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Liquid Immunity

Trend description:

The pandemic has made consumers substitute soda drinks with functional beverages to curb the effects of the coronavirus. Consumers are now looking for healthy alternatives and prefer beverages with functional benefits. Growing concern about the negative health impact of high-sugar and caffeine energy drinks is prompting the development of less harmful alternatives.


Trend drivers

"Research has shown that consumers are increasingly prioritizing beverages with functional ingredients that support health and wellness, particularly those that aid normal immune function," Zach Harris, Vice President of Water Portfolio at PepsiCo Beverages North America, tells Food Business News. It shows that function may be more important than flavor for consumers. According to Innova's Consumer Survey 2020, six in 10 global consumers are looking for food and drink items to help their immune systems. Healthy eating has been a focus for a long time but boosting your health through a beverage is an easier way of doing it, which is appealing to consumers. Therefore, it makes sense that the two elements will come together: drinks with health benefits to support consumers wanting to have a positive nutrition lifestyle.


Over the past couple of years, the functional beverage market has increased. Consumers' increasing health awareness has made them swap soda for flavored water, immunity juices, and wellness shots. From 2019 to 2024, the global functional beverage market is predicted to grow at a Compound Annual Growth Rate of 8.66%, according to LINCHPIN. 


Most Gen Z and Millennials are looking for energy drinks to help fuel their day. According to a survey from Optimum Nutrition, which included full-time employed Americans between the ages of 18 and 42, the majority of survey participants (96%) utilized energy drinks. Diving deeper: 1% said they don't know their drink choices in the workplace, 75% prefer to consume beverages with nutritional benefits, and 59% enjoy non-alcoholic energy drinks for socializing.


One Gen Z influencer known as Corporate Natalie, famed for her comedic work-life balance content on TikTok and Instagram, explains, "Energy drinks came to mainstream popularity with the Millennial generation. We've become accustomed to reaching for beverages to address energy needs. Still, we are also conscious about what we're putting in our bodies and how our drink choices reflect our personalities," she told Optimum Nutrition. 


Millennials comprise about 50% of total energy drink consumers, and 62% of Millennials are more likely to buy energy drinks that have energy or stamina-boosting functional claims, according to a Beverage Consumer Trend Report from 2018, cited in a Torani sell-sheet. "Consumers are purchasing iced drinks at cafes more than ever, and they want natural ingredients," Alex Dintruff, Product Specialist at Tiki Breeze told The Food Institute. 


COVID-19 has increased consumers' awareness of their health, and consumers are looking for more healthy alternatives now than ever before. The pandemic has accelerated the growth of functional beverages. Consumers are looking for food and drink to boost their immunity while offering new energy. 


Gen Z's shift towards a healthier lifestyle is creating new market meets and demands for beverage companies. Younger consumers prefer low-alcohol or non-alcoholic choices such as juices, sports drinks, and new innovative niches like mock-tails and CBD-infused beverages. Overall, alcohol is less appealing to younger generations, as they are concerned about alcohol's impact on health, mood, and social image. 


The Cannabis growing industry is seen as a part of the enormous health-conscious wave. The trend represents a significant opportunity for US-based beverage companies. Savvy beverage companies are looking to position themselves uniquely by offering new products that include ready-to-drink CBD beverages. According to Brightfield Group, by 2025, cannabis beverages are expected to exceed $1B in annual sales, a trade group for CBD, Cannabis, and wellness products. While cannabis is becoming more mainstream and Gen Z is looking for alternatives to alcohol, it makes sense that CDB beverages are the next upcoming thing.


The world is only going to be more mentally stressful. Being constantly around digital media and the pandemic, the number of consumers struggling with depression, anxiety, loneliness and addiction is at its highest ever. During the pandemic, 56% of Gen Z reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorders. Health and wellness have become a demarcation of status. Mindfulness, healthy nutrition, and a balanced lifestyle are increasingly areas where consumers can flex their consciousness and outperform each other. And as awareness of burnout and depression grows, self-care will become even more critical. 


