Latest Trends in “Health Beverage” Market

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This past weekend I attended the East Coast Natural Products Expo in Baltimore. It is the largest trade convention in my industry and is the place to be if you want to learn first-hand what is happening and what is coming around the corner in the natural products world. There were over 1,500 exhibits that attracted over 20,000 industry members like myself from over 80 different countries. It is quite overwhelming even for the veteran of this spectacle that I am. Although I am not one for crowds or spectacles for that matter, I go because I feel I must if I want to be an informed, responsible practitioner.

I have been going to this annual event for years and I always joke that every time I do I must cull through thousands of different products to find maybe two or three that really get my interest and are worth the investment of my time beyond the show. And sure enough, that was the case this year as well. It is amazing what passes as “natural foods” these days. There were countless soft drinks being passed off as energy drinks and antioxidant tonics, candy bars posing as protein bars, and “veggie chips” masquerading as healthy snacks.  

            As always, I observed some interesting trends. As for the purpose of today’s entry I will focus on the health beverage industry, which has been growing for the last couple of years and shows no signs of letting up. In fact, it is in overdrive. I was particularly interested in a segment of this market that includes flavored waters and bottled teas because I see more and more people turning to these beverages as an alternative to soda.

As I mentioned earlier, most of these are glorified soft drinks—full of sugar, artificial sweeteners, and preservatives. However, there were some bright spots in this market. I tried a water infused with fulvic acid—an excellent source of electrolytes and antioxidants that comes from the stringy part of the roots of plants. An added bonus is that it is alkaline with a ph of 9.0. The product is called “Blk.”, which is short for “black.” The reason it is called “Blk.” is because the fulvic acid colors the water black. That and its expensive price tag may rappel consumers. Would you want to drink black water that costs almost $2 for just over 16 ounces?

Nevertheless, I was pleased to see that there is an emerging trend toward alkaline and electrolyte-enhanced waters and I think that is a very good thing. Most of waters currently on the market are overfiltered, overdistilled, acidic, and devoid of any real nutritional value. This results in the loss of essential minerals and the promotion of acidosis, which is a breeding ground for illness. The average person tends to be electrolyte depleted and very acidic.

My favorite examples of soft drinks that claim to be water are Dasani and Aquafina. While most people think these bottles contain just water, if you look at the ingredients on the label, in addition to water you will find sulfates and chlorine. So it should be no surprise to learn that Dasani is bottled by Coca-Cola company and Aquafina is bottled by Pepsi company. In fact, both manufacturers have admitted that these products are simply tap water. Really? Kind of disgraceful, isn’t it?

Another emerging trend in the beverage market is the introduction of natural sedatives and adaptogens in bottled and canned beverages. These are a welcome answer to the energy drinks—the Red Bulls and Powerades—that have been burning out our adrenals, robbing us of quality sleep, and wreaking havoc on our immune systems. Nutrients like 5-HTP, valerian root, lemon balm, and passion flower are calming nutrients that are now being infused into flavored waters and teas.

My favorite in this category was the latest from the Honest Tea company. I have always liked Honest Teas because they are lower in sugar than most other bottled beverages on the market. They have a new “Lemon Tulsi Tea.”  I have mentioned tulsi—also known as Holy Basil—in previous artcles as a powerful adaptogen. Adaptogens nourish the adrenal glands, which are responsible for helping our bodies to manage stress. The adrenals are also critical in determining how much energy we have throughout the day.In fact, hot tulsi green tea has been a part of my morning routine for the last year. It was good to see someone has finally put in a bottle so it can also be enjoyed cold and on the go.

A good honrable mention from the Expo was “Marley Mood Tea”, which is all dressed up in a Jamaican colors complete with the Godfather of reggae himself—Bob Marley—right on the bottle. Hopefully they will come out with a low-sugar version soon, but I like the concept.

So this experience was a reminder to me to remind my readers and clients to read the labels on your “vitamin waters” and “health drinks.” Look at the sugar content, but most importantly look at the ingredients so you know what you are putting into your body.

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