balance” includes probiotics, prebiotics and ginger root to support digestive and immune health. “Glow” incorporates collagen and biotin and is said to support radiant and healthy skin, hair and nails, as well as organ and tissue health. “Protect” brings together nourishing ayurvedic herbs, including turmeric, ginger, cardamom, cinnamon and black pepper, to support digestion. “Think” blends lion’s mane and cordyceps, functional mushrooms that support brain health, cognitive function, energy and focus.
“We started seeing our customers posting different healthy additions they were mixing into their matcha lattes on Instagram,” said Marc St Raymond, co-founder. “A few of these ingredients we would see over and over again — collagen, turmeric, functional mushrooms — which got us thinking, how do we make this easier for our customers? Managing a cabinet full of different superfoods and adaptogens can be time consuming and costly, not to mention the added difficulty of getting the best quality.”
Each infusion provides green tea nutrients with about 30 mg of caffeine. The drinks also include organic acacia senegal, a soluble fiber that helps support a healthy, stable gut, as well as naturally occurring l-theanine for a relaxed, alert feeling without the jitters.
New cold-brew Coffee Lightning Shots from VitaCup, San Diego, feature a naturally caffeinated cold-brew coffee concentrate infused with the brand’s essential B and D vitamin blend.
While many consumers are turning their backs to empty-calorie, nutrient-void traditional carbonated soft drinks, that does not mean they have lost interest in bubbles. Companies such as Dona Chai L.L.C., Brooklyn, N.Y., are getting creative by adding functional ingredients to carbonated drinks. Its Dona Spice Sodas, for example, are made by brewing spices with citrus and aromatic herbs and flowers. Varieties include pink peppercorn lemon, turmeric honeybush with orange and black pepper, and juniper lime with chamomile and elderflower.
New York-based Drink Minna is focusing on the antioxidants in its new line of sparkling organic, unsweetened tea. The zero-calorie drink comes in 12-oz tropical green, lime hibiscus and citrus black varieties.
Prebiotic sparkling tonic maker Olipop Inc., San Francisco, includes a cocktail of natural ingredients for digestive health and with anti-inflammatory properties in its namesake beverage. This includes chicory root, Jerusalem artichoke, kudzu root, cassava fiber, cassava syrup, slippery elm bark, nopal cactus and calendula flower. The 12-oz cans come in cinnamon cola, ginger lemon and strawberry vanilla flavors.
Mati Energy, Durham, N.C., is made with only three organic ingredients: guayusa, fruit juice and carbonated water. Guayusa, an Amazonian leaf packed with naturally occurring caffeine and nearly double the antioxidants of green tea, also contains theobromine and l-theanine, which results in a long-lasting, sustained energy with no spike and no crash.
UbU Beverages L.L.C., Santa Monica, Calif., markets a range of sparkling functional tonics free of sugar, sweeteners and caffeine. Its most recent innovation is UbU Hemp Tonic, which is made with full-spectrum organic hemp extract containing 25 mg of C.B.D. The drink also includes baobab superfruit and agave inulin and is said to provide an immune system boost and support digestive health.
Boulder, Colo.-based Weller, a pioneer in C.B.D.-infused food and beverage products, is rolling out a new C.B.D. sparkling water in black cherry, tangerine and watermelon flavors. A 12-oz can contains 25 mg of C.B.D. broad-spectrum hemp extract.
Even lemonade is getting a boost of C.B.D. Honeydrop Beverages, Brooklyn, N.Y., has partnered with Boulder, Colo.-based Evo Hemp to launch Honeydrop Cold-Pressed C.B.D. Lemonades. Made with 20 mg of C.B.D. and a teaspoon of raw honey, the new lemonades contain four grams of sugar per bottle and will be offered in three flavors: Revive (matcha), Relax (lemon) and Rehab (turmeric).