Energy and sports drinks are currently the most popular functional beverages in the U.S., but the fastest growing segments are dairy alternatives and functional waters.1
- Plant-based dairy alternatives are especially popular among Millenials and Gen Z because the beverages cater to both health and environmental concerns. Partnering with suppliers to source natural ingredients will be critical as consumers place greater importance on label transparency and sustainability.
- Functional waters are growing in popularity as consumers are seeking to add more health benefits and hydration to their daily intake.
The top reasons consumers are reaching for functional beverages include energy, sleep support, stress reduction, heart health and immunity.
But, they’re not just reaching for ANY functional beverage to solve their problems, they’re selecting those with the most flavor appeal.
Importance of Flavor Extracts for Functional Beverages
1. Consumer Satisfaction
2. Perceived Quality
How to Flavor Functional Beverages
Mainstream, tried and tested flavors include strawberry, orange, lemon and vanilla. Yet, as we’re seeing in other industries, consumers are demanding a blend of global fusion and nostalgia. Expanding beyond mainstream flavors will be key to grabbing consumers’ attention in the functional beverage market.
Most functional beverages have the unique flavor challenge of overcoming bitter, unpleasant tastes of functional ingredients and high-intensity, natural sweeteners.1
Functional beverages can be formulated with flavors that naturally contain bitter notes. The bitterness will work with functional ingredients rather than against them.
- Add a rich, robust bitterness with coffee
- Add a sophisticated bitterness with dark chocolate
- Add a zesty bitterness with grapefruit, orange or lemon
Another approach is the use of bold flavors to mask the taste of functional ingredients. These bold flavors typically fall into two categories: sweet and spicy.
Bold Sweet Flavors
- Add sweet, buttery undertones with caramel
- Add a complex, robust sweetness with maple
- Add a natural richness with honey
- Add a rich sweetness, and hint of tartness, with blueberry, blackberry or cherry
- Add a slightly tangy sweetness with pomegranate
- Add a tropical and tangy sweetness with passion fruit
Bold Spicy Flavors
- Add zesty spiciness and a hint of warmth with ginger
- Add a warm, nostalgic spiciness with cinnamon
- Add a touch of earthy spiciness with jalapeno
- Add a smoky spiciness with chipotle
- Add a refreshing spiciness with peppermint
Functional Beverage Flavors Gaining Popularity
Beyond these basics, three flavor categories are gaining popularity: botanical, tropical, and fruit varietals. As consumers increasingly prioritize natural and plant-based ingredients in their food and beverages, botanical flavors have emerged as a rising star. Meanwhile, tropical flavors are bringing an exotic twist to the beverage landscape, meeting the rising demand for unique and refreshing taste experiences.
Let’s delve deeper into the allure of botanical, tropical and fruit flavors, uncovering their versatility, health associations and ability to elevate the sensory experience of functional beverages.
Botanical flavors are gaining popularity in functional beverages as consumers are increasingly seeking natural and plant-based ingredients in their food and beverages. It is easy for consumers to connect the dots between these flavors and clean, wholesome ingredients. Many botanicals are also associated with potential health benefits. Basil, for example, is known for its antioxidant properties and potential anti-inflammatory effects.2 Below are a few more examples of common consumer associations that could be leveraged in functional beverage flavoring.
- Peppermint and spearmint are associated with digestive benefits and cooling sensations
- Lavender is associated with calming effects
- Ginger is associated with anti-inflammatory and digestive benefits
Many botanical flavors are versatile in culinary applications, and their inclusion in beverages provides a familiar yet novel experience. They meet consumers' demand for new, yet nostalgic, in that they can complement a range of flavors including fruits, spices and other herbs.
Tropical flavors, like guava, offer a distinct and exotic taste profile that stands out from traditional fruit flavors. Consumers are increasingly seeking novel and unique flavor experiences, and tropical fruits provide a refreshing change.
Like botanical flavors, tropical flavors are perceived as healthy and nutritious and pair well with several traditional flavors such as citrus and berry. Guava, in particular, is rich in vitamins, fiber, and antioxidants. Below are a few more tropical fruits commonly associated with health benefits that could be leveraged in functional beverage flavoring.
- Sweet, yet acidic, pineapple
- Lusciously sweet mango
- Sweet and tart passion fruit
- Mildly sweet dragon fruit
- Sweet and tangy kiwi
- Sweet and musky papaya
Fruit varietals allow for a more nuanced and sophisticated taste experience. Each varietal from blood orange to Meyer lemon brings a unique and distinctive flavor that stands out.
Being derived from specific fruit cultivars, the varietals align with consumers’ increasing preference for natural and clean labels. Just like the cultivar, the varietal is perceived as authentic and minimally processed, contributing to a positive perception among health-conscious consumers. Get started with one of these fruit varietals from Bickford Flavors:
Unlock Sensational Flavor with Bickford Flavors
Prioritizing flavor is not just about creating a pleasant product. It’s a strategic decision that influences consumer behavior, market competitiveness and the overall success of functional beverages in a dynamic industry.
At Bickford, we’re well versed in the beverage industry, and we are committed to growing your business and your functional beverage product lines. Every Bickford flavor is formulated to meet current market demands and your specific labeling needs.
Partnering with small to large, commercial beverage manufacturers, our wholesale program offers:
- Preferred pricing
- No minimum order requirement after one gallon
- Faster than normal turnaround times
To get started, download our wholesale business verification form or ask about our sample program.
Have questions? Contact us today or call 440-494-7777. Toll free at 800-283- 8322.