Beverage Functionality: How Does Honey Fit into the Equation?

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The term functionality in the beverage industry is similar to “clean label” in the food space: Both are defined fluidly, highly personalized and depend on what the consumer deems valuable. When defining functionality — additional benefits or purposes beyond basic hydration and taste in beverages — we can mark a few factors based on recent industry trends and consumer reports. Product developers who use honey as the No. 1 sweetener in beverages not only are staying on trend, but they’re meeting functionality demands in three key ways:

  1. Better for you ingredients. With advancements in ingredient format, flavor and innovation, CPG brands and consumers are becoming more focused on the sweeteners on the label. In fact, almost half of the Hartman Group’s Modern Beverage Culture 2,200 respondents said that their beverage choices are based on recognizable, simple ingredients, “underscoring the growing trend for diverse, yet familiar flavors like florals, herbs and spices.” With 300 varietals of honey in the U.S. alone, honey’s flavor combination potential — especially with trending hibiscus — is a great way for product developers to stand out on supermarket shelves.
  2. Energy. Scott Dicker, market insight director for SPINS, told Food Navigator, “Energy drinks might be on the cusp of the next better for you evolution, which will see natural sweeteners gain … I think as we move to the next level of better for you there’s going to be an opportunity for more natural sweeteners.” Honey has 17 grams of carbohydrates per tablespoon, and the natural sugars in honey, primarily fructose and glucose, can provide a quick energy boost.
  3. Relaxation, stress relief and mood boosting. According to Functional Beverages AM to PM: stress and anxiety are the most common health-related concerns for Americans. Beverage developers are being tasked with adding functional ingredients that calm, soothe and relax consumers. Honey added to tea is a time-tested combination to soothe after a long day. Plus, the antioxidants in honey — flavonoids and polyphenols — may help combat oxidative stress and inflammation in the body.

Beverage developers are using honey more as a functional, better-for-you sweetener in a number of CPG products. Here are a few of our favorites that are making their mark in the functional category:

Pomegranate Honey Green Tea, POM

Green tea leaves are gently brewed, helping preserve the tea’s natural antioxidants. The tea is then blended with honey, pomegranate juice and notes of rose to create an RTD tea that’s buzzing with sweet, refreshing flavor.

Photo Credit: POM
Photo Credit: Honeydrop

Honey Infused Wellness Shots—Boost, Honeydrop

Get a boost of energy with honey wellness shots and matcha green tea. Boost is just one variety of the made-with-honey functional beverages that also includes Restore, Immunity and Detox.

Rockin’ Raspberry Functional Fruit Shake, Gnubees Kids

Functionality isn’t just for adults! Rockin’ Raspberry is a kid-friendly on-the-go shake made with honey, raspberry and organic pear juice, lemon juice and skim milk. The school safe product has 6 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber.

Photo Credit: Gnubees Kids
Photo Credit: Spare Tonic

Passion Fruit & Yuzu, Spare Tonic

Spare Tonic’s sweetened-with-honey canned beverage is a refreshing drink that revitalizes the body with key nutrients, protein and probiotics from fresh, upcycled whey. Hydrate post-workout and recharge electrolytes while taking in 6 grams of protein via this all-natural fuel.

Formulating honey beverages with function? Let us know about the next innovative product by emailing [email protected].