Why gut health matters in beverage: how and why to innovate for the "key to holistic wellbeing"

kombucha gut health beverage

Two in three consumers globally say gut health is key to holistic wellbeing.

Wellness is a broad movement and is no longer constrained to a dramatic lifestyle change. A holistic approach has become a crucial motivator of consumer behaviour, underpinned by convenience, transparency, and value. Within this space gut health is a top concern.

Having a diverse range of beneficial bacteria in the gut supports your immune system and shapes your physical, mental, and emotional wellness. Just like no two fingerprints are the same, each person’s gut microbiome is totally unique.

A plethora of scientific research indisputably backs up this link between the gut microbiome's influence on our overall health – sometimes referred to as the ‘gut-brain axis’. Aside from digestive and immune health, studies have identified the impact on brain health, weight and obesity, diabetes, skin conditions like eczema. Gut microbiome also reportedly plays a vital role in regulating bone mass.

Digestive wellness moves mainstream

While there is a vast range of health supplements on the market, consumers are increasingly looking to get their vitamins from food and beverage rather than in supplement form and this gives brands opportunities to innovate in functional food and drink products.

What started with products that offered added fibre has exploded to food products now carrying a huge variety of gut health messaging and ingredients. Beverages are critical to this trend and a part of our day-to-day health management in a way they have not been before.

The rise of functional beverages and fermented drinks with probiotic and other health benefits (such as kombucha and kefir) is opening a new area for innovation and popularisation with roots in traditional and natural nutrition, as bacteria-boosting drinks hold the key to a healthy gut and your overall wellbeing.

Is gut health driving functional beverage market growth?

The functional beverage market includes energy drinks, fortified juices, sports drinks, dairy, and dairy alternative drinks. And, from 2021-2030, the global functional beverage market is predicted to grow at a promising CAGR of 9.38%, to reach an expected value of US$265.9 Billion.

Taking a closer look, from 2021-2027 the global digestive health drinks and food market is predicted to grow with an impressive CAGR of 7.82%.

North America alone controls 42% of the global functional beverage market and this is forecast to continue to 2030.

This is being driven by: 

  • Health and wellness movement 
  • Growing demand for digestive health drinks and food amongst the older generations 
  • Consumer education and awareness of the gut/brain axis; the communication system between your gut and brain

Emerging future trends in functional beverages

From the silent generation to Gen Z, all are embracing both a preventative and curative approach to health in a holistic and more personalised way than ever before.

Increased availability of information on specific ingredients has contributed to consumer demand for individualised food and drink products. Advances being made in personalised microbiome profiling and the mounting evidence linking gut health and immunity has the potential to be a game changer in how consumers manage their health.

Emerging future ingredients in functional beverages:

  • Tigernuts
  • Watermelon seeds
  • Durian
  • Mangosteen
  • Ube
  • Breadfruit

Emerging future themes in the functional beverage space:

  • Nutrition pairing - there is evidence that consuming certain combinations of nutrients can enhance their beneficial impact, for example blueberries and grapes can improve immune response; citrus and leafy greens – citrus helps the body absorb plant-based iron; red apples and chocolate – may improve heart health.
  • Postbiotics are also now being talked about more but awareness still low awareness amongst consumers.

The future will centre around understanding the full potential of existing and emerging ingredients - and ingredient transparency is paramount. Brands will increasingly be called on to promote specific health-promoting properties but be able to back up those claims with scientific evidence of efficacy. 

Authentic, natural extracts and ingredients

Treatt’s team of experts develop flavour ingredients and extracts that are naturally associated with immune-boosting and digestive wellness qualities.

Charlotte Catignani, Lead Category Manager at Treatt, says:

“Treatt’s widely recognised reputation in the healthier living space has given us our foundation in delivering highly nuanced natural extracts and ingredients which perform across categories in a range of applications.

“As consumers’ interest in functionality continues to trend upwards, our most prominent ambassadors in this space are our citrus and tea portfolios, with fruit and vegetables and botanicals also delivering authentic taste experiences for those seeking more natural and clean label ingredients.”

Typically known for their vitamin C content, citrus fruits are also a good source of B vitamins; both of which are recognised for aiding immune functions. However, vitamin C can also be found in less obvious places like elderflower and watermelon, which offer more subtle, sophisticated flavour profiles.

Tea has natural and functional properties, such as polyphenols (which deliver a rich dose of antioxidants) and natural caffeine. Other functional benefits have been associated with tea such as an immune system booster, improved digestive health, and increased focus through L-theanine (an amino acid which is also said to help ease anxiety, stress, and reduce insomnia).

Ginger is a good example of an ingredient widely regarded for its beneficial effects in the management of digestive and gut health. This is significant given that almost three-quarters (73%) of global consumers consider ingredients that claim to aid digestive health to be very or somewhat appealing.

Find out more about our expertise and products which meet consumer’s evolving needs around health and wellness.


Mintel Patent insights: bone/joint health in food and drink, March 2022.
Global Functional Beverages Market Report published March 2022. insightaceanalytic.com/report/global-functional-beverages-market/1188
Innova trends survey 2021
Global Digestive Health Drinks and Food Market Report 2021: Industry Analysis, Trends, Market Size, and Forecasts 2019-2027 - ResearchAndMarkets.com | Business Wire