Healthy Beverages

Making Every Sip Count

The soft drinks market is the world’s most innovative food sector (1) and the European functional beverage market, including those perceived as healthy beverages, is expected to grow at a CAGR of 8.25% from 2021 to 2026 (2). Near term food trend predictions will be a combination of affordable holistic health and self-care, with a sprinkling of indulgence, underpinned by sustainability.

Whether the focus is to design innovative healthy beverages, value engineer existing products, or reformulate to adjust for broken supply chains, knowledge of affordable health-promoting ingredients and systems is fundamental.

The Sweet Taste of Self-Care

Consumers are being given more information about the health-components of the food that they purchase. Many EMEA markets are adopting, mostly voluntary, colour-coded and user-friendly front-of-pack labelling, such as Nutri-Score. Promotions and advertising on food and drinks high in fat, sugar and salt (HFSS) were due to be restricted from October 2022, in the UK, but have been delayed for one year due to the ‘unprecedented global economic situation’ (3). These measures are still coming, and will serve to assist consumers in making better health choices, albeit at the right price-point.

Driven by Covid-related health concerns, and facilitated by front-of-pack information, the Mindful Nutritionist is seeking out self-care and healthy beverages that they know are both better for them (low sugar, natural-origin, allergen-free) and also deliver a noticeable boost in terms of improved mood, better sleep quality, more energy and focus, and better skin and hair.

The formulation sweet-spot for self-care and healthy beverages relies on identifying the optimal combination of natural flavours, sweetening systems, functional health ingredients and texturisers to deliver the self-care agenda. Recent sugar-reduction innovation has produced sweetening systems that utilise more refined stevia extracts and sugar alcohols, as well as the highly label-friendly cereal and dried fruit extracts. Then there are the soluble dual purpose prebiotic fibres, such as fructooligosaccharides (FOS) (c30-65% sweetness vs sugar) that are derived from various produce such as chicory, and the slightly sweet galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS) derived from lactose in cow’s milk.

Healthy Beverages That Punch Above Their Weight – Affordable Holistic Self-Care

Demand for products supporting the immune system, leading to the inclusion of vitamin C and zinc, has jumped in Europe with half of consumers having claimed to have started taking vitamins and minerals that support immune health (4).

More is being discovered about the significant effects of the gut microbiome on holistic health. Prebiotics are being shown to stimulate immune health through feeding, and therefore increasing, the number of beneficial gut microbes, or probiotics, resulting in an increase in anti-inflammatory cytokines (small proteins involved in cell signalling) (5). Offering consumers affordable and convenient ways to boost fibre intake and therefore gut health, by inclusion of soluble fibres such as inulin, FOS or GOS, in beverage products, is one way to attract the Mindful Nutritionist who is looking to improve their immune health.

Targeted Self-Care

 “The improper and inadequate nutrition intake through diet have put the elderly at a marked risk of PEM (Protein Energy Malnutrition), affecting about 23-60% elderly” (6). It is now possible to create protein beverages, that would benefit the health and wellbeing of specific customer groups, including growing children and the elderly, as well as having a wider appeal.

In terms of product formulation, there is almost unlimited scope for new taste and texture combinations, so the challenge is to develop these whilst hitting those natural and low/no-sugar targets, and offering optimal nutrient density; boosting health in everyday as well as premium products.

Mindful Nutritionists of all ages are recognising the value of everyday opportunities to boosts their nutrition regime; making every sip count.

Free Healthy Beverages Formulation webinar – 17th June 2022.

If you are active in the development of healthy beverages then you might be be interested in the forthcoming webinar hosted by Univar Solutions Food Ingredients, to be held on the 17th June

This presents an opportunity for food and drink development teams, as they focus on solutions that can provide indulgence and support consumers’ self-care needs, enhance the nutrient density, and, at the same time, offer products that are low in fat, salt and sugar. 

Join Univar Solutions Food Ingredients team to discuss formulating for healthy beverage products as they showcase some of the most functional and innovative ingredients and technologies. 

Discover Wellness in Beverages

Register Now


  5. Effects of prebiotics on immune system and cytokine expression – PubMed (