Beverage manufacturers, however, seemed particularly interested in staking their claim in the antioxidant marketplace. By 2017, of all product launches with antioxidant claims tracked by Innova, one in four (25%) were soft drinks.
Hot drinks also represented a top category for antioxidant claims, making up 14.9% of product launches promoting antioxidant inclusion.
Among subcategories, 11.8% of juice and juice drinks, 11.5% of teas, and 6.7% of iced teas claimed antioxidant content in product launches in 2017.
What’s leading consumers to beverage formats? Tim Bauer, vice president of sales, Pharmachem, a division of Ashland, Kearny, NJ, suggested “capsule-tablet overload” could be the culprit. “People want to take a variety of supplements because of the abundance of physiological benefits they confer over time, but who wants to swallow tens of pills every day? Both major brands and boutique brands are infusing a wide variety of beverages—sodas, energy drinks, juices, teas—with antioxidants as well as other nutraceuticals.”
Beverages are a logical format because the need to stay hydrated is universal, Mr. Bauer suggested. “In one sense, beverages have a leg up over foods because humans need liquid (to satisfy thirst) more than solid foods. Consumers are recognizing the need to drink more water during the work day. They are also looking for an added benefit, and this is where products such as Bai have made inroads by delivering good tasting products with an antioxidant benefit.”
A popular functional beverage company launched in 2009, Bai offers a range of nutritional, antioxidant-fortified drinks in exotic flavors such as Sumatra Dragonfruit, Ipanema Pomegranate, and Brasilia Blueberry. With about 1 gram of sugar and 5 calories, the original Bai Antioxidant Infusion beverages offer 35 mg of vitamin C, and 100 mg polyphenols and chlorogenic acid from coffee fruit extract and white tea extract.
Coffee fruit is a key active ingredient in Bai’s product formulation, providing an essential source of antioxidants along with an energy boost from caffeine (35 mg per serving, similar to a cup of green tea). Reflective of the brand’s broad success, Bai was acquired by Dr. Pepper Snapple Group for $1.7 billion in January 2017.
“We are seeing the coffee fruit category explode,” observed Andrew Wheeler, director of marketing for FutureCeuticals, Momence, IL, leading the company to develop its own Cascara line of ingredients. “Just look at the success of Bai, and their subsequent acquisition by Dr. Pepper Snapple. They have demonstrated that a coffee fruit antioxidant-based beverage can work … and how!”
Cascara (which means “husk or skin” in Spanish) is made from the dried skin and mucilage of the coffee cherry, once a waste product of the traditional coffee production process. FutureCeuticals created a way “to preserve a low mycotoxin coffee fruit product along with its natural antioxidants that are found in coffee fruit.” The ingredient also benefits from its sustainable harvesting model, which appeals to environmentally conscious consumers.
Tea with functional benefits—such as supporting energy, offering anti-inflammatory support, or providing antioxidants—was a top trend in 2017, according to Mintel’s “Top Tea and Coffee Trends for 2017” report. Mintel said tea’s “better-for-you” perception, coupled with its beneficial nutritional profile, is driving consumers to the category. Antioxidant-rich ingredients such as matcha, as well as turmeric (which Mintel called a breakout ingredient in 2016) are increasingly being featured in functional tea drinks.
While exotic berries and fruits have become mainstays in the functional drink landscape, certain antioxidant-rich herbs and spices are now being incorporated for their unique flavor profile and beneficial health offerings.
Brian Appell, marketing manager, OmniActive Health Technologies, Morristown, NJ, pointed to the rise in popularity of “‘golden milk’—a traditional immune-boosting remedy that usually contains the powerful antioxidant compound turmeric, along with cinnamon, ginger, and pepper in a milk or broth base.” The longstanding use of these ingredients in Ayurvedic and Eastern medicine for their antioxidant properties, in addition to other significant health benefits such as supporting digestive health and a healthy inflammatory response has piqued consumer interest, he said.
The brand REBBL offers a Turmeric Golden-Milk beverage in its line of 100% organic, herbal wellness beverages. While not explicitly developed or marketed as an “antioxidant beverage,” the drink’s key ingredient is turmeric, a well-known and potent antioxidant ingredient made up to 20 times more bioavailable with the addition of black pepper fruit extract.
“We believe that Turmeric Golden Milk is a wonderful expression of the union of super herb functionality, nourishment, satiety, and a delightful sensory experience (taste, aroma and appearance),” commented Palo Hawken, founder and chief innovation officer at REBBL. “It resonates with consumers because it is a traditional beverage with a long history of consumption in one of the oldest and most respected cultures on earth. It is a physical embodiment and expression of the Vedic philosophical approach to wellness, along with yoga, pranayama, and meditation, each of which is its own mega-trend shaping global culture. Golden Milk is a product phenomenon that both benefits and supports this global interest in products of substance from these respected wellness traditions.”
The brand links turmeric to benefits for cognition, healthy inflammatory response, and physical recovery. REBBL also offers a Turmeric Lemon Tart beverage, as well as Macha Latte variety.
Through REBBL’s website, the company also provides detail for where its key active ingredients are sourced. For example, with regard to its turmeric ingredients, “REBBL supports organically cultivated turmeric in India.”
“Today’s supply-chain-conscious consumers are demanding to know where their food and beverages are coming from—they’re reading labels and demanding real, whole food that is minimally processed, safe, and eco-friendly,” suggested Mr. Wheeler. “This category has been bombarded by adulteration concerns and misguided claims, so by pulling back the curtain and sharing the product’s journey with the consumer, the trust bond is strengthened. It’s a win-win.”
This call for transparency has led to an increased demand for clinically validated ingredients that “possess real antioxidant action delivering a moderate yet effective dose,” Mr. Wheeler added. “Consumers are more educated, and realize that to maximize these benefits the dosage and source of the antioxidant is extremely important. As our science has told us, sometimes more is not better with respect to antioxidants.”
With this in mind, he pointed to key market trends propelling development in the category, including “clean-label, healthy ingredients/functional beverages, and natural plant-based antioxidants leading the way.”
Research from Mintel suggests consumers are seeking out hybrid drinks (beverages that combine two or more drink categories), with functional benefits. Of hybrid drink consumers, 44% reported they have tried bottled water with added health benefits, such as protein, vitamins, or antioxidants.
Bai’s newest launch targets the emerging category of functional water, which is expected to grow at an impressive CAGR of 11.5% from 2013-2019, earning $36.7 billion by the end of 2019, according to Persistence Market Research. Bai Antioxidant Water plays into consumers’ obvious need for hydration, with an added antioxidant boost. Marketing for the product seems to focus on those looking to combat oxidative stress as a result of exercise, as well as consumers concerned about the general stress of a hectic lifestyle. The product is a purified water, with electrolytes for taste, and 10% of the daily serving of selenium for antioxidant enhancement.
“Consumers are looking toward antioxidants more as a normal part of their diet to help maintain overall good health,” commented Mr. Appell. Water with functional benefits definitely falls into this category. “They’re aware that they can get antioxidants from the foods they consume on a daily basis, but they are also aware that they may not be eating enough of those healthful foods and therefore need to supplement their diets.”
For a growing consumer group, getting those missing nutrients through water (which they should probably be drinking more of anyway) seems like an easy and convenient delivery format for the antioxidants they crave.