Cannabidiol has health benefits, such as releasing pain and inflammation and has started popping up as a wellness trend to help with anxiety. Cannabidiol has a calming effect; therefore, when drinking infused beverages, it can make you feel calmer. Furthermore, when drinking a CDB or TCH beverage, you don't get hungover as you would with alcohol and therefore struggle with "hangxiety."


"People have no idea these products exist, but they're going to be a massive part of the cannabis market in five to ten years," Aaron Silverstein, President of the Cannabis Beverage Association (CBA), tells drink stuff. CBD beverages form part of an even broader market for marijuana-infused drinks that is predicted to reach a value of $600 million in three years.

Infused Water

One of the fastest-growing categories in the functional beverage category is infused water. This category is driven by consumers interested in a holistic approach to wellness and wellbeing and exploring new innovative, forward-thinking alternatives to water. With 65% of consumers reporting that they want more functionality from their food and beverage products, Ocean Spray has launched a new beverage brand to meet consumers' needs and wants.


B1U™ is a new beverage brand from Ocean Spray, creating infused water products free from artificial sweeteners and sugar. The infused water products feature on-trend functional benefits and comes in a recyclable packaging. The B1U brand is, therefore, environmentally conscious while tapping into the functional beverage trend. Additional functional beverage products will follow their first line of infused water in the future.


"We are excited to offer the B1U™ brand as an innovative new entrant into the fast-growing infused water category that is forward-thinking, tasty, and nutritious. It will inspire customers to try it and choose it repeatedly," Director of Core Innovation at Ocean Spray says.


The B1U™ brand of functional infused waters features four flavors with different functional benefits, ingredients and nutrition. The first one is: I need a boost™ which is watermelon, Cucumber Infused Water with 60 mg of black tea caffeine. The I need immunity™ is a Lemon Chamomile Infused Water with 22mg of Zinc and 128mg of Vitamin C. With 10% of the recommended daily value of Zinc, it is not surprising that this product has grabbed the consumer's attention. I need rhythm™ is a Strawberry Basil Infused Water with 8g of plant-based fiber. Lastly, I need power™ is a Peach Kiwi Infused Water with 10g of protein.


Picture: Ocean Spray

Functional Energy Drinks

LAID is a different kind of functional energy drink from 3rd BEVCO that's described as "a first-of-its-kind energy drink that not only increases focus and delivers clean energy but also enhances sexual performance. The drinkable energy comes with performance-boosting benefits and can be found in a fun range of flavors like Blue Raspberry, Lemon Lime, Cherry, and more. Created with health-conscious drinkers in mind, the canned beverages boast striking, dark branding and splashy colors. 


In addition to speaking to Gen Z, who consume less alcohol, 3rd BEVCO's functional, non-alcoholic, and sugar-free drinks appeal to a wide range of people adopting more health-conscious lifestyles. With LAID and other innovative beverages in its portfolio, 3rd BEVCO recognizes the demand for drinks that deliver benefits without the buzz.


Oregon-based coffee and energy drink label Riff has launched a new line of energy drinks called Energy + Immunity. The formula spotlights upcycled cascara, an often-unused part of the coffee fruit that's said to act as a natural source of caffeine. The use of cascara helps Riff to lessen its environmental footprint, as the ingredient is typically discarded as waste. Energy + Immunity also provides a daily dose of vitamin C, has only non-GMO ingredients, and packs 120mg of caffeine. The range comes in three flavors: Get-it Guava, Booyah Berry, and Pick-it-up Pomegranate.

Picture: About Her


Picture: LAID

Boosted CDB Beverages

Health-conscious consumers may now actively avoid certain kinds of canned drinks like soda, but many are open to better-for-you alternatives with functional ingredients and enriched formulas. Recess sets itself apart as a sparkling water brand that infuses its product with adaptogens and CBD hemp extract to support balance in the body and clarity in mind. As the brand describes: "each can be a moment to reset and rebalance." 


Recess offers flavors like Blackberry Chai, Peach Ginger, and Pom Hibiscus, which it touts as "fancy and full-bodied like a fine wine." These varieties are powered by potent ingredients like adaptogenic, immune-boosting Schisandra berry, American ginseng for focus, and L-theanine, which helps help to reduce stress.


