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Functional beverages find biggest fans among Millennials

Functional beverages find biggest fans among Millennials

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Last week, flavor manufacturer FONA shared its most recent research relating to Millennials and their habits and attitudes toward functional beverages. The company found that this age group—those currently 25-34—are the demographic with the highest consumption of health-boosting, functional beverages, such as sports drinks, probiotic beverages, weight loss drinks and meal replacement beverages.

FONA’s study found that 57 percent of Millennial consumers partook in “all segments within the functional beverage category,” including sports drinks, weight loss drinks and meal replacements. FONA’s study also found that that Millennials are the group most likely to consume one or more functional beverages (both packaged and from restaurants/foodservice) per day.

“The day might start with a Muscle Milk and include a Monster energy drink to survive the mid-afternoon slump or late night study session. And no doubt a protein or sports beverage appears in between,” state the authors.

In addition to overall health and wellness concerns, part of what makes Millennials a key market for functional beverages, according to researchers, is their belief that “functional foods have the ability to replace some medications.” FONA found that Millennials choose functional beverages to:

• manage stress

• combat fatigue

• lose weight

• maintain eye health (given Millennials’ heavy use of digital tools, say the researchers)

Opportunities for restaurants

With Millennials expected to account for 30 percent of all restaurant visits by 2020 (they will also account for 30 percent of all beverage growth in the coming years), functional beverages can be a revenue stream for foodservice operations.

“Creating concepts that are tasty and functional should be a top focus,” write the study’s authors.

In fast-casual restaurants, the current beverage of choice for Millennials, 32 percent of the time, is water. This presents an opportunity for the operator: “Millennials are magnets for customizable drinks like smoothies or lemonades and would appreciate functional aspects and nutrition with natural sweeteners,” says FONA.

Smooth(ie) operators

While most (44 percent) smoothie-swilling Millennials make their concoctions at home, restaurants can grab more of those occasions if they can balance convenience, nutrition and price. Nearly half—46 percent—of Millennials who frequent smoothie shops say they are driven by convenience, while 45 percent of them say price determines their smoothie purchasing decisions. Finally, “The health value of smoothies appeals especially to older Millennials, 25 percent of whom drink smoothies for the wider varieties of vitamins and nutrients,” write the authors.

Finally, advise the authors, no matter what type of food or beverage you’re selling, there are some tenets to keep in mind when marketing to Millennials:

1. Millennials are “fiercely brand loyal.”

2. They value convenience and authenticity.

3. They mistrust most advertising but are more open if they view it online.

4. They like companies that “give back” and those that interact with them on social media.

5. In both foods and beverages, Millennials like to experiment with flavors: Hot, bold, sweet, as well as ethnic flavors. (“The more exotic, the better,” writes FONA.)

6. Millennials are price sensitive but are willing to pay for added nutritional value or health.

On-trend functional beverages:


“D-Tox:” pineapple, young coconut water, mint, green apple, chlorophyll water (Project Juice, San Francisco)


“#GETYOURGREENS:” celery, cucumber, swiss chard, romaine, cilantro, lemon, ginger, aloe (Project Juice, San Francisco)

Health Targets:

“Blood Regenerator:” Spinach, kale, celery, beet and carrot juices (Veggies Natural Juice bar, NYC)

"Skin Trip:” Carrot, spinach, cucumber, parsley and aloe vera (Liquiteria, NYC)

“Eye Health Plus:” (tea) Chrysanthemun flower, bilberry fruit, goji berry,  schizandra berry, ginkgo leaf, gynostemma Spring Dragon Longevity tea, fresh mint (Caravan of Dreams, NYC)

Probiotic Cocktails:

“Marco Polo:” Kombucha (tea fermented with a culture of yeast and bacteria), Italian amaro, an Indian IPA, and, seasonally, cranberry, tobacco or chamomile. (Betony, NYC)

“Tonic Cocktail:” Strawberries, dates, vanilla bean with raw cacao, maca, goji berries, almond butter, aloe vera, kelp and black currants with a shot of cashew cream kefir (Caravan of Dreams, NYC)

Tea Party:

“Villa Slugger:” Vanilla rooibos tea, Elijah Craig 12-year bourbon, Fernet Branca, raspberry gum and lemon (Jackknife, Portland, OR)

Contact Gina Ragone at [email protected]

Follow her on Twitter: @RagoneGina

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