What is Functional Beverage?  

Traditionally functional beverage is a non-alcoholic drink containing non-traditional ingredients. It is marketed as a performance-enhancing substance and classified as conventional liquid food. Amino acids, proteins, vitamins, minerals, herbs, mushrooms, fresh fruits, and vegetables are popular ingredients in these products. Functional beverages have been around since the late 1920s, when the first “sports drink” was manufactured. Today functional beverages are everywhere in many forms.    

Nowadays, the functional beverage industry is the fastest-growing market in the sector. The Coronavirus pandemic accelerated an already ever-growing trend of increased health awareness. As a result, people are looking for more. Today worldwide, consumers seek a broad range of functional applications to boost their immune system, energy, and cognitive health. Consequently, functional beverage has kicked typical energy and soft drinks to the curb. Functional ingredients meet the increasing demand for healthier selections, and consumers are digging it!   

General health benefits claim to either decrease the risk of disease or improve the physical condition of the human body. Energy drinks usually involve taurine, carbohydrates, and other types of caffeine. Nutraceutical drinks promote health. Functional water is H2O with added chemicals like caffeine, oxygen, or hydrogen. In sports drinks, carbohydrates, sugar, low-cal sweeteners, or vitamin B are often used to refill glucose, electrolytes, and other substances during workouts. Finally, mushroom beverages promote a wide range of potential benefits, including increased immunity, decreased stress, and improved gut health.  

Overall, healthier ingredients are crucial to cocktail and mocktail trends within the food and beverage industry. The Bacardi Trend Report for 2022 predicts a surge of:   

Luxury libations: Mixologists and beverage enthusiasts alike have a stronger desire than ever for premium spirits and elevated cocktails. Using the highest quality functional ingredients is key to curating that perfect balance.
Digital drinking: Augmented mixology persists as many explore domestic mixology. Video sharing with Instagram and Tik Tok encourages new drinking cultures and mixology content sharing. On both platforms, users can explore ingredients to enjoy innovative, sustainable libations.
Seeking sustainably: Consumers are all about ethical, holistic, long-term solutions that empower and support the community. More than half of United States consumers prefer to purchase solely from their own country. Hospitality professionals agree that local partnerships are a top priority for 2022.
Consumption reconsideration: Sober-curious consumers are spearheading the growth of low-ABV and non-alcoholic cocktails. The NoLo beverage category has gained spotlights on menus across the states. NoLo spirits taste great and mix well with organic ingredients that elevate any drinking occasion.
Transformative times: Beverage lovers thrive under the influence of social connection. They embrace new, lively cocktail experiences together. As a result, restaurants and bars will need to offer more delicious beverages than those made at home. Incorporating the culinary art of functional beverage and expert mixology is key to satisfying the palates of 2022.

Learning and growing is the name of the game for true beverage experts. No matter your role, professionalism is about maintaining that high standard in all that you do. A genuine libation lover or mixology enthusiast understands that education is an absolute must. Those passionate about creating extraordinary drinks join professional societies to unite with the hospitality community. Hobbyists and industry leaders obtain certifications needed to quench their drive to master a wide range of skills.   

Many places offer beverage education communities online. Here are our recommendations:   

  • United States Bartenders Guild  – Education and networking opportunities in a robust online community.    
  • IAP College – Online Bar Owner classes and certification.   
  • BarSmarts – Industry-leading mixology education and certification.   
  • Society of Wine Educators – Vast educational resources, exercises, and graded quizzes designed to help members   

Running a solid beverage program requires dedication. Thriving establishments work as a team to build a following and elevate the Chef’s menu. Skilled management, talented leaders, creative individuals, and a regularly-trained team are essential. The Chef is a resource! Lean into the kitchen and the business’s mission statement to stay true to the restaurant’s concept. Consistency with that concept and your offerings makes for a better guest experience and draws a targeted demographic. Sales representatives are your best friend. Your rep attends training to stay on top of the industry standards and is an excellent resource. Making all of this a top priority is crucial. If done, your business could enjoy 40, 50, even 60 percent of overall beverage sales!  

