Water on its own can be a healthy choice, but consumers are increasingly looking for more than just the basic benefits from H2O. Functional water has been on the rise, with this category including water with added ingredients like collagen, caffeine and botanicals. These types of additions are often intended to boost energy, mood, digestion, mental clarity, skin health and more.

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Over a recent three-month span, one-quarter of consumers tried functional water. Generally, functional water appeals to a younger, more wellness-oriented crowd. But much as flavored water has increasingly gone mainstream, so too could functional water.

However, it’s important to note that many functional benefits are anecdotal, and brands should consider whether any scientific research has been conducted before promoting the benefits of various ingredients. That said, for brands looking to appeal to health-conscious consumers who may be looking for alternatives to sports or energy drinks, functional water is an exciting category.

Uplifting the Body and Mind

A glass of water can help you feel refreshed, but many consumers also want added energizing ingredients. “Energy” was the top functional benefit claimed by drinks launched in 2019. For example, the addition of B vitamins to water may be used to try to increase energy.

This trend around energizing drinks also coincides with the growth of nootropics, which are supplements that may potentially boost brain health and cognition. Some of the more common nootropics include caffeine and creatine.

Mintel reported that in 2019, 8% of waters launched in the U.S. included caffeine, whereas less than 2% of waters launched in 2006 included this ingredient.

Other types of nootropics, such as L-theanine, generally aren’t added to give the same type of energizing boost as caffeine. However, L-theanine can potentially provide a calming effect without making you sleepy. So, water brands may include this type of ingredient and market it as a way to lift you up if you’re feeling mentally worn down.

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Incorporating Botanicals

In addition to nootropics, water brands can add adaptogens to appeal to consumers looking to improve their well-being. Generally, adaptogens refer to botanical ingredients that can potentially reduce physical and mental stress to help restore a natural balance to individuals.

Some of the more common types of adaptogens that can be added to water include holy basil, maca, ginseng and certain types of mushrooms. Adding these types of botanical ingredients may appeal to consumers looking to improve their physical and mental well-being while trying to use natural ingredients.

Overall, the number of food and drink launches that used “botanical” in their descriptions soared by 113% from 2012/13 to 2017/18, according to research from Mintel.

The Beauty of Water

Another way that water can be functional is to provide beauty benefits. For example, collagen water has been on the rise, with this ingredient being used to support skin health, stimulate hair and nail growth and even help promote strong joints and bones.

Collagen can also be combined with complementary ingredients like hyaluronic acid that claim to help skin quality. This ingredient was featured in 5% of collagen drink launches in 2019, according to Mintel. Other ingredients like rose bud extract and royal jelly have also been catching on in an effort to promote skin health.

Considering that many consumers are trying to drink more water in general as part of their beauty/wellness regimen, the addition of functional ingredients that may potentially help people look their best could make water even more appealing.

A World of Possibilities

Water can be a blank canvas on which brands can add functional ingredients to try to support everything from physical energy to mood to skin health. Functional water can even tie into areas like sustainability, such as if brands sell powdered mixes that can be added to reusable water bottles, as opposed to having to buy a bottled wellness drink. And the types of ingredients that can appeal to consumers seems to be continually evolving.

So, brands that want to reach more consumers may benefit from going beyond the basics with water.

Want to learn about what consumers are looking for when purchasing water and explore the possibilities you can offer? Contact your Symrise account manager or reach out to our team of flavor and ingredient trend experts.

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