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Do consumers prefer functional health beverages?

Functional health beverages

You might not know the term functional beverage, but there’s a very high chance you’ve picked one up at the store. Functional health beverages refer to any drink containing added ingredients like vitamins, minerals or any other supplements with the purpose of enhancing health benefits. 

While this type of product is far from new (coffee can be considered functional), the $48.4 billion industry is expected to grow by 6.6% over the next three years. We know consumers are buying functional health beverages, but how do they really feel about them? Let’s find out.

Using Relative Insight, we compared reviews for functional drinks like Kin Euphorics, Recess, Kombucha, POPPI, BODYARMOR and Olipop against standard counterparts like seltzer, soda and flavored water.

Our comparative approach to customer review analysis works to uncover the differences between two sets of words, weeding out common language and highlighting the insights that make functional beverages unique. Here’s what we found:

Functional Health Beverages


Functional health beverage drinkers valued the increased hydration that drinks with electrolytes and other supplements provided. They were significantly more likely to use the words replenish, hydrates, hydrating, hydrated and dehydrated when reviewing products. 


Reference to hydration was often accompanied by mentions of workouts and exercise at the gym, suggesting that athletic consumers put the highest priority on the hydrating benefits of functional health beverages. Athletic consumers were also more likely to favor functional drinks as they provide energy boosts and nutritional supplements.

Image: Exercise


This focus on health and wellness was also reflected in the use of words relating to healing. Reviewers mentioned ailments like migraines, bloating, hangovers, headaches and digestion troubles when discussing their reason for purchasing functional health beverages. Many found that these products helped in alleviating their pain, indicating a core benefit of functional drinks that could be reflected in marketing efforts.


A newer sect of functional beverages like Kin Euphorics and Recess aim to replace alcohol in providing mood-altering effects through the use of adaptogens like herbs and mushrooms. These products claim to be calming, relaxing, energizing, or mood boosting among other feelings. An important insight is that word usage in reviews reflects the language that brands are using to communicate their products, implying that messaging is being received.

Image: Mood-altering


That being said, not all consumers found these functional drinks successful in providing a sober high. For some, these products simply didn’t work, with reviews calling the science placebo or bs.


This lack of satisfaction was exacerbated by the prices of functional health beverages. Price was 2.2x more likely to be mentioned in functional beverage reviews compared to standard equivalents. Opinions were split on whether the product was worth the price, but if a consumer was already unhappy with the drink, high prices only made things worse. 

Image: Pricey

Standard Beverages


In our analysis of standard beverages, consumers primarily talked about two topics: flavor and calories.

Functional health beverage consumers were far less likely to be concerned with the actual flavor of the drink, in favor of how it made them feel. Whereas reviews for standard drinks overwhelmingly mentioned taste, using words like sweet, tasteless, tart, crisp, fresh and bitter. Reviewers also mentioned their favorite flavors including lemon, cherry, peach, blackberry and grapefruit.

Image: Taste


In comments relating to calories, we also saw an emphasis on added sugar. Reviewers preferred products with fewer calories and lower amounts of added sugars and artificial ingredients. While you might expect the health conscious functional drink consumer to care more about calories, that’s simply not the case. Sugar is actually less of a concern to gym rats, and regular old Coca-Cola drinkers are the ones looking to watch their caloric intake.

What does this mean?

Comparative text analytics helps brands understand precisely what consumers think about products, and reveals core indicators as to what influences consumer buying decisions. While opinion is split on the effectiveness of functional drinks, this analysis proves that consumers of functional health beverages value how a product makes them feel. While standard beverage drinkers want good flavors and fewer calories.

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