Natural function, an extremely relevant theme in the food and beverage industry, has no clear definition. Perhaps not surprisingly, the FDA also doesn’t define “natural” or “functional food”, but instead leaves these terms open for interpretation. Only in the past couple of years has the FDA been looking to the public for answers and they began asking for comments from consumers to help clarify the definition of “natural” this past May. Despite the lack of definitions, industry professionals understand natural function to mean a nutrient delivered by a plant-based food, like a seed or fruit, or by a natural process, like fermentation or pickling. Consumers gravitate towards products that deliver benefits from natural function instead of products fortified with nutrients because they are more likely to align with their values of health and clean labels. Here are a few beverage categories that have successfully incorporated natural function into their products.
While this category is still considered to be an emerging one, a few well-known brands have recently announced lines of drinking vinegars. Suja, one of the pioneers of the HPP cold-pressed juice category, will launch their drinking vinegars in five flavours next month. Apple cider vinegar, one of the main ingredients in this product line is associated with a variety of health benefits including lowering blood sugar and detoxifying the liver. Suja’s launch follows only a few months after Live Sodas launched a line of four drinking vinegars.
Herbs, spices and flowers are not only components that help contribute to more complex flavour profiles, but they are being lauded for the plethora of health benefits associated with them. Temple Turmeric highlights their use of turmeric in their brand name and have a dozen beverages that list turmeric as a key ingredient. Curcumin, one of the active compounds in turmeric, has been linked to anti-inflammation and strengthening the immune systems. There are also carbonated soft drinks, hard sodas, and of course cocktails, that incorporate botanicals like lavender, elderberry, nutmeg, coriander and serrano pepper.
This fermented tea is no longer a fringe product, and can even be found on tap at several restaurant chains and Whole Foods locations. Probiotics, or the good bacteria which exist as a by-product of fermentation, help our gut function as efficiently as possible. Consumer demand for kombucha is steadily increasing and the market is projected to grow 25% annually through 2020.
In the wake of natural function and the shift towards healthier eating and drinking, it’s important to remember that a product doesn’t need to offer every vitamin, mineral and nutrient to everyone. Brand owners should think about who their consumers are (or want them to be), what their core values are, and develop products that align with those values. Baby boomers still represent the largest consumer bloc with the most disposable income, so it’s critical to consider their needs that undoubtedly differ from the demands of generation Z. While generation Z may not demand a product that contributes to bone health, and baby boomers may not be as eager to try a metabolism boosting beverage with ghost pepper, these generations do have a core value in common: in general, they want to be healthier.
I’ll drink (vinegar, botanical soda or kombucha) to that!
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2021
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