Health & Wellness Gains Prominence in the Cold Vault

Drinks packed with energy, nutrients and probiotics are resonating with consumers.
healthy beverages

NATIONAL REPORT — Sure, the fountain of youth would be nice, but these days, the fountain of wellness is taking precedence. Beverages providing energy, calm, nutrients, vitamins, probiotics and more are playing an increasing role in Americans’ everyday lives.

Consumers are taking a more proactive approach to managing wellbeing with functional nutrition, close-to-nature ingredients, and foods and beverages that signal self-care, according to ADM, an agricultural origination and processing company.

“Health and wellness remain at the forefront of the global conversation,” said June Lin, vice president of global marketing, health and wellness at ADM. “The pandemic has transformed how consumers perceive holistic health and wellbeing. It’s impacting how we live and increasing the importance of the foods, beverages and supplements we choose, presenting new opportunities for our industry to meet their needs.”

ADM has observed a proactive perspective on immunity as well. With 65 percent of global consumers more concerned about immunity since the onset of COVID-19, they are shifting from a defensive approach against illness to one that is more proactive and holistic, the firm said. Consumers are looking for ways to incorporate function-supporting solutions, such as probiotics and vitamins C and D, into their daily lives.

People are increasingly aware of the impact their environment has on their personal health, and this includes what they put into their body. As a result, there’s been a surge in interest in wellness through nutrition, according to Anders McGillis, principal at Ontario, Canada-based Jackman Reinvents, a customer engagement firm.

The firm’s Human Insights Study, released in May 2021, revealed that for 54 percent of consumers, taking care of their physical health has become more important since the start of 2020. Furthermore, taking care of their mental health has become more important to 51 percent of the consumers surveyed.

“We’ve seen this increased interest in health and wellness show up in food trends, such as plant-based diets, flexitarian and interest in functional ingredients, so it’s no surprise we’re seeing the same with beverages,” McGillis told Convenience Store News.

He has observed a shift toward people wanting beverages to “do more” for them. “Those highly engaged in the wellness category are constantly looking for ways to optimize their health and wellbeing, so they view any eating or drinking occasion as a way to do so,” he added.

According to consumer market researcher Packaged Facts, the functional beverage benefits that today’s consumers perceive as most important to them are: 

  • Increased energy
  • Enhanced hydration
  • Boosts in cognitive function/brain activity
  • Better sleep/relaxation
  • Immunity boost
  • Increased gut health
  • Meal replacement/weight management
  • Sports performance improvement

Keeping a finger on the pulse of emerging beverage trends is a must for the convenience channel. However, it can be a challenge to know which trends have staying power. 

“In terms of which beverage trends to act on, convenience stores need to consider the role they want to play in all this,” said McGillis. “Consider what your strategy is: Are you the forward-thinking, innovative convenience store? Are you trying to support the wellness enthusiast’s on-the-go lifestyle with healthy options? Consider how your strategy impacts how you source and merchandise beverages.”

He cautions retailers not to go after every new beverage trend, in order to avoid a very haphazard, disconnected customer experience. On the flip side, ignoring the latest trends is to ignore the shifting consumer values taking place since the pandemic. Just as people have reprioritized what truly matters in their lives, c-store operators need to reprioritize what matters most to their customers.

“Rather than focusing on the beverage trend, focus on the consumer trend driving it,” McGillis advises. For a c-store, this may mean acknowledging that health and wellness matters a lot more to customers today than it did before the pandemic.

“We’re seeing the reprioritization, particularly as it relates to personal health, show up in consumers’ purchase behaviors, agnostic of category or channel,” he said.