Functional beverages are moving beyond the taurine- and caffeine-fueled performance quaff to more sophisticated formulations that target specific health conditions. It's a milestone in an already booming functional foods market: Naked Juice just introduced a probiotic disguised as a smoothie; Everest Premium has launched a new bottled water containing healing aloe; and Unilever is enjoying positive reviews of its new Promise Activ Supershots, a line of mini drinks enhanced with cholesterol-lowering plant sterols.
“It's simple, it's portable, it's powerful and it's really convenient to add to your daily health regimen,” said Doug Balentine, Unilever's director of nutrition and health. Each 3-ounce yogurt-based drink contains 2 grams of sterols, more than half of the recommended daily amount.
“Plant sterols are one of the most effective food-based ingredients for managing cholesterol that we can add into the food supply,” he said.
The market for functional beverages is being targeted by manufacturers for fast-track development. Sales of nutritionally enhanced food, beverages and juices are predicted to grow to $6.4 billion in 2008. The pace of this growth may be limited only by the challenges of working with ingredients that affect taste and mouth feel. Balentine thinks they'll be overcome as the industry matures.
“If you give consumers a number of options they can use at different times and points during the day, then you have [found] a simple and easy way to fit into their normal lifestyles. These small changes can have a real impact on overall health and wellness.”