Seeking immunity in functional beverages

Beverages have a long history of use for making medicines and functional ingredients more palatable by diluting them with water or juice and masking their flavor. Functional beverages today make up a solid percentage of total launches of soft drinks, hot drinks and dairy drinks.

A stronger immune system is highly desirable. In fact, the COVID-19 pandemic shifted emphasis in functional beverages from performance benefits such as alertness to immune system benefits. Consumers surveyed by Innova Market Insights in 2020 named immunity as the most desired functional feature and reported a high likelihood of purchasing products for immunity. Consumers are also increasingly more worried about immunity and want to learn about possible immunity benefits from certain food, beverages and supplements. In response, manufacturers are enhancing their functional beverage launches with immune health ingredients and claims to help support consumer interest.

Consumer interest in immunity spans the globe. In India and Indonesia, for example, immunity is the most important functional property – nearly half of consumers surveyed want to purchase products for their immune benefits. Immunity is the second most desired health benefit in Germany and is among the top five benefits named by consumers in several other countries. Immune benefits especially appeal to Gen Z and Millennial consumers. Action, however, lags behind intention, with lower percentages of consumers reporting purchases than expressing a desire to purchase.

Tetley Immunity Plus Super Herbal Tea With Peppermint And Ginger With Zinc And Vitamin D Canada (Dec 2020), Aarambh Tulsi, Ashwagandha, Elaichi, Mulethi, Adrak Flavoured Tea (India, Dec 2020), Innocent Mango Fandango Smoothie (United Kingdom, Nov 2020), Davids Tea Organic Cold 911 Cold Defence Capsule (Canada, May 2020).

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The COVID-19 pandemic elevated the importance of beverages to help build a strong immune system and immune health claims are more prevalent on packaging. A related claim – probiotics – is also growing as scientists better understand the relationship of microorganisms in the gut to gut health and a robust immune system. Probiotic cultures are prevalent in drinkable yogurt; innovation in bacteria cultures for non-dairy beverages has led to rapid growth in probiotics in beverages such as kombucha and juice.

Consumers also seek vitamins and minerals to boost immunity. Leading nutrients associated with possible immune benefits include vitamins A, C, D, and E, and the mineral zinc.
Soft drinks accounted for nearly half of functional beverage launches in 2020. Energy drinks, juices and nectars, and iced tea, including kombucha, are the major soft drinks sub-categories. Drinkable dairy product, split nearly evenly among drinking yogurt, dairy milk, and dairy alternative drinks, comprised approximately one-quarter of all 2020 functional beverage launches. While energy drinks, juices and iced tea are growing, dairy subcategories showed negative compound annual growth between 2018 and 2020.
Immune health claims are not permitted on packaging in some countries, limiting their prominence.

“Trends Insider: Functional Beverages – Health Now and in the Future” is a new report from Innova Market Insights, which brings together consumer research, market sizes, company analysis and a review of new product trends and activity to demonstrate just how the picture has been changing and to suggest where the future opportunities can be found.

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