Take it to the Next Level

Raise the bar for 2022! Once your beverage program is running like a well-oiled machine, get out there and promote it!    

  • Join the United States Bartenders Guild   
  • Participate contests   
  • Take advantage of social media influencers   
  • Do tastings with local chefs that have a following   

Categorically some ingredients aren’t suited to be mixed with alcohol. Functional mixed drinks are a healthier way to drink. Explaining the benefits of this type of consumption to consumers may be tricky but will pay off in the long run. So it is up to you and your team to be the expert and educate! Arming your menu with cocktails and mocktails that are equally delicious will attract a crowd interested in exploring.  

Zero-Waste is the thing these days. Start with your beverage program and forage the kitchen walk-in cooler for imperfect produce! You can turn garbage into gold with a bit of work and creativity. Ok, not literally garbage. Use the edible items that the kitchen doesn’t need, and the Chef will love you! Anything that may look a tad past its prime or even trimmings are often excellent ingredients for house-made cordials and mixers. Zero-waste certified restaurants are popping up all over:   

To meet certification requirements, zero-waste restaurants and bars must repurpose at least 90 percent of their waste. Quite the challenge – I know! You can start by reducing, recycling, and reusing most of your resources, bruised produce, and excess ingredients. Then, track and measure the scalability. Most likely, you may find a zero-waste program not only profitable but also rewarding.   

Functional Beverage Industry   

The pandemic has increased the demand for functional beverages. In June of 2020, 80 percent of consumers said they would maintain a healthier diet because of COVID-19. As a result, the market has seen incredible shifts and is forecasted to grow almost seven percent globally by 2025. The industry has a broad range of applications. Popular ingredients include vitamins, minerals, protein, caffeine, elderberry, probiotics, fatty oils, and fungi. In addition, beverage experts have been experimenting with nootropics like ginseng and green tea to enhance cognitive function.    

Young consumers are interested in hydration products like enhanced water as a viable alternative to soda pop.   

Plant-based substitutes are growing faster than total United States food retail sales. The United States has the largest market share in the global functional beverage. 2022 is the year to shine for mixology experts across the country. Leverage this opportunity and include RTD (ready-to-drink) with your to-go program because that’s what people expect these days. Common beverages in this sector, as you know, include sports and energy. However, mushroom teas and coffee has blasted off in the states. Though Chaga coffee has been a thing since World War Two, it took a while for the U.S. people to catch on to the uninterrupted taste of specific mushrooms. Imagine taking it to the next level with a Turkey Tail Espresso Martini or an Oyster Mushroom Dutch Tea cocktail.   

Functional fortified beverage is TOTALLY going to take the lead in 2022. JIN JIN fermented ‘superdrink’ does a fantastic job rounding off medicinal mushroom flavors in their cultured fruit beverages. Packed full of complex enzymes and beneficial bacteria, consumers drink JIN JIN to improve clarity and balance. Good gut health is much appreciated, and mushrooms play a big part. JIN JIN, similar to the consistent honey, is a perfect mixer or even in a smoothy. Paul Stamets, world-renowned mycologist, signature smoothy is delicious. It truly is an ideal way to start any day. Try it out yourself with the fermented ‘superdrink’:    

  • One banana   
  • 1 c milk (your choice)   
  • ½ c yogurt   
  • ½ c JIN JIN   
  • ½ c blueberries   
  • ½ teaspoon Lion’s Mane Mushroom Powder   
  • ½ teaspoon Turkey Tail Mushroom Powder   
  • ½ teaspoon Stamets 7 Mushroom Powder   
  • 1 serving protein powder (your choice)   
  • Ice   
  • Blast in a blender   
  • Enjoy!   

Anyway, you swing it; life just gets better if you stick with real, organic products.