Honey Adds Sweetness to Functional Beverage Trends

Posted by National Honey Board on February 01, 2021

RTD Tea cropped

If something is functional, it’s designed to serve a purpose, and in 2021 consumers are looking to beverages to not only quench their thirst and provide enjoyment, but they also want beverages to impart functional attributes.

And of course, functional beverages need to taste great, which is where honey shines. As a flavor and sweetener, honey gives beverage manufacturers the ability to sweeten beverages with an all-natural and unprocessed ingredient. Plus, honey can be used as a positive marketing benefit in clean-label ingredient listings and through packaging graphics. What other sweetener can accomplish this?

In functional beverages, honey may mask any unpleasant flavors from ingredients in these products. Honey also provides familiarity to a beverage that may contain unfamiliar flavors. Therefore, consumers are more likely to grab a functional beverage with honey. Check out these three functional beverage trends and some innovative functional beverages with honey.


Trend No. 1: Inflammatory Benefits

A major driver of the functional beverage market in 2021 will be drinks that help with inflammation. A number of companies have named this in their top forecasted trend lists, and research has shown that honey contains a variety of phytochemicals (as well as other substances such as organic acids, vitamins and enzymes) that may serve as sources of dietary antioxidants. In fact, flavonoids and polyphenols, which act as antioxidants, are two main bioactive molecules present in honey says the U.S. National Institutes of Health. In general, darker honey varietals have been shown to be higher in antioxidant content than lighter honeys. Additionally, honey has been reported to exert anti-inflammatory effects, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

Food & Beverage Insider reports that consumers in 2021 will search for ingredients that have anti-inflammatory properties, and BeverageDaily.com reported that ingredients that possess anti-inflammatory properties “will be in the spotlight.”


Trend No. 2: Energy

Honey delivers pure energy through the form of carbohydrates, with 17 grams of carbohydrates in one tablespoon. Post-workout and energy booster drinks will see a bevy of launches this year, BeverageDaily.com reports, in the form of protein drinks, electrolyte replenishers, performance enhancers, energy boosters and weight-loss elixirs. “Brands will differentiate by using clean label … or diet-friendly ingredients as well as incorporating multiple functional ingredients in a single product.” Natural Products Insider notes that RTD functional beverage opportunities “will continue noticeably” in the energy category, with this beverage market “increasing in demand, diversity and types of function” not only in energy but in the aforementioned inflammation demand.


Trend No. 3: Clean Label and Transparency

And then there’s the demand for clean label functional beverages, which honey is perfectly positioned to satisfy. Lu Ann Williams, director of insights and innovation at Innova Market Insights, told Beverage Industry that “transparency throughout the supply chain will dominate in 2021, with consumers searching for brands that can build trust, provide authentic and credible products, and create shopper confidence in the current and post-COVID climate.” With six in 10 global consumers wanting to know where their food comes from, they may be sweet on honey.

With so many functional benefits to offer, it’s no wonder that beverage manufacturers are looking to honey as a functional ingredient in functional beverages. Here’s just a few examples of recent releases that fit 2021’s trend predictions.

X2 Performance Pre + Intra Workout Powder Power Punch launched at the end of 2020 in a partnership with NBA Champion Kawhi Leonard. The company says this made with honey powder includes “energy-storing molecules your body uses to increase energy, enhance endurance and improve both in- and post-workout recovery.”

Honey and tea have always been synonymous, and with white tea being the least processed tea, it’s ripe with antioxidants. Inko’s White Tea is an RTD bottled iced tea that provides refreshing energy via honey as a sweetener.

Cloud Water’s entire new immunity line is made with honey, but we’re particularly in love with the Blood Orange & Coconut with Vitamin D & Zinc can. Made with wildflower honey, lemon juice concentrate and Vitamin D3, this water is non-GMO, gluten-free and certified kosher. And, as an added bonus, it comes in eco-friendly packaging and only 40 calories per can.