Carbonation 2.0: Cognitive health, botanicals, and alternative protein sources all drive functional beverage category

By Mary Ellen Shoup

- Last updated on GMT

While consumer behavior is hard to predict, there are a few key trends in functional beverages to watch out for, according to Ilana Orlofsky from Imbibe.
While consumer behavior is hard to predict, there are a few key trends in functional beverages to watch out for, according to Ilana Orlofsky from Imbibe.

Related tags Carbonation Nutrition

The future of functional beverages will focus on products that use ingredients that provide function naturally, rather than on products that are fortified with nutrients, Ilana Orlofsky, marketing coordinator for Imbibe, told BeverageDaily. 

Orlofsky pointed out that carbonation will permeate several categories.  Botanicals, ingredients that improve cognitive health, and new sources of protein in beverages will drive innovation within the functional beverage category.

“Brands have to strike the right balance between incorporating novel ingredients while also making sure the products taste good,”​ Orlofsky said.

Orlofsky will be speaking on “The Future of Functional Beverages​” at The Women in Flavor and Fragrance Commerce annual seminar on Sept. 14 in Saddle Brook, New Jersey. 

‘Carbonation 2.0’

One of the largest areas of innovation will take place in the carbonated beverage space, particularly in sparkling water, according to Orlofsky. Manufacturers will continue to expand and play in this sub-category as a response to the decline in consumer demand for carbonated soft drinks.

“Sparkling water is going to be reimagined,”​ Orlofsky said. “We’re going to see a lot of innovation in both the ingredients used to enhance waters, and in the branding of waters and water beverages.”

Carbonated coffee and tea is also on the way to becoming more mainstream as consumers search for new textural profiles to enhance their daily beverages.

Chicago-based Café Racer makes small-batched carbonated coffee, along with Coffer in Austin, Texas, and Manhattan Special in New York City. 

Rise in cognitive health claims

While cognitive health claims in beverages have been traditionally geared towards the aging baby boomer population, Orlofsky believes there will also be a rising interest among millennials who are just entering their mid-thirties.

Beverages that make cognitive health claims are typically more expensive because of the cost of ingredients, but higher price tags will not affect the category’s growth potential, Orlofsky said.

“Whether it’s minimizing memory loss or helping with a specific type of memory, I can see cognitive health claims becoming more nuanced going forward,”​ she added.

Some like it hot

Herbs, spices, and other plants will become increasingly popular for their inherent nutritional benefits, which align with the “clean label craze without adding calories,”​ Orlofsky said.

A progression towards ingredients that elicit heat in particular will make their way into more and more beverages. Most consumers will probably start off on the more mild side of this trend with products like DRY Sparkling’s serrano pepper soda​ before taking on the intensity of Temple Turmeric’s Pure Fire Tonic, made with ghost pepper.

More to come from tree waters

Native to North America, the sycamore tree has a lower sugar content than sugar maple, yet is reported to produce a syrup that imparts a butterscotch flavor.

Orlofsky predicts that the popularity of plant waters will not slow down anytime soon because they provide natural functions that consumers demand.

“More trees are going to be tapped if they’re able to produce a sweet sap that can be incorporated into water,” ​Orlofsky said.

According to Orlofsky, sycamore water could be the next big craze in tree waters because of its sweet, butterscotch-like flavor profile. 

Insect protein still has a long way to go

Incorporating protein into beverages still remains a viable functional beverage concept for many manufacturers, but convenience is still the primary purchasing decision for consumers. While there are many sources of protein currently used in beverage development, consumers have not reached a point where they actively discern between the types of the protein ingredients.

“Consumers will become more decisive in the type of protein they want, but for now they seem to simply by asking ‘How do I get more?’ Especially with the significant shift away from meat consumption that we’re seeing amongst a large segment of consumers.”​ Orlofsky said.

Insect protein has been cropping up in packaged foods like pasta and baked goods, and Orlofsky does see the seemingly polarizing protein source appearing in more beverages in the next three to five years.

“It’s going to take a lot for consumers to get over that initial hump, and it will remain on the fringe for a while,”​ she said.

Related news

Show more

Follow us


View more