Functional Beverages: Health and Produce in a Bottle

Functional beverages, the fastest growing sector of the functional food market, have become increasingly popular among the consumers due to their perceived health benefits. For example, Just Made Houston, TX, offers produce-based drinks, such as ginger greens, beets and turmeric, prickly pear and watermelon.

Nutritional drinks drive new produce department sales.

Originally printed in the January 2024 issue of Produce Business.

With their typically tantalizing flavors, eye-catching packages, and pledges of wellness, functional beverages continue to draw customers to the produce department.

Nielsen’s NIQ 2024 Broadbank Outlook Report, states that health, wellness, and lifestyle concerns will remain powerful influences on shopper behavior and basket spending. Further, in a survey focused on wallet shifts during pressured times, it reports that 26% of shoppers surveyed say they intended to spend more within the health and wellness category.

In NIQ’s 2023 Consumer Outlook, 46% of consumers identified physical or mental wellness as a top priority. It notes, “Various beverage categories that can easily benefit from this shift include functional drinks, plant-based beverages and adaptogenic beverages. Additionally, there is a renewed focus on beverages that meet consumer demand regarding specific health benefits, such as improved digestion, enhanced energy levels and stress reduction.”

Nielsen is headquartered in New York, NY.

That increase in health-conscious consumers seeking more protein and energy options is driving beverage growth, according to Circana’s 2024 Food and Beverage Outlook.

Circana’s executive vice president and practice leader, Sally Lyons Wyatt, says, “With continued innovation and adaptability, retailers and manufacturers will be poised to position themselves for success in the coming year and beyond.”

The Circana report also says another likely factor fueling beverage sales increase is that “it has had more innovation than other departments, which delivered excitement and encouraged category exploration.”

Glanbia Nutritional, Chicago, IL, reports in its U.S. Functional Beverage Market Insights 2023 that the market is growing. It lists functional beverage types such as energy drinks, sports drinks, functional waters and juices. Its figures denote energy drinks as the leader. But it notes, “Category lines are blurring as consumers seek multiple benefits like hydration, energy, and protein.” It also adds, “Product trends include an expansion of claims and new flavors.”


The website for Just Made, Houston, TX, encourages visitors to “Escape the Ordinary.” Founded in 2016, owner Walter Nimocks says consumers seek ingredients to deliver functional ingredients when combined with great-tasting fruit and vegetable juices.

“We’ve seen interest grow in ingredients such as maca, ashwagandha, camu camu, acerola, as well as mainstays such as turmeric and ginger.”

Just Made’s website lists almost 25 of its ingredients with descriptions of the potential health benefits. For instance, turmeric is anti-inflammatory, and carrots and oranges are antioxidants.

“Immunity, mood/anti-anxiety, recovery, heart health, and gut health all seem to be the main attributes that are driving consumers’ purchasing decisions,” Nimocks says.

“Immunity, mood/anti-anxiety, recovery, heart health and gut health all seem to be the main attributes that are driving consumers’ purchasing decisions.”

— Walter Nimocks, Just Made, Houston, TX

Just Made’s drinks sport a colorful array, such as ginger greens, beets and turmeric, prickly pear and watermelon.

While shots share a smaller segment of the market, Nimocks notes their growth reflects convenience. Just Made’s larger shots’ ingredients include papaya for gut health, oregano oil for recovery and fermented beets for heart health. Six new shots — Heart Health, Gut Health + Probiotics, Productivity, Immunity + Antioxidants, Recovery, and Anti-Stress — will be coming this spring.

Bing Beverage, Denver, CO, produces energizing real juices that are lightly carbonated and moderately caffeinated. Bing Cherry features real black Bing cherry juice, Asian ginseng, five B vitamins, 100% of vitamin C, 120 mg caffeine, 40 calories and no high fructose corn syrup.

Founded in 2006 by a husband-and-wife team, Bing Beverage introduced a new look this fall. “We used bright colors and playful fruit silhouettes to create a direct visual message that Bing is all about fruit juice. The modern design was created with our loyal consumers in mind, who tell us they’re devoted to Bing simply for the taste. Not many low-calorie or zero-calorie beverages can claim that,” says Susan Seckman, Bing’s vice president and co-founder.

