Functional beverages: How to stay immune to the competition

By Nikki Hancocks

- Last updated on GMT

getty | efetova
getty | efetova

Related tags Immunity functional beverages market trends

The global functional beverage market was worth $102bn in 2020, and growth is predicted at a CAGR of 3.2%, but how can brands make their products stand out in an increasingly crowded market?

Kerry has launched a whitepaper outlining this huge opportunity in functional beverage innovation, pointing out that the European functional beverage market worth $16.9bn, and a predicted CAGR of 4.1% (Euromonitor passport 2020).

The report notes that there are several factors driving growth with one obvious trend being the growing consumer interest in wellness caused by the pandemic. And what's the big health claim on everyone's lips? 


Cited as a top-10 trend for 2021 (New Nutrition Business, November/December, 2021), immune health looks to become a way of life for many consumers worldwide. Prior to the pandemic, an FMCG Gurus survey found 87% of Italian respondents, 82% of those in Germany and 64% in France reported purchasing drinks with functional benefits (2019). By the end of 2020, as many as three-quarters of consumers in some regions reported that they are interested in functional products that support immune health (FMCG Gurus Jan 2021).

Between 2016 and 2019, launches of products with an immunity claim grew by 9% in the juice category, 43% in flavoured bottled waters, and 32% in energy drinks (Innova market sizing 2019).

And growth is expected to continue to 2025 when the market for beverages with immune health benefits is expected to be valued at $135B (Euromonitor passport 2020). 

What's more, 64% of consumers in Germany have told FMCG Gurus that improving immune health is a goal over the next twelve months.

Decline in booze and pop

Kerry's whitepaper suggests another reason for the growing demand for functional beverages may be the rejection of options thought to be less healthy.

It states: "For example, recent regional studies​ have reported a sharp decline in alcohol consumption among young people, partly because they are concerned about its health risks.

"There is also evidence that many are turning away from sodas. In fact, some research shows that the youngest consumers are now the least likely to buy traditional soft beverages (Ingredient Communications, Dec 2020), providing opportunities for manufacturers of refreshing beverages to innovate with functional ingredients to create the beverages consumers increasingly demand."

Shopping for science

But in Europe, scientific substantiation is a key driver in influencing consumer purchase decisions. For example, nearly a third of UK consumers who responded to a Kerry consumer survey in 2019 cited researching a product’s benefits as a top reason to purchase a healthy lifestyle product.

And globally, at least half the consumers Kerry surveyed were more likely to purchase a healthy lifestyle product after seeing the research/scientific data

Kerry points out that its Wellmune ingredient, a branded yeast beta glucan that can be incorporated into a wide variety of beverage formats, is backed by over 12 studies and was approved as a novel food in the EU in 2012.

The ingredients has been integrated into a range of immunity focused functional beverage launches, from immunity shots, to beverage enhancers and enhanced milk drinks.

Kerry says: "Successful product innovation depends not just on the strength of the brand, but also the ability to achieve consumer trust in the science supporting it. Choosing a well-researched and well-documented branded immune health ingredient backed by clinical studies is key to communicating product safety and efficacy to consumers."

Related topics Ingredients Functional beverages

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