Functional is the New Thirst-Quenching

Created: Thursday, April 1, 2021, posted by Geetesh Bajaj at 10:00 am

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By Richard Horwell, Brand Relations

What do consumers want from food and beverages? Minimum, silence a grumbling tummy and hydration. Once upon a time, lifestyle played a huge part in purchasing decisions. Brand loyalty was won by generating a sense of identity by making consumers feel part of a community; they were seen as cool if they bought a product because only the richest or best looking would buy it – according to powerful advertising and packaging. But consumer buying habits are changing.

When creating a new F&B brand, you need more than just great taste and eye-catching packaging, you need to provide functionality and health benefits. It’s about the product providing something extra.

Functional is the New Thirst-Quenching
Image: Pixabay

Brand loyalty is now linked to brand benefits and transparency. Consumers are well aware that advertising is designed to sell to them, and that the messages don’t always give the full story. Trust is low, but once won, consumers can still be very loyal. They are looking for, and then sticking with, products they can trust to deliver on the claims they make.

It can be a challenge for new start-up brands, without the years of trust-building to capture the attention of the millennial consumer. To do this you now need a functional drink, one that has added benefits. These are the drinks that are attracting consumers and enabling brands to charge a premium.

So, what do we class as a functional benefit? Functional snacks and beverages are those containing non-traditional ingredients like minerals, vitamins, amino acids, dietary fibers, probiotics, added raw fruits, etc. All the drinks in the functional category aim to have some sort of effect on you other than just hydration. For example, Kombucha, Aloe Vera, Coconut Water, Green Tea, and Moringa Tea – these are all examples of the new breed of functional drink flooding the market.

The new trend that is just starting is the Nootropics category. Nootropics are supplements that claim to improve cognitive functions such as mood, memory, creativity or motivation in healthy individuals. The two most common types of nootropic products on the market currently are aimed at either improving focus or calming the mind. The former is particularly marketed as a natural stimulant for purposes such as gaming, sporting or working.

The beauty of the Nootropics category is its natural evolution from energy or stimulation drinks – without relying only on caffeine to provide the boost. They are a careful balancing act of different nootropic ingredients which help smooth the caffeine spikes with calming ingredients such as L-theanine – a compound believed to be great for improving mood and sleep and reducing stress; the opposite effects of caffeine creating the perfect Yin and Yang balance.

With the increased interest in natural ingredients such as Ginseng, which is known for its antifatigue and immunity properties as well as boosting energy, brands are now steering away from caffeine creating diversity in their flavors and ingredients that appeal and excite. Long gone are the days of buying a sugary energy drink for 99p.

The demand for Nootropics doesn’t reside just within the energy market, it also sits neatly in the realm of calming drinks that aid clarity. A market that is increasing, especially as the pressures of everyday life have become difficult for many to manage.

For example, according to Mintel, 29% would like more information on improving their mood, with levels of anxiety significantly raised since the COVID-19 outbreak. Instead of turning to prescriptions, consumers are reaching for natural remedies such as Ashwagandha, which claims to help fight depression, improve mood and even reduce symptoms of anxiety and stress.

Another popular ingredient in Nootropics is Passionflower, believed to help combat insomnia and stress and some companies across the globe, even go as far to claim it helps alleviate conditions such as ADHD. Whether these claims are fully substantiated or not, for the modern-day busy consumer, having a natural product they can use, on a daily basis, to support how they deal with everyday life is now more relevant than ever.

What was once contained within a small capsule or in a tea format is now the beginnings of a whole new category of drink, bringing to the market products that innovate and give consumers the remedies they seek to support their daily routines.

Functional drinks are here to stay and will be the fastest-growing market in years to come. This is where the business opportunities lie, particularly with COVID-19 having made healthy drinks that offer a function and benefit more important and popular than ever before.

Richard Horwell
Richard Horwell is the owner of Brand Relations, a specialist food and drink marketing and branding company based in London. Over the last 10 years, Brand Relations has been behind the launch and development of over 80 brands in the UK. Richard has also built up and sold companies of his own in the Food and Beverage sector. He has over 30 years’ experience in marketing FMCG brands around the world, having lived and worked in the US, Australia, and the Middle East.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog post or content are those of the authors or the interviewees and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer, or company.

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