“We reduced added sugars by over 50% in four of our five flavors,” she added. “We kept all the juice, just lowered the cane sugar a tad, creating slightly lighter, yet still very juicy-tasting and refreshing Blackberry, Blueberry, Crisp Apple and Raspberry varieties. Cherry — our signature flavor — keeps its original and immensely popular formula.”

The So Good So You company, Minneapolis, MN, crafts probiotic juice shots of convenient, nutrient-dense superfoods to “help you feel so good.” Its collection comprises several shots for immunity and energy, plus happy, calm, beauty, digestion, detox and metabolism.

Community Marketing Manager Madalyn Johnson says bestsellers of the probiotic shot lineup include Immunity Ginger Cayenne, Detox Pineapple Orange, Energy Mango Spinach and Happy Blood Orange Guava.

“While each of these functions includes specific ingredients such as ginger, spirulina, green tea extract and ashwagandha, they all feature 1 billion colony-forming units of probiotics,” Johnson adds.

There is a great interest in pomegranate juice because this superfruit contains antioxidant properties, and can potentially positively affect a range of health conditions. Savvy retailers will highlight health information and benefits of functional beverages like pomegranate.

POM Wonderful, Los Angeles, CA, is part of the super-premium beverage category and has been a leader in providing antioxidants to consumers since 2002. “As the food and beverage industry shifts toward better-for-you products, we are committed to being a part of the movement, not only within our own walls, but across the industry,” says Stacey Anker, POM Wonderful’s director of marketing.

“We use a proprietary method to press whole pomegranates to create our POM Wonderful 100% Pomegranate Juice.”

That process releases polyphenol antioxidants from the rind, pith and arils, she explains.

Pomegranate Blueberry and Pomegranate Cherry, both with 100% juice, add to the choices of antioxidants.

V8+ Energy, Camden, NJ, juices are rich in B vitamins and have no added sugar. They are made from fruit, veggies and caffeine from tea.

Alex Fein, senior associate branch manager, V8+Energy, Campbells, says, “V8+ Energy provides steady energy from Black & Green Tea, that stands out when compared with other energy offerings on the market. For context, each can contains 80 mg of caffeine — which is comparable to a cup of coffee — and can be said to help with benefits like focus and concentration. In addition, V8+ Energy also contains one full combined serving of fruits and vegetables, making it a true better-for-you source of energy.”

This spring, Fein adds, the company is expanding its No. 1 performing flavor, Pomegranate Blueberry, into a sparkling format for those consumers who prefer carbonated offerings. “Additionally, we will be launching limited-edition Summertime Strawberry and Watermelon flavors, to be found in select stores.”

“Moving forward, we plan to launch many more unique twists on seasonal favorites, which we are incredibly excited to share with our consumers.”


Surveys reveal consumers are not fully aware how beverage ingredients contribute to their health, so smart retailers will use clear communications to connect the ingredients to specific functional benefits and wellness outcomes.

POM Wonderful’s Anker says the company is “constantly working with our retailers to ensure our products are being highlighted and customers can easily access information about the benefits of our products. Our in-store displays have QR codes that can be scanned by customers to easily access information.”

The functional beverage category is continuing to grow exponentially, says Rita Katona, founder of So Good So You.

“Consumers continue to shift away from preservative- and artificial ingredient-filled solutions to their food and beverage needs and more toward products that deliver a truly food-based functional benefit. So Good So You continues to deliver on the growing desire of consumers to use food as medicine and as a way to proactively manage their health, through our ongoing development of new products to meet their everyday needs.”

Bing’s Seckman explains the brand’s fresh new look helps boost sales. “The updated look clearly aligns with retailers’ desires for visually appealing products that readily stand out on store shelves. The vibrant hues with white lettering were chosen specifically to appeal to younger generations who respond to direct, bottom-line messaging. New social media influencers and an updated website allow more direct consumer interaction.”

She adds they did not change the intense, natural juice flavors, which she characterizes as the most important part of the drink.

Fein assesses promotion from the bottom line. “Perhaps the most meaningful statistic about our brand is that roughly 60% of V8+Energy triers become repeat purchasers. As a result, we are working diligently to drive ‘cans in hands’ this year with expanded sampling initiatives in core markets. Thus far, we have distributed 250,000 samples across 542 activation events. At those events, 90% of those sampled are very likely or somewhat likely to purchase again.”