5 Functional water trends

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Nutritional Outlook, Volume 21, Issue 8

Functional water is changing the way people consume water.

Functional drinks are on the rise, with data provided to Nutritional Outlook by Innova Market Insights showing an 8% compound annual growth rate in global functional beverage launches from 2012 to 2017. The functional water market in particular is diversifying in unexpected ways, with products like CBD-infused spring water and amino acid–enriched water gaining ground in foreign markets.

Domestically, functional waters are quickly becoming popular. Jill Failla of SPINS (Chicago, IL) says that the U.S. enhanced waters segment is now worth $1.9 billion, up 11% from 2017. “All product types that SPINS codes for are showing growth, including alkaline, electrolyte, nutrient, oxygenated, and energy. Natural products are leading the growth among nutrient- and alkaline-enhanced waters, and they dominate the oxygenated water market.”

Here are just a few of the most popular new products that are changing the water market.

Caffeinated Water Gives Office Workers Extra Pep

Specialty products dominate the energy water market,  Failla says. SPINS data show that within the shelf-stable water category, domestic sales of functional energy beverages grew 300% from May 2017 to May 2018. One of the rapidly growing specialty products within this category is caffeinated water. As caffeine intake increases among professionals, office workers are seeking a means of achieving their caffeine fix while staying hydrated, a need that Limitless Coffee & Tea (Chicago, IL) and others are stepping up to meet.

Limitless co-founder Matt Matros says the company expanded into functional waters with a line of lightly caffeinated sparkling water products launched in May 2018. “We’re targeting the diet cola drinkers with our product line, but we focus more on refreshment. With a lightly caffeinated sparkling water, consumers can get their kick while staying hydrated.”

Matros says the brand chose to use 12-oz aluminum cans as packaging rather than slender cans in an effort to make consumer adoption simpler. “We’re asking people to give up their cola, which is why we want to mimic the cola experience as much as possible.”

Matros says the functional water market is trending toward a “water-plus” format. “We’re doing water-plus-caffeine. But there’s also water-plus-fiber, water-plus-fats, and even water-plus-hydrogen. There’s lots of fun stuff happening in functional water, which is very exciting.”

Immune Health Water Gives the Gut a Natural Boost

As research continues to demonstrate the connection between gut health and immune health, brands are searching out new means of providing a gut health boost. Pervida (Blacksburg, VA) is accomplishing this task with a series of all-natural canned sparkling waters that employ pomegranate seed oil as a primary ingredient.

Pervida founder Josep Bassaganya-Riera, PhD, is an immunologist and the director of the Nutritional Immunology and Molecular Medicine Laboratory at the Biocomplexity Institute of Virginia Tech (Blacksburg, VA). Bassaganya-Riera says that Pervida’s pomegranate seed oil ingredient is very similar to conjugated linoleic acid, which he investigated in the 1990s. However, Bassaganya-Riera says, “We believe our ingredient is more effective,” adding that the company is releasing a product called Pervida Control, “which will use ingredients found in fruits and vegetables to increase extraction of glucose transporters for energy use.”

Bassaganya-Riera says he chose to make Pervida’s beverages carbonated because light carbonation promotes absorption of the beverage’s functional ingredients: vitamin D and conjugated linoleic acid.

Bassaganya-Riera says he believes functional water consumers are looking for education, and that consumers want to understand the science behind the beverages they consume. “The consumers who show interest in Pervida are the kinds of consumers who are willing to pay a premium for validated science and higher-quality ingredients. I see the whole functional water industry trending in that direction.”

Brands Race for the Best Biodegradable Packaging

A 2018 report carried out by Mintel (London, UK) notes that “innovation in packaging coupled with sustainability has been a focus in the bottled water category in recent years,” with brands continually evolving their packaging methods in order to stand out in a competitive niche.1 But developing sustainable packaging methods involves more than just changing the packaging; it also means changing consumers’ minds.

