It’s fair to say that consumers have altered routines, traditions, and social lives during two years of pandemic living. 

Just consider that many have had to become their own bartenders and baristas while hunkered down at home. And to keep up with ever-changing global health protocols and guidelines, consumers have incorporated more healthy habits that might now become true behavior patterns.

Pardon the play on words but it’s a quite a fluid market. Functional beverages deliver the nutritional benefits that consumers are looking for and the North American functional beverage market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 7.02% from 2021-2026 (Mordor Intelligence). Meanwhile, continued labor and supply chain shortages also are affecting the availability of certain ingredients and products at grocery stores, restaurants, and bars. As might be expected, this is forcing consumers to adapt. As of January 2, 2022, market tracker IRI reported beverage shortages in U.S. grocery stores are at 14%.

When consumers are finding products on shelf, their two primary purchase motivators can be termed as “Good for You” (GFY) and/or “Good for the Planet” (GFP).

Good for You
In 2021, brands paid attention to the movement towards healthier habits. This translated to fortification and adding ingredients; or conversely, removing some maligned ingredients.

Not surprisingly, growing consumer awareness literally translates to dollars and cents. Market observers point to greater widespread interest in nootropics, adaptogens, and electrolytes. For its part, Grandview Research values the global nootropics market at $9.57 billion and expects that market to grow at a CAGR of 15.0% from 2021 to 2028.

In conjunction, it’s important to note that consumers now are considering health goals and incorporating certain “need states” into beverage purchase considerations. During the pandemic, 44% of global consumers say they have sought out functional food and beverages more frequently (FMCG Gurus). Exploration in this category has made room for market opportunities for new products.

It’s no surprise that major consumer packaged goods leaders such as PepsiCo are experimenting in the functional beverage category. Even so, smaller entrepreneurial brands are actively angling to get a foothold. One is Alani Nutitrion, Louisville, Ky., which launched Alani Nu energy drinks in 2020 with both adaptogens (ginseng) and nootropics (L-theanine). This January saw the brand extend that line with a Berry Pop flavor co-created with TikTok personality Addison Rae. Another Midwest contender is Good Beverages LLC, Hinsdale, Ill., with its Heywell adaptogenic sparkling waters.

This year finds consumers looking for beverages with ingredients to support cognitive health, gut health, energy, and enhanced beauty. Global research fielded in 2020 revealed that 53% of consumers were interested in cognitive health and that number rose by 13% in 2021, according to FMCG Gurus. Ashwagandha, L-theanine, and cannabis (specifically CBD) are just a few of the ingredients driving this trend.

Healthier lifestyles also inspire change in a less obvious place: the alcohol industry. Nielsen data show that 58% of consumers were drinking more “No” or “Low Alcohol” products (NoLo) in the latter half of 2021, when compared with the previous year.

Brands have responded with ready-to-drink mocktails and mixers and “alcohol-ish” spirits (some even infused with botanicals). Zero Proof Australia Pty Ltd., Sydney, created its Lyres line of spirits, wine and premixed mocktails to look, taste and, and mimic the mouthfeel of the originals. The products feature ingredients such as juniper and jasmine. Last year saw Mingle Mocktails, Philadelphia, introduce a line of single-serve drinks that mirror classic cocktail varieties. For its part, MYMO Inc., Los Angeles, focuses its Ghia line around non-alcoholic aperitifs with no artificial flavors, added sugars, or preservatives.

Social media and pop culture certainly influence consumer trends. According to data from YouGov, 24% of adults said celebrities, athletes, and social media stars are effective at influencing their beverage and alcohol purchases. From A-list celebs to micro-content creators, this subset is creating brands and beverages ranging from energy drinks to tequilas.

Katy Perry joined the ranks after announcing the launch of De Soi, a line of non-alcoholic aperitifs in tandem with the popular “Dry January” public health campaign. Youtubers Logan Paul and Olajide Olayinka Williams "JJ" Olatunji (better known as KSI) joined forces to launch, Prime, a hydration drink, in January 2022. The initial launch includes five flavors containing B vitamins, BCAAs, antioxidants, coconut water, and electrolytes.

Meanwhile, the social media platform, TikTok, has thrived during the past two years with the notable hashtag “tiktokmademebuyit” having 7.8 billion views. This demonstrates how influencers can and will direct consumers’ purchasing behavior.

Good for the Planet
Generational behavior also influences eating and purchasing habits. Demographic professionals estimate that Gen Z consumers control an estimated buying power of just under $150 billion, which means these younger consumers help drive trends while exerting their strong interests in ethical sourcing, sustainable manufacturing practices, and shopping “small.”

Expert say Millennials also value these product attributes and they are twice as likely as Boomers to buy foods identified for having a small carbon footprint or carbon-neutral, according to the International Food Information Council (IFIC). Overall, IFIC survey data show Millennials and Gen Z spent 125% more in 2021 compared to what they were spending pre-Covid.

Meanwhile, there are outside forces at work. A recent Environmental Protection Agency study found greater amounts of fragrances, flame retardants, solvents, biocides, and dyes in products made from recycled materials. Perhaps not coincidentally, US lawmakers are drafting new rules to reduce toxic chemicals in packaging, uncover “truth in packaging” and extend producer responsibility.

Research conducted in September 2021 by Tetra Pak, revealed that 61% of consumers expect food and beverage companies to help solve environmental and waste concerns. It’s likely that we are going to see more brands using packaging and promotional materials to convey their sustainability practices and sourcing techniques.

Erin Costello is the Communications & Events Associate at Imbibe, a Chicago-area product development company specializing in beverages. With a passion for marketing, particularly in content creation, copywriting, and campaign strategy, Costello helps plan and implement communication strategies across multiple platforms. She earned her BA in marketing from Benedictine University. Learn more about Imbibe at