BELOIT, WIS. — Functionality, flavor and clean label are among the top product features consumers look for in dry beverages, according to a new study from Kerry.

The company studied consumer preferences across five beverage concepts (kombucha, cold brew coffee, lemonade, iced tea and aguas frescas) and the found digestive health was the fastest growing functional claim in dry beverage product launches. Around 40% of consumers said digestive health was an important functional benefit in a beverage, and 65% of foodservice customers said they liked kombucha for its probiotic and gut health benefits.

Other top functional claims related to skin, hair and nails, stress and sleep, immunity and bone and joint health.

Clean label was another priority, with consumers ranking all natural as the No. 1 most important clean label claim when purchasing beverages from a grocery store. Other top claims included made with real ingredients, simple, no added sugar and reduced sugar, according to the report.

When it comes to flavor, both potential and existing consumers gravitated toward mainstream flavor profiles such as vanilla in cold brew coffee, lemon ginger in kombucha, and strawberry watermelon in aguas frescas. Interest in more adventurous flavors also was high, with combinations such as blueberry lavender in lemonade, cucumber mint in aguas frescas, and berry hibiscus in kombucha generating interest.

The report also found dry beverages have continued to perform well during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Dry beverages saw positive growth during the peak pantry stocking period as consumers reached for shelf-stable and easy-to-use items, Kerry said.

Sales of dry water enhancers grew 18% between the first and second quarters of 2020, faster than liquid water enhancers at 12.8%, according to the report. The upward trajectory is expected to continue as consumer continue to work around COVID-19 constraints and with the economy preparing for a recession.

“Dry beverages have expanded from value and convenience to premium, sustainable solutions providing the health benefits consumers demand,” said Shawn Gerstenkorn, director of marketing strategy, beverages at Kerry North America. “Advances in dry beverage systems present the opportunity to reposition brands as more environmentally sustainable. They’re also able to offer solutions that meet consumer preferences for premiumization, great taste and functionality.”