Mintel’s report notes that while consumers perceive carton water as healthier, more unique, and more natural than bottled water, purchasing intent for carton water is 13 percentage points lower than for bottled water.

One brand that aims to generate consumer excitement about boxed water is JUST Water (Glen Falls, NY), which launched its newest line of flavored water in March 2018. JUST Water CEO Ira Laufer says that JUST places a strong emphasis on sustainability. JUST Water is packaged in paper cartons sourced from FSC-certified forests, he says, and JUST’s manufacturing process produces 74% fewer greenhouse gases than plastic bottles due to JUST’s paper- and sugarcane-based bioplastic construction.

“Our brand’s foundation is built on the ethos of sustainability, and planet-friendly packaging is integral to our mission,” Laufer says. “Using sustainable packaging was non-negotiable for us.”

JUST Water cofounder Jaden Smith, the 20-year-old son of famed film and television actor Will Smith, discovered an early passion for sustainability upon learning of the manner in which disposable plastics are harming the world’s oceans. Smith says he created JUST Water in an effort to reduce plastic waste.

“We believe consumers are looking for a better alternative to traditional plastic bottles,” Laufer says. “Today’s consumer is savvy. Consumers no longer purchase a product because it looks good or tastes good; consumers want to know what the brand behind the product stands for.”

High-Protein Water Gives Athletes a Low-Calorie Shake Alternative

Athletes looking to build muscle have a variety of protein-based beverages available to them; however, traditional protein beverages are a poor option for athletes seeking a low-calorie solution. Andy Horrow, president of Protein2o (Elk Grove Village, IL), says that the company’s founders created Protein2o as a higher-quality protein beverage that contains fewer calories than traditional drinks.

“Most protein beverages either have 100 to 250 calories per bottle, or they use protein sources like collagen that don’t fully contribute to your RDA of protein,” Horrow notes. “Protein2o contains whey protein isolate, which is great for muscle building and recovery, and our product contains only 60 calories.”

Horrow says that three rules govern the functional water market: The product must be a low-calorie drink, the product’s functional benefits must perform as advertised, and the product must taste good. “That’s why our products have a range of sweetness profiles to appeal to everyone. Protein2o is really just water plus protein, so it’s easy to drink without unnecessary additives.”

Protein2o’s most recent product launch is a new line of drinks with 10 g of protein per bottle.

Chlorophyll Water Aims to Compete in the Green Food Space

Chlorophyll water is said to have several functional health benefits, with brands making health claims related to inflammation and skin health. It is these kinds of functional benefits that are growing the chlorophyll water space, with consumer and trade publications like Vogue, Whole Foods’ Trend Forecast, and Well+Good naming chlorophyll water as the leading health product trend for 2017.2

One brand, Verday (Lafayette, NY), manufactures a chlorophyll-enriched water that it positions as a detoxification aid, skin and blood health product, and dietary supplement. Verday positions its chlorophyll water as a green food alternative for consumers who want the benefits of a wheatgrass shot, but in the form of a bottled water beverage. Last year, Verday expanded its product line to include blueberry-flavored chlorophyll water.

“We have known about the health benefits of chlorophyll for some time,” said Verday founder and CEO Randy Kohana in a press release. “The category should continue to grow as a major trend.”3 

Functional Waters Expected to See Significant Category Growth

The functional water market’s strong growth is expected to continue. Euromonitor International (London, UK) is forecasting worldwide consumption of functional water products to rise by 3.6% per year, reaching 1.56 billion liters in 2022. Euromonitor predicts the functional water market will be worth $3 billion USD in 2022.

As functional concerns continue to diversify among consumers, it is expected that new opportunities for innovation will allow market entry for a variety of new competitors.


  1. Hambleton M. “Bottled Water – US – February 2018: What’s Next?” Mintel.
  2. “Media outlets praise chlorophyll water as 2017 health trend leader.” Bevnet. Published online January 19, 2017.
  3. “Influential media predict healthy beverages like chlorophyll water will lead health trends in 2017.” Verday company website.