Gone are the days when functional beverages looked like caffeinated energy shots or sports performance drinks laden with sugar. From aphrodisiac elixirs to calming CBD-infused spritzers; bubbly water with immune-boosting adaptogens to non-carbonated water designed to encourage sleep—now seemingly every health condition has a solution in drink form. They’re known as functional beverages—drinks that include an added boost nutrition—and they’re seriously buzzing.
With greater awareness of the negative health outcomes of COVID-19 for people with compromised immune systems and weight-related conditions like cardiovascular disease and diabetes, 43% of Americans are resolving to adopt healthier diets this year, according to a YouGov survey. Liquids are an obvious place to start—Alcohol Change UK estimates over 6.5 million people are abstaining from drinking alcohol for Dry January. Even before the pandemic, interest in sugary juices and pop soda drinks has been gradually declining, while water consumption is up.
But abstinence isn’t enough to satisfy our thirst for both flavorful drinks and better health. In the wake of the pandemic, consumers are drinking up the functional beverage trend—over half of adults surveyed by The Hartman Group last year reported using beverages to treat or prevent a specific condition and maintain overall health.
With their physical convenience, shelf-stability and ease of consumption, it’s no surprise the functional beverage industry is the fastest growing market in the food sector, according to ScienceDirect. Given that the plant-based beverage market is expected to exceed a value of $33 billion by 2026, it looks like functional drinks are a trend that’s here to stay.
Whether you’re seeking a non-alcoholic happy hour replacement, a remedy for an ongoing health issue or simply craving a drink that offers more than hydration, here are 11 functional beverages you’ll want to sip on well beyond Dry January.
The CBD beverage brand known for their relaxing alcohol alternatives launched the Evening Blend collection late last year to offer some calm amidst the stress of 2020. The bubbly drink—available in Peach Jasmine, Plum Blush and Citrus Spice—is packed with adaptogens and botanicals known to relieve stress, like Ashwagandha, ginseng, L-Theanine and chamomile. But what really sets the Evening Blend apart is its 30mg dose of broad spectrum hemp CBD, making it one of the highest dosed CBD drinks on the market.
For Immunity Protection:
Wild Wonder founder Rosa Li was inspired to make a functional drink that prioritizes the gut from watching her grandmother in China brew stomach-soothing tonics to boost immunity. The Guava Rose contains both probiotics and prebiotic plant fiber—the two crucial components to balancing the gut microbiome—plus elderberry and chicory root for extra immune support. Made with maple syrup instead of sugar, California lemons and pink guava puree sourced from organic and sustainable farms, this bestseller is refreshing without being too sweet.
For Bedtime Wind-Down:
This non-carbonated, zero-calorie, sugar-free drink contains 200mg of L-theanine and 10% of the recommended daily dose of magnesium, two ingredients known to relax the body. The idea for the enhanced water came from an internal competition among Pepsi employees. But with the pandemic increasing insomnia cases across the United States, it was an idea that PepsiCo took seriously. The fastest new product to ever come out of the company has a subtle blackberry lavender flavor and is strategically designed in small 7.5-ounce cans to prevent bathroom trips mid-sleep.
For Skin Support:
This award-winning water brand’s newest collagen-infused water combines the natural alkaline spring water they’re known for with 10 grams of grass-fed bovine collagen protein to support skin, hair, nail and joint health. The 100% recyclable carton made with over 75% renewable materials keeps this nourishing drink fresh for up to 13-months. Blood Orange, Pomegranate and Meyer Lemon recently joined the existing flavor selection of Watermelon, Pink Grapefruit and Cucumber.
The functional drink market offers countless probiotic-infused drinks to choose from, but few beverage brands have picked up on the importance of prebiotics—a type of fiber that serves as food for probiotics but the body is unable to produce itself. Enter Poppi: a functional soda that contains one tablespoon of prebiotic-rich apple cider vinegar. Here, fermented apples give the gut a boost by promoting pH balance, killing harmful bacteria, improving insulin sensitivity and lowering blood sugar post-meals. The low-sugar, low-calorie soda comes in seven fruity flavors, but the Strawberry Lemon and Raspberry Rose are fan favorites.
For A Dry Happy Hour:
This booze- and sugar-free beverage line relies on organic ingredients and adaptogens to deliver satisfying mocktails that offer more benefits than just the hangover-free morning. From a margarita-meets-Dark ‘n Stormy made with Mayan aphrodisiac damiana to a floral Cucumber Collins remake containing 125mg of Ashwagandha, an Ayurvedic herb known to reduce stress—their selection is small but diverse. The standout is this zero-proof spin on an Aperol Spritz made with stress-reducing holy basil and anti-inflammatory turmeric.
This sparkling tonic is made with ginger, burdock and dandelion, three herbs known to stimulate digestion. All their recipes are vetted by a clinical herbalist and each bottle contains four times the equivalent amount of herbs found in a standard tea bag. Unlike kombucha, which detoxifies by adding probiotics to the system, Sunwink’s Detox Ginger encourages the body to do the work itself by stimulating the digestive enzymes in the gut. The cleansing drink is lightly sweetened with maple syrup, so you get all the benefits without the added sugar.
This carbonated drink is the first of its kind to serve the dual function of boosting energy and immunity. Each bottle delivers a hit of energy with its high dose, 160mg, of organic green tea caffeine, while protecting the immune system with 100% of the daily value of vitamins A, B6, B12, C and D. The zero-sugar drink relieves stress with relaxing herbs like bacopa monnieri and Ashwagandha, and promotes energy and protein formation with magnesium, D-Ribose and BCAAs (Branch Chain Amino Acids). Available in six fruity flavors, Sway officially launches at the end of the month (currently available for pre-order online).
For A Post-Workout Treat:
Alani Nu is known for their yummy workout supplements, like their sour peach ring-flavored BCAA powder (Branch Chain Amino Acids) and confetti cake whey protein powder. Now they’ve packaged their protein in a ready-to-drink bottle, making recovery on-the-go easy. The gluten and lactose-free drink contains 20 grams of lean whey protein, and with indulgent flavors like munchies and fruity cereal, it’s hard to believe each bottle contains only 6 grams of sugar.
Brothers and co-founders Asim and Qasim Khan were inspired to create ZYN after witnessing turmeric cure their father’s nerve pain in Pakistan. Understanding that the powerful anti-inflammatory needs to be activated to be absorbed—ZYN includes piperine from black pepper to ensure you benefit from the 200mg of turmeric in each bottle. Available in four fruity flavors, the refreshing drink is also fortified with vitamins C and D for added immune support.
For Brain Function:
Vega’s new Hello Wellness line of functional drinks offers all the benefits of a protein supplement in an easy on-the-go form—all you need is water to make a smooth shake. This raspberry blackberry-flavored formula stands out for brain support—each serving contains 32mg of Omega-3 DHA, a fatty acid essential to maintaining brain function. Keeping in line with the company’s plant-based, sustainable ethos, the DHA is sourced from marine algae rather than fish oil and the 15 grams of protein in each scoop comes from pea and pumpkin seeds.