Exploring the Rise of Functional Beverages in the UK

The beverage industry is undergoing a transformative shift in a world where consumers are increasingly attuned to wellness and vitality.

Functional beverages — drinks infused with health-promoting ingredients — are taking centre stage, promising more than mere hydration. As more consumers are becoming health and wellness-focused, they're increasingly seeking drinks that quench their thirst and offer other tangible benefits, such as improved gut health, increased energy, or enhanced cognitive function.

Brands are tapping into this growing trend by launching various functional beverages catering to different consumer needs and preferences. From probiotic-packed kombuchas to nutrient-dense green juices, the UK market is witnessing a surge in these drinks designed for health-conscious consumers. In this article, we take a closer look at the rise of functional beverages, understanding why the masses increasingly favour them and how they are changing the way we think about drinks.

What are Functional Beverages?

In recent years, functional beverages have become the toast of the health and wellness world, promising various functional benefits and physical and cognitive enhancements. Functional drinks offer more than just refreshment — they come packed with nutritional or health benefits, such as prebiotics, probiotics, minerals, vitamins, and natural herbs, providing an additional wellness aspect to the drinking experience.

While the promise of functional beverages is compelling, it's crucial to approach health claims with discernment. The significance of the Health Claims Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006 cannot be overstated when discussing functional beverages. This piece of legislation is pivotal in safeguarding consumers from misleading or unverified claims concerning the health benefits of food and drink products within the EU (and adopted within the UK). Its main objective is to ensure that any nutrition and health claims made on a food's labelling, presentation, or advertising are clear, accurate, and substantiated by scientific evidence accepted by the scientific community.

This regulation is especially pertinent in the functional beverages sector, where the allure of health benefits is a key selling point. Compliance with these regulations is not only a legal obligation but also a mark of trustworthiness and reliability for brands in the eyes of the informed consumer. The ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) also keeps a close eye on misleading and exaggerated claims.

Common Health Claims

But what exactly do these drinks claim to do? Here's a look at the common claims and functional ingredients:

  • Enhance Digestive Health: Many functional drinks boast prebiotics and probiotics, intending to balance the gut microbiome.
  • Boost Immune Function: Ingredients like vitamins C and D and zinc are often included to support immune health.
  • Increase Energy Levels: Instead of relying on high levels of caffeine, these beverages claim to enhance energy through a blend of B vitamins and naturally energising compounds like ginseng.
  • Improve Mental Clarity: With additions such as ginkgo biloba and L-theanine, some functional drinks aim to sharpen focus and cognitive function.
  • Accelerate Recovery: Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) and electrolytes are among the elements included to help reduce muscle soreness and speed up recovery post-exercise.
  • Enhance Mood: Adaptogens such as ashwagandha and other mood-supporting herbs are infused in certain drinks, claiming to help with stress management and emotional wellbeing.

These claims attract a variety of consumers, from fitness enthusiasts to those simply seeking a healthier lifestyle. However, it's essential for individuals to investigate the veracity of these claims and understand their own nutritional needs when selecting functional beverages.

The Market for Functional Drinks

In fact, the functional beverage market has an estimated size of USD 213.74 billion in 2024, expected to reach USD 306.76 billion by 2029, growing at a CAGR of 7.49% during the forecast period. This impressive growth demonstrates the increasing consumer interest in beverages that do more than just quench thirst — they support a healthier lifestyle, too.

Functional beverages can be found in various forms, from sports and energy drinks to fortified water and energy shots. This wide range of options caters to consumer preferences, making it a highly adaptable market. Additionally, the rise of e-commerce and online retail platforms has made functional beverages more accessible to consumers worldwide.

Critiques and Controversies

As with any product in the health and wellness industry, functional beverages have faced critiques and controversies surrounding natural ingredients and their efficacy. Some experts argue that the effectiveness of certain ingredients, such as adaptogens, has not been scientifically proven. Others highlight the potential risks of consuming large amounts of added vitamins and minerals through fortified drinks.

There have been debates about the marketing tactics of functional beverage companies and their use of buzzwords and health claims that may be misleading or exaggerated. This has led to calls for more transparency and regulation in the industry.

Types of Functional Beverages

Let's explore some popular examples of functional beverages:


Kombucha, a fermented tea, has gained prominence for its potential digestive health benefits thanks to its probiotic content. It's believed to improve gut health and has been linked to various mental health benefits, although more research is needed to substantiate these claims fully.

In the UK, artisanal brands and large-scale producers are innovating with various flavours and blends, pushing the boundaries of traditional kombucha. The market's potential is reflected in its trajectory, with reports indicating that the global kombucha market is expected to witness growth of 15.6% from 2022 to 2030.

In the UK, brands such as Equinox Kombucha and Go Kombucha are making a splash in the functional beverage scene.

Matcha and Green Tea

Matcha and green teas are popular functional beverages known for their high antioxidant content. Matcha, in particular, has seen a surge in demand over the years due to its numerous health benefits. It's believed to boost metabolism, enhance focus and concentration, as well as provide anti-ageing properties. Additionally, matcha contains L-theanine, which promotes relaxation without causing drowsiness.

Remarkably, the market size stood at USD 2,966 million in 2021. Analysts project that the market will continue to expand at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.1%, with the potential to reach a staggering USD 5,135 million by 2030.

