Dispatches from Food Vision, Cannes

‘What I already drink – but better!’ What can functional beverages offer consumers?

By Rachel Arthur contact

- Last updated on GMT

What am I drinking? Consumers want to know
What am I drinking? Consumers want to know

Related tags: Nutrition, Drinks

Consumers are keen to learn more about beverage ingredients, which is good news for the functional drink category, suggest beverage entrepreneurs. 

With the internet at their disposal, consumers can easily access the information they want – and are prepared to do so, said speakers during the soft drink debate at Food Vision in Cannes.

Lance Leonard of True Drinks, Sophia Nadur of Tg Green Teas, and Sara Gamay of DreamPak and Press’d suggested functional drinks could take standard products (such as humble milk) and turn them into something more. Drinks could act as a meal replacement; or address healthy living aspirations, they said.  

Savvy about ingredients

Tg Green Teas uses ingredients from Chinese herbal medicine. Some are familiar, such as ginger, lemon and rhubarb, others like jujube are considerably less well-known. But in an age of Google, that doesn’t pose a problem, said co-founder Sophia Nadur.

“People are very interested [about these ingredients] because they have a story to tell,” ​she said. “And because there’s so much about these ingredients on the internet, I don’t need to make any claims; I don’t need to tell anybody about what these drinks do.

“When you look at the trends and what’s happening, people want to know, people want that connection with what’s in the drink.”

And such interest can only help the functional drink category, added Lance Leonard, CEO of True Drinks (which launched children’s vitamin enhanced beverage AquaBall in 2013).

“Consumers will continue to evolve and be more educated on the specific ingredients they’re looking for in the beverages they’re drinking,” ​he said.

fairlife insert
Fairlife milk

A delivery system

Leonard said the category would continue to expand.

“Beverages have gone away from just being about hydration and moving towards functionality and how we can enhance them with nutrients, vitamins, minerals, how we can use them as meal replacement, how beverages can be the delivery system for so many other things we take in during the day,” ​he said. 

“It’s going to expand the category. There’ll be a tremendous change. I think there’ll be a lot more functional, more efficacious drinks coming to market, things for digestion, immunity. A lot of areas people are looking at now with healthy living concerns will be addressed in beverages they drink.

“It’s a good category to be in: you’re seeing a lot more activity in beverages than you are in food.”

Sara Gamay from contract manufacturer DreamPak says the demand for functionality could radically change how traditional drinks are positioned, viewed, and consumed.

Taking milk as an example, she points to Coca-Cola and Fairlife’s new premium milk which was launched this year boasting 50% higher protein, 30% more calcium, and 50% less sugar. Fairlife’s CEO has gone as far as to call it the ‘rebirth of milk.’

Gamay said: “What’s interesting to me is the trend of drinking what I already drink – but having it better. So if I drink milk, can milk be better for me? Like the way Coke is distributing this new milk that has more calcium and more protein.

“Can I drink my coffee and my tea – and have that being better for me?”

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