H2.O: Quenching the Future – Top Ten Trend #9

Explore trend #9 in Innova's Top Ten Trends of 2024, "H2.O: Quenching the Future"

April  18, 2024 – Hydration is a booming consumer and beverage trend, as demonstrated by the growing amount of shelf space dedicated to functional water drinks. Consumer trends research shows that hydration is the #1 food and beverage health benefit that is desired and purchased by consumers. Additionally, most beverages with a hydration claim have other health claims or functional ingredients such as vitamins or caffeine.

Different Ways to Say Hydration

Several different claims and descriptions are seen on the labels of hydration drinks. Synonyms for hydration include hydrate, hydrated, hydrating, and hydration. Terms like rehydrate, rehydrating, rehydration, refuel, and refueling suggest using hydration as part of recovery, especially after activity. Electrolyte balance through hydration drinks can be described in label claims as electrolyte, electrolytes, isotonic, or hypotonic. Regardless of the terms, hydration benefits are widely promoted and desired.

Six Subcategories of Functional Beverages for Hydration

Functional beverages for hydration generally belong to one of six different subcategories of beverages: unflavored bottled water, flavored bottled water, plant-based bottled water, energy drinks, ready-to-drink (RTD) sports drinks, and sports powders. The term unflavored water, or unflavored bottled water, refers to all unflavored mineral water, carbonated or sparkling water, still water, soda water, club soda, and seltzer water. Bottled flavored waters include flavored mineral water, carbonated or sparkling water, still water, soda water, club soda, and seltzer water. These are increasingly likely to be sold in cans as well as bottles. Plant-based water has a base that is derived from a plant, for example, coconut water, aloe vera water, birch water, and maple water. Some plant-based water products also contain juice. Energy drinks offer benefits of alertness and can be ready-to-drink full-size beverages or shots. Sports drinks RTD are ready-to-drink beverages especially for replacing water, electrolytes, and/or energy for athletes after training or a competition. Sports powders are reconstituted with water. Bottled waters and energy drinks are more widely used than RTD sports drinks and sports powders. Products with hydration claims accounted for about one in seven launches in these six subcategories over the most recent five-year period.

The Future of Water Top Ten Trend

Consumers Support Hydration

The Innova Top 10 Trend 2024, H2.O: Quenching the Future, demonstrates the importance of hydration. Hydration drinks often offer additional health benefits and are endorsed by known personalities. This helps communicate the growing importance of hydration to consumers.

Results of consumer trends research show positive consumer feelings about hydration. Consumers say that staying hydrated is the top action they take to improve their health. Looking at health benefits from foods and beverages, hydration is the most desired benefit and the top reason consumers give for buying a particular food or beverage. Exercise is a motivation for hydration, with consumers reporting that they use hydration products before, during, or after exercise. Hydration claims are more common on sports beverage launches than on bottled waters and energy drinks.

Plant-Based Water and RTD Sports Drinks Help Drive Hydration Claims

In the five-year period between 2019 and 2023, plant-based water and RTD sports drinks had the strongest growth among products with hydration claims, with claims most commonly pertaining to electrolytes or hydration. Also, the North American market for hydration products is more active than markets in other regions.

Hydration Products Have Health Claims and Functional Ingredients

A solid majority of hydration beverages have at least one other health claim. The most common additional claims focus on energy and alertness, sugar-free, gluten-free, and no added preservatives. Of these, sugar-related claims increased substantially over the most recent two-year period and sweeteners have become more important ingredients. Looking at functional ingredients, vitamins and calcium increased in importance in product launches.

Quenching the Future

Spotlight on RTD Sports Drinks Brands

The top eight sports drinks brands oversaw one-quarter of new product launches over the most recent five-year period. The number one and number two brands have 7% and 5% of total launches, respectively.

Top brands are leaders in RTD sports drinks with hydration benefits. One leading brand recently introduced two new product extensions – a limited edition mystery flavor and an electrolyte-infused unflavored water. The number two leading brand launched a line of products for rapid rehydration, along with electrolyte drink mixes and an alkaline sports beverage.

Partnerships and Endorsements Help Promote Hydration Beverages

Marketers use partnerships and endorsements to promote hydration products, especially those positioned for sports participants. Partnerships and endorsements follow the lifecycle of the hydration beverage. Hydration products often are designed and developed with the oversight of doctors, health organizations, sports organizations, coaches, athletes, and teams. After development, marketers may seek endorsement from government organizations and private health organizations. Another goal is to become the “official drink” of a particular sports team. This may enable manufacturers and marketers to create limited edition sports-related or team-specific new product releases. Endorsements can come from many different places. A hydration drink product may be endorsed by influencers that can include national, local, or league teams, well-known individual professional athletes, or non-athlete celebrities.

Hydration Merges With Health

More and more hydration beverages are likely to be positioned as sugar-free. Another claim that is likely to grow is rapid rehydration, especially for RTD sports drinks and powders. Hydration drinks are expected to continue to add functional ingredients that support other health benefits, ranging from general wellness to healthy aging, energy, and brain health.

Hydration Endorsements By and For Women

More hydration beverage endorsements are likely to come from female athletes and from athletes who participate in sports that are less well-known. This type of endorsement, especially from non-athletes, may appeal more to women and people who are not athletes or sports fans. Limited editions and team-specific products for local teams also can increase demand for sports hydration drinks.

What’s Next? Hydration Claims Spread to Other Subcategories

Hydration beverages started with traditional RTD sports drinks like Gatorade. Hydration claims have expanded into broader subcategories, such as energy drinks and bottled water, and may continue to become more widely used. Another evolution is the introduction of new flavor combinations and exotic flavors in various hydration beverage subcategories.


This article is based on our report, “Top 10 Trends 2024: Trend #9 – H2O – Quenching the Future – Global.”
If you are interested in reading this report, feel free to request a demo. You can do this by either booking a demo or using our Contact Form.

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