Many functional beverages use ingredients that are great for you—but may lack appealing taste. Not only does honey mask the unpleasant flavor of these ingredients, but it also brings familiarity to functional products that people may otherwise be unfamiliar with.
For example, aloe water isn’t a household name, but add honey to the moniker—Honey Aloe Water—and consumers are more likely to take a chance. This is one of the key reasons why we see honey’s increasing use in functional beverages. This all-natural sweetener brings a familiar flavor and name to an otherwise non-traditional product.
Honey: Form + Function
It’s an exciting time for honey in beverages, with the ingredient moving beyond just a sweetener for tea and into more innovative products. For example, Haymaker’s Punch and HP+ puts a new spin on switchel, a beverage dating back to hard-working New England farmers in the 1700s.
HP Drinks’ Haymaker’s Punch combines light clover honey, non-carbonated filtered water, apple cider vinegar, organic dark cherry juice concentrate and organic ginger juice for a gluten-free, clean label, thirst- quenching sip. Also available is HP+, which adds an additional 70mg of organic caffeine. These are two made with honey drinks that are on trend, providing natural electrolytes and antioxidants.
Chief “Haymaking Officer” Linton Wells says HP Drinks chose honey not only because it's a historically correct and natural switchel drink sweetener, but also because it tastes great and provides a sweet mellow overtone to balance the apple cider vinegar.
Another functional beverage on the market is Rebbl’s Matcha Latte Super Herb Elixir. Matcha Latte is a modern twist on green tea, “soulfully crafted with a touch of forest honey in creamy coconut milk,” the company says. This plant-powered drink includes calming L-Theanine, caffeine and coconut MCTs.
Teakoe Tea Supply Co., Denver, says its Fizzy Tea takes “a holistic approach to creating better-for-you products.” The Signature Cold Brew variety is a 100% organic black tea naturally sweetened with honey and lemon juice. Best served chilled, Fizzy Black contains only 30 calories per 12fl-oz can.
When used in functional beverages, honey delivers countless benefits beyond flavor. For starters, it’s a natural, unprocessed sweetener made by honey bees. Honey also delivers pure energy through the form of carbohydrates.
Further, research has shown that honey contains a variety of phytochemicals (as well as other substances such as organic acids, vitamins and enzymes) that may serve as sources of dietary antioxidants.
In fact, flavonoids and polyphenols, which act as antioxidants, are two main bioactive molecules present in honey according to U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH). In general, darker honey varietals have been shown to be higher in antioxidant content than lighter honeys. Additionally, NIH data show that honey has been reported to exert anti-inflammatory effects.
With so many functional benefits to offer, it’s no wonder that beverage manufacturers are looking to honey to sweeten teas, switchels, RTD coffees, kombuchas, matchas and more.
To learn more about how honey fits perfectly into crafting functional beverages, visit the National Honey Board’s resources at honey.com.