Amass, a botanical beverage and personal care product company has created a new premium cannabis-infused spirit in Afterdream. This shelf-stable, premium, nonalcoholic spirit contains 3.5 mg THC, 3.5 mg CBD, and 3.5 mg Delta-8 per serving and is blended using 14 botanicals and eight terpenes.


XMG ALT launches ahead of 4/20 celebrations with a beverage formula for health-conscious cannabis enthusiasts. The cannabis beverage is made with zero sugar and contains zero calories. The carbonated drink comes in two bold flavors, Grape and Black Cherry, and contains 10mg of THC each.



Picture: Amass

Better for you Coffee

Harmonic Woman CBD has launched a new line of CBD beverages that aim to help women micro-dose and enjoy their experience guilt-free. The company is offering a 'Rise' coffee alternative that eliminates the jitters of energy drinks and caffeine from your morning coffee. 'Rise' gives consumers the same caffeinated effects without the mid-afternoon crash.

The Trip CBD-infused cold brew coffee is a new beverage crafted with coffee and cannabis in mind for consumers in the UK to try out. The Guatemalan cold brew is infused with 15mg of CBD in every 250ml can, which promises to provide a calming effect alongside the caffeine. The drink is also infused with MCT oil, natural adaptogens, and chamomile. The Trip CBD-infused cold brew coffee is arriving at Boots, Holland & Barrett, and Selfridges locations in the UK.

The Hong Kong-based company Beams coffee is an early player in the mushroom coffee market. Beam has launched five different biodegradable coffee pods with various health benefits: Beauty, Energy, Immunity, Sage & Mind. The coffee pod extract's apoptogenics help reduce stress and anxiety and boosts immunity.

Mediative beverages are appealing for consumers and help them escape from the stress-full world with a simple wellness drink. A new trend of meditative drinks is arising, helping customers fight anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. The swanky meditative drinks trend offers "an evolved state of wellness," says Kara Nielsen, the director of food and drink at WGSN to Glamour. 


The wellness buzzword is adaptogens: certain medicinal herbs that have calming and mood-boosting effects. Gen Z calls for nonalcoholic beverages containing super-foods and adaptogens that could have mood-boosting or anxiety-reliving effects.

Blossom, a Chicago-based mental wellness company, has launched a line of super-food lattes called "meditation in a mug." The oat milk latte mix has clinically effective ingredients to improve mood, reduce stress, and boost immunity. The company has teamed up with functional medicine doctors and psychologists to develop these clinically backed super-food lattes.


Picture: Trip


Picture: Trip

Picture: Beams

Nighttime apoptogenic beverages


Innovative functional beverage brands take advantage of immunity-supporting, stress-reducing, and calming benefits. The functional beverage brand Kin Euphorics founded by Bella-Hadid, has launched its non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated Dream Light beverage. The Dream Light beverage is infused with adaptogens, nootropics, and botanicas like Reishi Mushroom, Melatonin, and L-Tryptophan to help consumers reach a natural circadian rhythm for deeper, more restful sleep.

Herby creates superior-quality herbal tea to support better sleep, intimacy, immunity, and more. Like a card game, each tea comes with a thoughtful touch depending on its benefit.


Innovative functional beverage brands take advantage of immunity-supporting, stress-reducing, and calming benefits. Blue Bear Sleep supports a whole night's sleep with a natural and organic sweet peach beverage. The functional sleep drink contains ingredients such as lavender, ashwagandha, melatonin, GABA, L-theanine, and chamomile, to support healthy, restful sleep and boost immunity.


Picture: Blue Bear

Action Steps




Add natural energy-boosting ingredients to your brand as a substitute for caffeine to create the next-gen energy-infused drinks. 

Consider new liquid formats, in which you can add "better for you ingredients" too, such as cacao, milk, wine and better-for-you bubbles. 

Consider using CDB and natural calming, immunity and mood-boosting ingredients to develop a nighttime and anti-anxiety drink.

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