Green Tea is renowned for its high antioxidant content, particularly epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which is linked to a lower risk of chronic diseases. Its purported benefits range from improved brain function to fat loss and a lower risk of cancer. Various brands now offer matcha lattes with adaptogenic herbs such as ashwagandha and tulsi, promoting relaxation and stress relief.

The global green tea market size in 2019 was valued at USD 12.80 billion, with projections indicating an escalation to USD 23.66 billion by 2027. This remarkable surge equates to a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.0% over the forecast period.

The UK has seen a flurry of innovative and unique matcha and green tea-based functional beverages hitting the market in recent years, such as Perfect Ted Matcha, which garnered national attention following a successful pitch on Dragon's Den. Among the standout stories in the UK's vibrant matcha and green tea scene is the acquisition of OMGTea, a leading matcha green tea brand known for its premium quality products, by Japan's Aiya Co., Ltd. This strategic move aims to leverage OMGTea's established market presence to enhance Aiya's footprint in the UK significantly.

CBD Drinks

CBD drinks are infused with Cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive compound found in cannabis plants. They have seen an upsurge in popularity due to claims of stress relief and anti-inflammatory properties. While there is still limited research on the effectiveness of CBD drinks, they have gained a devoted following among those seeking natural remedies for anxiety and pain management.

Brands like TRIP, Goodrays and MEDAHUMAN offer canned CBD-infused drinks with exciting flavours such as Lemon and Basil, Passionfruit and Pomelo, and Elderflower and Yuzu. These refreshing and functional beverages are not only popular for their potential health benefits but also for their unique taste profiles. The CBD market is expected to continue growing in the UK, with predictions of reaching £1 billion by 2025. However, there have been concerns raised about the regulation of CBD products and the lack of research on its long-term effects. As with any new trend, it is important to be cautious and informed when incorporating CBD drinks into your diet.


Kefir is a cultured, fermented milk beverage that has a slightly tart and refreshing taste. It typically contains a greater variety of bacterial cultures compared to yoghurt, potentially offering a more substantial probiotic benefit.

Originating from the mountainous regions across Eurasia, kefir is believed to offer a host of health benefits, including improved digestion and immune support. M&S Food, in collaboration with ZOE, has recently introduced the Gut Shot—a daily kefir-based drink designed to support gut health. High in fibre and packed with over five billion live cultures derived from 14 distinct bacterial strains, this innovative product encapsulates both tradition and science.

ZOE's innovative approach to nutritional science is significantly bolstered by the expertise of its co-founder, Professor Tim Spector. A highly respected figure in the field of genetic epidemiology, Professor Spector's extensive research into the microbiome and its impact on health and disease plays a crucial role in guiding ZOE's product development. His influence ensures that products like the Gut Shot are not only designed to support gut health but are also grounded in the latest scientific research. This collaboration highlights a commitment to offering consumers products that are both beneficial and backed by scientific rigour.

Turmeric Latte

Also known as "golden milk," this drink combines turmeric with milk or dairy alternatives. Turmeric's active ingredient, curcumin, is known for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. The drink has gained popularity in the wellness community as a natural remedy for various ailments, including joint pain and inflammation.

While turmeric lattes can be found in many cafes and coffee shops, they can also be made at home with simple ingredients like turmeric powder, milk or plant-based milk, honey, and spices like ginger and cinnamon. It is an excellent alternative for those looking for a caffeine-free warm beverage that is both soothing and beneficial for the body.

Ginger Shots

These small yet potent doses of concentrated ginger juice boast anti-inflammatory benefits and are often used for combating colds and flu. Ginger shots have become a quick wellness trend for those seeking a fast health kick. They are also known for aiding digestion, soothing nausea and reducing muscle pain.

In recent years, the market has seen an influx of ginger drink product launches, a testament to the root's growing popularity in the health and wellness sector. Back to M&S, their Ginger & Apple Immune Support Shots are designed to bolster the body's immune system. Made with a blend of Apple Juice, Ginger Juice (10%) and Vitamin C, these shots are an easy way to incorporate ginger into your daily routine.

Chia Seed Drinks

Chia seeds are renowned for their impressive nutritional profile, laden with beneficial omega-3 fatty acids, fibre, protein, and a variety of vitamins and minerals. Chief among their benefits is their role in weight management; the seeds' high fibre content can assist in creating a feeling of fullness, reducing caloric intake by curbing appetite. Additionally, when combined with liquid, chia seeds swell to form a gel-like substance, further contributing to a sustained sense of satiety.

In the marketplace, chia seeds have found their way into a myriad of beverages. Smoothies fortified with chia provide a substantial nutrient boost while enhancing the smoothie’s texture. The versatility of chia seeds makes them a perfect addition to any drink, offering a subtle nutty flavour and a unique visual appeal with their gelatinous coating when hydrated.

Final Thoughts

At Uren, we've helped our customers navigate evolving consumer trends for more than 100 years. We continuously work to innovate and stay ahead of the market, offering tailored solutions to meet our clients' specific needs. With our expertise in sourcing high-quality ingredients and creating innovative products, we can help you stay on top of the latest trends and provide your customers with truly beneficial beverages.