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Why plant-based functional beverages are perfect for the modern market

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Maximising beverages’ healthy credentials

Health has become a key priority for consumers all over the world since the pandemic, leading to a significant increase in demand for functional products.[1]​ More than seven in ten shoppers worldwide now say it is important or very important to choose food and drink products that positively boost nutrition or benefit how the body functions.[2]

Plant-based beverages are perfectly placed to capitalise on this growing opportunity. The plant-based trend has been enjoying spectacular momentum in recent years and these drinks offer a health halo that makes them an ideal platform for functional ingredients.

Research carried out by Mintel shows that the majority of US shoppers see food and drink with plant-based claims as healthy (56%) and natural (53%) – outperforming regular products and those with all-natural claims on both counts.[3]​ The International Food Information Council's 2021 Food and Health Survey, meanwhile, found that more than four in ten shoppers see plant-based options as healthier even when two products have the same nutrition facts label.[4]

With 71% of consumers worldwide saying they consider plant-based claims to be somewhat or very appealing[5]​, promoting products’ plant-based credentials can have huge benefits. As a result, the proportion of beverage launches featuring plant-based claims reached nearly 10% by the middle of 2021, covering everything from plant milks to fruit juices to energy drinks.[6]

With the addition of on-trend functional ingredients, brands can create the healthy plant-based drinks that today’s shoppers want to see.

Opportunities across different formats

There are opportunities to provide functional benefits across a broad range of plant-based beverages including:

Juices and shots

Widely consumed all around the world, fruit juice drinks are plant-based, natural, tasty, nutritious and refreshing. However, sales in most developed markets are static or even in decline.[7]​ Mintel analysis shows that brands are responding with sugar-reduced, vitamin-enriched and nutritious juice drinks, while ‘wellness shots’ are also gaining noticeable traction.[8]

Plant-based dairy drinks

Plant-based milk analogues can lack some of the nutritional benefits of dairy, so it is important to incorporate micronutrients such as vitamins B12 and D and calcium. Dairy alternatives can also be adapted to include additional functional ingredients, such as probiotics.

Energy drinks

Energy drink brands are already making use of additional nutrients, with 52% of global energy drink launches in 2020 featuring added vitamin/mineral claims.[9]​ There are also many plant-based ingredients that make the perfect addition to energy drinks with a natural positioning. They include natural caffeine from yerba mate, green tea, green coffee, guarana and ginseng.

Fortified waters

While the global bottled water market has been struggling for growth, the fortified water trend is on the rise. In Asia, for example, 16% of bottled water launches featured vitamin/mineral fortification claims in the year up to May 2021 – up from 11% in the previous 12 months.[10]​ Flavoured waters are also making increased use of fortification. In 2020, 20% of flavoured water launches globally featured vitamin/mineral fortification claims while 17% featured functional claims – a record high share.[11]​ Worldwide, the most popular micronutrients across fortified water launches in 2020 were vitamin C (12.8%), B6 (11.2%), niacin (10.3%) and B12 (10%).[12]

Protein-based sports drinks

Demand for natural, plant-based sports nutrition products is rising, and the number of plant protein RTD launches globally increased by 92% from 2017 to 2019.[13],[14]​ FMCG Gurus research has even found that more active nutrition consumers consider plant protein (57%) to be [1]​ appealing than whey protein (55%). There is a wide range of excellent plant protein sources that can boost products’ functional benefits. Oats, for example, have been clinically shown to reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering cholesterol, while flax is a good source of omega-3 fats.

Keto drinks

Combining plant-based and keto-friendly credentials can boost products such as meal replacement shakes. Nevertheless, while keto represents an excellent opportunity for plant-based nutrition companies, it remains outside of the mainstream. As such, it makes sense not to market beverages with an overtly keto position. Instead, adopt a keto-friendly approach, highlighting the factors that will resonate with keto adherents, without putting off other consumers.

Boosting beverages with branded ingredients

Branded ingredients can help brands stay ahead of consumer trends. Here are some of the most exciting options for functional plant-based beverages:

Aquamin

Aquamin is a marine multi-mineral complex product range, providing highly bioactive minerals such as calcium, magnesium and 72 other trace marine minerals. The Aquamin product range is natural, plant-based and clean label, backed by 15 years of scientific research.

Clean Cream®

Clean Cream®​ is a clean-label, highly soluble, plant-based vegan cream powder that adds a natural, rich taste and creamy texture to applications including protein and meal replacement shakes. Clean Cream®​ contains monounsaturated fatty acids, such as high oleic sunflower oil, that may help protect your heart by maintaining levels of good HDL cholesterol. Clean Cream®​ improves off notes, such as gritty or earthy plant proteins, and offers a dairy-like taste and fatty mouthfeel.

Carb10®

This low-glycaemic starch carbohydrate is derived from pea starch and has little effect on blood sugar or insulin. Its prebiotic properties contribute to a healthy gut microbiome, while low osmolality enables it to speed through the stomach to reduce bloating. With minor shaking, Carb10®​ dissolves in water, making it easy to incorporate into edible products.

goFAT®

This suite of low-carb fat powders can promote a full feeling and help maintain blood sugar in already healthy ranges. Containing conjugated linoleic acid, coconut and olive oil, goFAT®​ powders improve the taste, texture and functions of applications including shakes, coffees and keto products.

goMCT®

goMCT®​ fuels the body with healthy fats that enhance ketone production, supporting alertness, awareness and focus. It also contains acacia fibre, a prebiotic that aids in gut health. goMCT®​ helps with weight management, increased energy and overall wellbeing.

The power of plant-based

Prinova can deliver the cutting-edge ingredients and formulations you need to create a wide variety of on-trend plant-based beverages. We have a wealth of knowledge and experience in the plant-based sector and will work with you to create a unique concept that differentiates your brand.

We can create nutrient-rich premixes to meet the nutritional needs of vegan consumers while our formulation expertise with plant proteins enables us to overcome common challenges related to taste, texture and solubility.

Together, we can create plant-based functional beverages that are perfectly placed to meet the demands of today’s health-conscious consumers.

Resources

[1]​ FMCG Gurus 'Understanding Positive Nutrition in 2021' (2021)

[2]​ Innova Market Insights 'Future Opportunities in Functional Nutrition' (2021)

[3]​ Mintel 'Are plant-based claims the next "all natural"?' (2021)

[4]​ International Food Information Council '2021 Food and Health Survey' (2021)

[5]​ GlobalData 'Plant-based F&B claims have positive connotations for nearly three quarters of consumers globally, says GlobalData' (2020)

[6]​ Mintel GNPD

[7]​ Mintel Market Sizes

[8]​ Mintel 'The Future of Juice & Juice Drinks' (2021)

[9]​ Mintel 'The Future of Water, Sports and Energy Drinks: 2021' (2021)

[10]​ Mintel 'A year of innovation in bottled water' (2021)

[11]​ Mintel 'The Future of Water, Sports and Energy Drinks: 2021' (2021)

[12]​ Mintel GNPD

[13]​ Innova Market Insights 'Greater focus on flavors as sports nutrition mainstreams' (2021)

[14]​ Innova Market Insights

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