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Functional Beverages Help Consumers Address Health Concerns

Functionality is the new Paradigm

With carbonated soft drinks (CSDs) declining at an annualized rate of four per cent (IBIS World), a fundamental shift is occurring in Canada’s $2.5 billion beverage market that natural health retailers are in a prime position to take advantage of. Today, the cutting edge beverages are less about simply thirst quenching and more about functionality: food replacement and quality of nutrients. For the last several years, “functional beverages” have remained the fastest growing segment of the beverage market and show little sign of slowing down. Functional Beverages

A functional beverage is a drink product that is non-alcoholic and includes in its formulation ingredients such as herbs, vitamins, minerals, amino acids or additional raw fruit or vegetables. They are promoted with benefits such as heart health, improved immunity and digestion, joint health, satiety, increased energy, weight loss, or health and beauty. Even memory and mental sharpness has been a focus. Protein is also making its way into the beverage category as well as nutrient rich foods such as chia seeds. There are drinks that feature soluble fibre from oats. The raw-juice category is still on an upswing and “anything green is big,” with kale leading the way.

The category also includes plant waters, which has seen tremendous growth since its inception — particularly in the past three years. In 2013 alone, according to a Mintel report, 264 variants of plant water were introduced (including different flavours from same brand), and there are currently 848 variants of plant waters sold worldwide, with 319 of those in North America. In terms of functionality and flavour, each type of plant water has a unique nutritional and taste profile, and its makers tout varied benefits for body or beauty. For instance, coconut water benefits include its rehydration; aloe water is seen as a beauty boon for skin; birch water is viewed as an overall health tonic; and maple water is naturally very low calorie, containing over 46 essential nutrients, including minerals, peptides, amino and organic acids, and boasts a subtle flavour profile. As the vanguard plant water beverage, coconut water remains the leader in this category with sales of over $27 million from July 2013 to July 2014, according to a Tetra Pakcommissioned report.

In the past, energy drinks were one of the fastest growing segments of the functional beverage market, although now showing signs of slowing down as new competitors come on stream. Energy drinks tout, ingredients that serve as stimulants such as taurine, glucoronolactone, caffeine, and B vitamins, guarana, ginseng, ginkgo biloba, Lcarnitine, sugars, antioxidants, yerba maté, creatine, and milk thistle.

The latest trends in energy drinks are all natural and organic ingredients. Shannon Adams, sales, marketing & social media coordinator for GURU Beverage Inc. says GURU has had tremendous growth over the years. “We are the No.1 organic energy drink brand in the U.S. and Canada, in the health channel. At GURU we believe that energy shouldn’t come at the expense of health. That is why our energy drinks are made from natural and organic ingredients. There are no synthetic ingredients in our products: just good stuff, like green tea, ginseng, guarana and Echinacea.”

Functional beverages have remained the fastest growing segment for beverages with little sign of slowing down.

“This year we are focusing on the organic aspect of our drink. In the past, we focused more on the energy benefit of our drink, but we feel that consumers are now ready more than ever to embrace healthier alternatives. In fact, according to Mintel 74 per cent of energy drink consumers are concerned with product safety. That’s a big statement coming from consumers who a few years ago weren’t so open to natural and organic products. In response to this overwhelming demand, GURU proceeded to get its Organic and Non-GMO Project Verified certifications.”

The company will be launching Organic Energy Water this summer. The product is already in the U.S. and is doing very well. “Our Energy Water is a light and refreshing sparkling energy beverage. It’s organic, and contains no calories or sugar. It provides bubbles, energy and some light sweetness, all while allowing you to stick to a healthy and balanced lifestyle.”

Another energy drink experiencing a lot of growth is Q Energy, which comes in a unique powder format to be mixed with water. Jason May of Q Energy says Q has rhodiola, ginseng, green tea, eight vitamins, electrolytes and, most importantly, quercetin. Quercetin is a bioflavonoid, found in fruits and vegetables. It offers a host of benefits including improved energy; an antioxidant that supports health and the immune system; a natural antiinflammatory; and a natural antihistamine that helps reduce allergy symptoms. Q contains only four grams (15 calories) of organic cane sugar and no artificial sweeteners or sugar alcohols,

“In terms of particular concerns, Q delivers on a few fronts. It works well as a sports performance beverage due to the increased energy and anti-inflammatory effects. The latter cannot be overstated as I have some clients who choose to use Q simply for anti-inflammatory relief including arthritis. While we did not design Q for allergy relief, we are getting more anecdotal feedback that it works well for that too. And finally, though we focus on an active healthy lifestyle, it is not uncommon for active people to enjoy the occasional festive Saturday evening. We have received a lot of feedback that Q works extremely well to relieve hangover symptoms on the following Sunday morning,” says May.

Many of the new functional beverage products position themselves as fun and healthy alternatives to traditional beverages. It is catching on with consumers and if you are a natural health retailer you are in the best position to capitalize on the trend while helping your customers stay healthy.

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