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Enhancing the Performance of Functional Beverages

An athlete drinking juice for energy and training.

Consumption of functional beverages, drinks that contain perceived health benefits, is on the rise. The category represents a healthy segment of the market. Valued at $98.77 billion USD in 2019, the market is forecast to grow to $120.12 billion USD by 2024, with a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.0%. The positive performance of the functional beverage category can be attributed to the health-and-wellness trend, with a high demand for beverages that improve immunity or help fight off illness and disease. Here we examine top trends in the functional beverage market in a Q-and-A with Wellmune’s research and development director Donald Cox.

What benefits does Wellmune bring to a beverage?

Wellmune is a proprietary baker’s yeast beta 1,3/1,6 glucan. It has several scientifically proven benefits for immune health, setting it apart from other ingredients on the market. In fact, it is the only yeast beta glucan ingredient supported by more than a dozen published, peer-reviewed clinical studies. They demonstrate its ability to support overall immune function, help maintain overall physical health, protect against the harmful effects of stress, and to promote healthy energy levels and mental clarity.

At what levels can it be incorporated?

An efficacious daily serving varies based on age and weight. Wellmune’s clinical research supports a recommended serving of 250 mg per day for adults and 35mg–100 mg for children depending on age.

Are there any formulation, processing, or flavor challenges?

Wellmune is compatible – from both a flavor and stability standpoint – with most processing conditions encountered in beverage manufacturing. It is easily incorporated into a wide variety of beverages, including taste-sensitive products and clear drinks.

In what types of beverages does it work best?

Partly because immune health is sought after by consumers in every demographic group, Wellmune works well in a wide range of beverage categories. For example, it is an excellent addition to juices targeted at children, where it can provide a “halo polish” to a category that lost some of its reputation due to high sugar content and consumer drive for sugar reduction.

It is also perfect for sports nutrition beverages, where it can help meet the growing demand for immune health benefits among both serious athletes and “weekend warriors”. In a recent study, marathon runners consuming a beverage containing Wellmune saw a 19% reduction in the severity of URTIs compared to a placebo group. They also missed fewer post-marathon workouts and enjoyed a 10% decrease in total symptomatic days. And previous clinical research found that marathon runners taking Wellmune experienced a 22% increase in vigor and a 48% reduction in fatigue.


Can you explain more about what type of benefits consumers looking for in functional beverages?

Immune system support is the most common reason for consumers to buy healthy lifestyle products. Our latest consumer research shows nearly two thirds (63%) chose immune system support, ahead of healthy bones and joints, good digestive health, improve energy levels and heart health support.

“Demand for personalized immune health solutions and beverages that offer targeted nutrition is driving change in the beverage industry and requires formulating by benefit, demographics [and] lifestyle needs.» ~ Donald Cox, R&D Director, Wellmune


What type of claims are important to consumers?

Health messages are becoming more complex, and consumers have more access to information from many different information sources. Addressing consumer skepticism and confusion by formulating beverages with natural immune health ingredients supported by solid science has become an important factor in conveying easy-to-understand benefits to consumers. When it comes to their health and wellness, consumers realize one size does not fit all.

Worldwide, top purchase drivers for products with immune health benefits include transparency on claims. At the point of sale, consumers in many markets like to see clear information on the label regarding efficacy. In China, 48% of respondents said they like to see the benefits of a healthy lifestyle product explained and supported on the packaging. In Mexico, the figure is 50% and in Indonesia it is as high as 63%.

Consumers also see research or scientific data claims on the product as a purchase driver. In Brazil and Thailand, 51% consumers considered research data a top reason while in the US and Spain, that number is 40%.

In Colombia, for example, 51% of respondents said recognizing a brand is a driver to purchase. Meanwhile, in Japan, recognizing the active ingredient in a product is the most important factor, and it is the second most important driver in Italy.

Learn more about global consumer demand for immune health products. 

Download the Report


Euromonitor Passport
Mintel, Nutrition and Performance Drinks US, March 2018
Kerry Global Consumer Survey – Digestive and Immune Health, 2019
Mah, E, Kaden, VN, Kelley, KM, Liska, DJ ‘Beverage Containing Dispersible Yeast β-Glucan Decreases Cold/Flu Symptomatic Days After Intense Exercise: A Randomized Controlled Trial’, Journal of Dietary Supplements, 31 October 2018
Talbott S, and Talbott J. ‘Effect of Beta 1,3/1,6 Glucan on Upper Respiratory Tract Infection Symptoms and Mood State in Marathon Athletes’,»>Journal of Sports Science and Medicine 8:509-515. 2009

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