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5 min read

What Is a Functional Beverage?

Posted Feb 10, 2022 Updated Apr 15, 2024

The future of the beverage industry has arrived, and not only does it taste great, but it's also good for you! The future is functional, more specifically "functional beverages". Today, these beverages account for over 50% of the non-alcoholic beverage market! And they're still growing in popularity thanks to a booming health trend.

Consumers are no longer satisfied with a cup of sugar water and a side of diabetes. They want products that enhance their daily life with natural ingredients backed by scientific research designed to boost their wellness and productivity.

And what brings consumers that? Functional beverages, of course!

What Is a Functional Beverage?

Functional beverages are products that supply health benefits beyond essential nutritional factors. Rather than focusing solely on flavor, functional beverages aim to deliver more to the consumer.

For example, they might provide:1

  • An energy boost (energy drinks, coffee, tea)
  • Enhance exercise performance (sports and performance drinks, energy drinks)
  • Provide essential vitamins and minerals (dairy beverages, "smart" drinks, fruit juices, enhanced water, kombucha)
  • Or (as is the case with one particular beverage brand *wink wink*) enhance gut microbiome health and diversity

Functional Beverages Throughout History

Now you might be saying, haven't functional beverages existed forever? Haven't we been consuming tea for thousands of years not only for its warmth and herbaceous aroma and flavor but also for the enhanced alertness and mental acuity it provides? The answer: Yes!

Tea and coffee are perhaps the historical epitome of functional beverages. And surely alcohol was at one time or another thought to convey some health benefits to the imbiber. (And who could really argue that a glass of red wine after a long day's work isn't strictly "functional").

In recent times, various functional beverages have gone through waves of popularity such as the rise of Gatorade and other similarly-marketed sports and performance drinks. These drinks promised to both hydrate and replenish those nutrients lost during strenuous physical activity.

Then there was the tsunami of "energy" drinks such as Red Bull and 5 Hour Energy. These strove to replace the original functional beverages mentioned earlier (tea and coffee) as the go-to beverages for an early morning wake-up call or mid-day energy revitalizer.2 

Nowadays, it seems like there’s a new functional beverage released to the market every week. And all claim (with varying degrees of veracity) that their product delivers more to the consumer than other beverages.

Top 4 Ingredients in Functional Beverages

All functional beverage products promise to benefit the drinker. And thankfully, some actually deliver. Here are a few of the ingredients that dominate the market.


The global collagen market is exploding, increasing by 6.5% year after year and growing into a multi-billion dollar industry. Consumers are hungry (or thirsty) for more and more of one of the richest proteins produced in the body.

Collagen is primarily sought out for its cosmetic health benefits, such as enhanced skincare, bone density and health, and anti-aging properties. 

Nootropics and Adaptogens

Nootropics are supplements designed to improve and revitalize cognitive function, such as memory, alertness, or creativity. Ginseng is a popular nootropic used in functional beverages. It could provide brain-boosting effects and boost the immune system.3

Adaptogens are natural ingredients categorized as herbal remedies such as turmeric, ginger, or licorice. They're sought out for their stress-reduction capabilities, natural flavors, and earthiness.3


Like adaptogens, botanicals and extracts are also prized for their connection to nature. They help enhance flavor and provide various perceived health benefits. Plus they have thousands of years of history as an ingredient in beverages and food items.

The botanical market continues to explode as the use of these natural herbs, spices, and fruits increases in popularity.

Prebiotics and Probiotics

Modern scientific research has emphasized the importance of gut health to overall health and wellness. And as a result, the functional beverage industry has quickly joined the gut health movement with drinks offering both prebiotics and probiotics. 

Prebiotics are the food source for the healthy bacteria in your gut. And those healthy gut bacteria are called probiotics. 

The rise of fermented beverages like kombucha (which contains probiotics) and OLIPOP (which contains prebiotics) is symbolic of this new emphasis on the importance of the diversity of gut bacteria. And probiotics and prebiotics provide the means to meet this goal.4

OLIPOP: The Ultimate Functional Beverage

Searching for a soda that tastes great, but also does the work that other functional beverages promise?

Look no further than OLIPOP, with its unique combination of botanicals, plant fibers, and prebiotics such as chicory root, Jerusalem artichokes, and Nopal cactus. Each ingredient has been hand-picked for its distinct biome-supporting benefits so you can improve your gut health with every sip.


  1. Raman, M., Ambalam, P., & Doble, M. (2019). Probiotics, prebiotics, and fibers in nutritive and functional beverages. In Nutrients in Beverages (pp. 315–367). Elsevier.
  2. Rushton, M. (2021). The rise of functional beverages - foodbev media. FoodBev Media.
  3. Tireki, S. (2021). A review on packed non-alcoholic beverages: Ingredients, production, trends and future opportunities for functional product development. Trends in Food Science & Technology, 112, 442–454.
  4. Rushton, M. (2021). The rise of functional beverages - foodbev media. FoodBev Media.
Cheat Sheet
  • Functional beverages are products that supply health benefits beyond essential nutritional factors.
  • Functional beverages have been around for a while (think: coffee and tea!). But only recently has the marked exploded with even more options.
  • The four most common ingredients in today’s functional beverages include collagen, nootropics and adaptogens, botanicals, and prebiotics and probiotics.
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