Supporting Functional Positioning with Naturally Bright Looks in Beverages

Pandemic Heightens Consumer Desire for Wellbeing

As highlighted in Sensient’s 2022 food and beverage trend predictions, consumers worldwide have shown a growing interest in products that support their overall wellbeing. Enduring the pains of inflation and with a heightened awareness of nutrition, consumers are implementing proactive measures to holistically address their physical, emotional, financial, and social wellbeing. This is driving a desire for functional food and beverages that go beyond a healthy nutritional profile, offering additional benefits such as boosting immunity or supporting mental health.

“I plan to support my immune health through my diet in the future.”

80% of Italian consumers (Mintel, 2021)

Functional claims are not completely new to the drink category. In 2021, every fourth beverage launched on the European market featured some kind of functional benefit. While in most cases claims are communicated on the packaging, the appearance and colour of drinks can play multiple roles in addressing consumers, by evoking functional properties, for example.

The Value of Colour in Functional Beverages

On increasingly crowded shelves in saturated categories like beverages, finding the right look is critical as it has a quantifiable impact on consumer choices. People often gravitate toward colourful beverages because they equate colour with taste. A brighter or bolder colour can instinctively indicate a more robust and often sweeter taste profile.

of drinks with functional properties contained some kind of added colouring in Europe.
(Mintel, 2021)

While vibrant shades help products stand out, natural colouring solutions offer a tangible lift to buying intent. Recent consumer research by Sensient suggests that an optimized colour matching the advertised flavour increases purchase intent, overall liking, and flavour perception. In a sports drink example with blood orange and a hint of lemon flavour, the use of a bolder red-orange shade resulted in a +4% increase in purchase intent.

When Sensient tested a red sports drink compared to a purple one for an acai-blueberry drink, purchase intent and flavour perception increased substantially, at +7.3% and +6.8%, respectively, in favour of the purple version. The colour purple connects with consumer expectations of “superfruits”, supporting both the flavour and the visual perception of imparted functionality.

Lighter vs. Darker
  • Darker Percentage Lift Compared to Lighter
  • +4% purchase intent
  • +4% overall liking
  • +6% perception of
    being appetizing
  • *Research conducted in Europe
Blood orange flavoured with a hint of lemon
Red vs. Purple
  • Purple Percentage Lift Compared to Red
  • +7.3% purchase intent
  • +2.0% overall liking
  • +6.8% flavour perception
  • **Research conducted in the US

The right colour in functional beverages can signal the flavour profile and the functional attributes.

Bringing Functional Beverages to Life: Uplifting Natural Hues

Due to the small portion used in the formulation, natural colouring solutions based on fruits, vegetables, and plants do not provide any functional benefits to the finished products. However, colours have an impact on people’s emotions and can convey different messages. In foods and beverages, bold and bright shades can highlight functional attributes like energy and mood-boosting qualities to consumers looking for uplifting drinks. Taking into account consumers’ growing attention on what goes into food and beverages, using natural solutions like colouring foods and natural colours is an excellent opportunity for brands to create visually appealing drinks with simple and recognizable ingredients.

For example, 41% of Spanish consumers would be encouraged to drink or drink more often energy drinks/energy shots if they were exclusively made with natural ingredients (Mintel, 2021). Using natural ingredients aligns with functional foods and beverages, often perceived as more natural or healthier than other options in general. Let’s look at some uplifting shades for functional beverages like soft drinks, energy, or sports drinks that cover the full spectrum of health!

Sensient’s Colour of the Year in 2022:
Radiant Pink

… highlighting claims like mood-boosting or supporting mental wellbeing.

Sensient’s Colour of the Year 2022 encourages consumers to rediscover the bright side of life by safely reconnecting with one another. The orangish-pink hues of Radiant pink embody a happy, positive state of mind. Leading to potentially more natural or premium perception, a cloudy look with the smooth cloudy range can suggest higher fruit or vegetable content.

Bright, Berry & Vibrant Reds

… highlighting claims like energy, vitality, and strength.

Red colours are often associated with energy, vitality, and strength. Energy drinks and functional drinks with energy-boosting claims can leverage the positive notion of this shade and support popular flavours visually like cranberries, red fruits, sour cherry, or pomegranate.

Using colouring based on fruits or vegetables like red radish or black carrot can help brands create eye-catching looks that support natural positioning.

Vibrant Yellow

… highlighting claims like immunity-boosting.

For products focused on immunity-related benefits, bright yellow shades can easily evoke “health-boosting” in the consumer’s mind.

Sensient’s natural bright yellows based on turmeric- which is often perceived to be a functional ingredient itself- provide a great option for drinks with limited exposure to light. On the other hand, Carthamus based solutions create vibrant shades naturally while resisting light and fading. If you are considering an all-natural positioning, the completely additive- and preservative-free Cardea™ range of colouring foods can meet any advanced “clean label” need.

Rising Orange

… highlighting claims like immunity-boosting, vitamin-fortified.

In addition to its joyful, energy-boosting hue, the shade of rising orange can also be associated with Vitamin C, fresh citrus fruits, and immunity-boosting benefits. Beverages like juice drinks, energy drinks, sports drinks, seltzers, kombuchas, and more can attract consumers and stand out on shelves with bright rising grange tones from colouring foods and natural colour solutions. For drinks with a more subtle flavour profile, paprika-based colourings made with Pure-S™ technology can offer a great solution with a clean taste.

  Colour is a great way to bring delicious and exciting flavours to life, while natural solutions allow brands to meet consumers’ interest in more natural and recognizable ingredients. If you would like to sample a shade that brings a specific benefit or emotion to life, let us know in your sample request! Our technical team is always available to help you overcome any development challenges, from stability to scale-up. We would love to talk colour with you!
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