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Beverages Increasingly Playing Snack Role in Consumers' Everyday Lives

Consumers think of a broad range of beverages as potential vehicles for providing enhanced functionality in their diets.

BELLEVUE, Wash. — On par with snacks and snacking occasions being ubiquitous, beverages are increasingly playing a role in consumers’ everyday lives.

As with the ubiquity of snacks and snacking, the Hartman Group's Modern Beverage Culture report documents how consumers have become constant sippers. Among its findings, 65 percent of consumers said they always have a beverage on hand, including 73 percent of millennials, 63 percent of Gen Xers and 58 percent of baby boomers.

The report also found that prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, beverages had become increasingly socially acceptable in almost all spaces of consumers' lives — from work to school to car, bus, or train to shops and public spaces — and were increasingly used as a source of nutrition and even as substitutes for food.

At the time of the report, 62 percent of consumers believed that beverages played an important role in their health and wellness, and the younger the consumer, the stronger the belief. Forty-four percent of all consumers agreed with the statement, "I like my beverages to do something for me, such as provide energy, nutrients or other benefits."

Other changes in beverage consumption behavior reflect how the landscape of beverage needs and behaviors evolves as new attitudes develop about how beverages can serve health and wellness needs and cultural values in the context of convenience and choice.

The modern beverage landscape is the result of a highly responsive marketplace adapting to these changed attitudes and in turn is being shaped by them, according to the Hartman Group. These influences have formed a feedback loop, causing marketplace change that includes a decline in consumption of traditional drinks, like dairy, juice and soda, while upstart categories such as functional beverages and ready-to-drinks seize share.

The market research firm's Functional Food & Beverage and Supplements report reflects changing consumer views on what beverages can do for them. It found that consumers think of a broad range of beverages as potential vehicles for delivering enhanced functionality in their diet. Thirty-three percent said they currently consume smoothies for some type of functionality and another 47 percent said they are interested in trying them.

Similarly, 25 percent said they consume fermented beverages like kombucha or kefir for functional benefits and another 29 percent said they are interested in trying those. Overall, more than half of adult consumers (56 percent) said they consume functional beverages to treat or prevent a specific health condition.

New emerging functional beverages are encroaching on daypart occasions where established functional beverages already play: Nutritional supplements and meal replacement beverage use peak at breakfast, pointing to a growing trend of "drinking one’s breakfast." This usage supplants the traditional role of dairy and juice, which typically accompany breakfast meals.

Meanwhile, consumers are using fermented and broth beverages and functional beverages/waters in the midday and afternoon period when they have traditionally turned to water, tea, sports/energy drinks, and soda. Drinks like kombucha, coconut water, and plant-based/vitamin waters offer a highly appealing combination of refreshment and health benefits.

To learn more about the Functional Food & Beverage and Supplements report, click here.

Bellevue-based the Hartman Group is comprised of anthropologists, social scientists and business analysts who have been immersed in the study of American food and beverage culture, using ethnographic observation, quantitative tracking surveys and deep study of trends since 1989. 

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