Immunity, Energy, and Mood-Boosting Colors for the Beverage Category

Pandemic Heightens Consumer Desire for Functional Beverages
According to Mintel, 69% of US consumers feel less in control of their health due to concerns about exposure to COVID-19, and that feeling won’t easily be left behind. More consumers are turning to their food and beverage selections for support on their wellness journey, seeking out product offerings with added benefits and functionality. 93% of US consumers are making efforts to eat (and drink) healthier (Mintel 2020). Energy seems to be the hot spot right now in sparkling seltzers.


Other “uplifting” type need states like immunity and mood-boosting are also ripe for post-pandemic innovation. Clean ingredient statements are essentially a must in the functional and wellness beverage category with color from botanical sources an obvious choice for brands innovating here.

Color Lifts Purchase Intent in RTD Beverages
As innately visual creatures, consumers gravitate towards colorful beverages because they equate color with taste. The brighter or bolder color instinctively conveys better and fresher taste.

On an increasingly crowded shelf in saturated categories like sparkling waters and hard seltzers, differentiation is critical.

of flavored waters launched in 2020 do not use color (Mintel 2021), so color offers both a tangible lift to purchase intent as well as a huge opportunity to stand out.

Although most sparkling and flavored waters currently on the market are colorless, recent consumer research conducted by Sensient indicates that an optimized color matching the advertised flavor actually increases purchase intent, overall liking, and flavor perception. In a tangerine-flavored sparkling water example tested in 2019, the use of a flavor-appropriate bright orange color increased purchase intent by +3.6%.

VISUAL EXPECTATION: Tangerine Sparkling Water
Clear vs. Bright Orange
  • Orange Percentage Lift Compared to Clear
  • +3.6% purchase intent
  • +6.3% overall liking
  • +2.3% flavor perception


VISUAL EXPECTATION: Acai Blueberry Visual Expectation
Red vs. Purple
  • Purple Percentage Lift Compared to Clear
  • +7.3% purchase intent
  • +2.0% overall liking
  • +6.8% flavor perception




Color is even more impactful in the functional beverage category because it signals both flavor and function, conveying key product attributes.


When Sensient tested a red sports drink compared to a flavor-elevating purple for an acai-blueberry option, purchase intent and flavor perception increased substantially, at +7.3% and +6.8% respectively. Purple connects with consumer expectations of “superfruits“, supporting both the flavor and the visual perception of imparted functionality.

Bringing Functional Beverages to Life: Uplifting Natural Hues
Bold and bright shades convey energy and mood-boosting qualities to consumers looking for uplifting products.


32% of functional beverage consumers look for “energy boosting” benefits.

(MINTEL 2020)


Red and Neon Pink: Thanks to vertical integration in our anthocyanin portfolio, we offer a wide range of cost-effective reds and pinks to help bring energetic concepts to life, which you can sample here. Our technical team can support formulation development to ensure natural colors work well in your specific process and application. We can create custom color formulations to perfectly match the flavor profile of the red you are looking to achieve. Sensient’s Color Experts can also leverage our advanced emulsion technology AET™ to create true FD&C Red #40 matches using clean-label natural colors.
Rising Orange: In Frank Sinatra’s words, “orange is the happiest color.” In 2021, Sensient selected Rising Orange as our Color of the Year. Brands can awaken the energy of consumers with joy, enthusiasm, and hope. Globally, consumers are proactively seeking ingredients like natural colors to help optimize their mood and body in order to heal, function, and thrive in uncertain times. Plant-based food colors with “health halos” like Pure-S™ Orange and Beta Carotenes are increasing in popularity as they bring to life specific moods in beverage categories. Sensient’s vertically-integrated cochineal portfolio also offers a cost-effective bright Rising Orange hue that is unique compared to the more common pinks and reds achieved using cochineal and carmine.
Yellow: For beverages using opaque packaging, turmeric offers a bright yellow boost. If light exposure is a factor for your project, my team can also achieve bright, vibrant yellow colors with additional color options, such as Beta Carotenes. Since carotenoids, like beta carotene, require emulsification to perform optimally in high-water applications, Sensient’s Advanced Emulsion Technology (AET)™ enables developers to formulate confidently even with multiple emulsions (color, flavor, clouding agents, functional ingredients, etc.) in play.


Colors to Convey Immunity
77% of functional beverage consumers consume “immune boosting” drinks at least weekly (Mintel 2020).


1 in 4 still and sparkling water consumers consider “immunity support” one of the most appealing functional water benefits.

(MINTEL 2020)


Yellow: For immunity-focused projects protected from light exposure, turmeric is a great option for bright yellow shades, especially with its “health-boosting” image in consumers’ minds as an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant-rich botanical. Sensient’s fully developed turmeric pigment solutions simplify the formulation and scale-up process for developers and brands. Developers working with transparent packaging can look to beta carotenes, supported by Sensient’s AET™, for a range of clear and cloudy yellow shades as well.
Cloudy Rising Orange: In addition to its joyful, energy-boosting hue, Rising Orange is also 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 Orange tones from orange carrot juice and other natural colors that bring to mind antioxidants and nutrients. The addition of a clouding agent (or the use of cloudy ingredients) suggests higher fruit or vegetable content as a premium feature.
Berryful Reds and Purples: Elderberry is a popular choice for label-friendly reds in immunity-related beverages at the moment. Consumers recognize elderberry on ingredient statements and associate it with immunity and antioxidant properties. We also offer cloudy reds and purples from fruit and vegetable juices to achieve an appearance reminiscent of natural juices.


We also have clean botanical extracts such as Hibiscus, Yerba Mate, and Ginger. We test the stability of color and functional extract combinations in-house to ensure they will perform as expected. Let us help your team accelerate new product development with immunity-boosting beverage systems!

Calming Hues to Promote Relaxation and Sleep
More than one in ten consumers of functional drinks looks for “sleep aid” as a benefit, and that doubles to one in five for more general “calming/relaxing” benefits (Mintel 2020).


38% of consumers cite “lack of sleep” as a reason for increasing digestive health concerns as a result of COVID-19.

(MINTEL 2020)


Purples and Blues: Cool colors have long been associated with calming moods and nighttime themes, but these colors have historically been difficult to achieve in beverage systems. If you are able to formulate with a pH above 4.0, Sensient’s Butterfly Pea Flower Extract offers unique denim blue shades. In lower pH systems, this vertically integrated natural blue remains stable and imparts cool purple hues. These options open the door to a wider range of soothing purples through blends with natural red solutions such as anthocyanins. The addition of a clouding agent to the color can expand the rainbow of possibilities even further to include calming lavender and other tranquil pastels.


Get Started with Natural Colors TODAY
Natural color is a great way to bring delicious and exciting flavors to life. If you’d 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 love to talk color!

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