Sixty-five percent of functional beverage consumers are more worried about their health since the start of COVID-19, says new research.

A whitepaper released by UK taste and nutrition company Kerry Taste & Nutrition has examined the key health priorities that will drive the functional beverage market this year and beyond.

“The functional beverage market is entering a new era,” says the whitepaper. “Consumer needs are driven by health priorities and understanding these concerns will be key to successful innovation.”

“Given recent events and the imminent prospect of people moving back into public spaces – from public transport to bars and restaurants – it is inconceivable that immunity will not remain a top priority for years to come.”

A total of 2,662 consumers across the UK, Germany, Poland and Spain were part of the study – a joint project between Kerry and MMR Research Worldwide at the end of last year.

The survey revealed that 70% of consumers worry about their personal health, with 65% more concerned about their health since the pandemic.

Almost three-quarters (73%) reported that they like to try new beverages on a regular basis.

According to the whitepaper, when asked to rank the ingredients of most interest in the immunity space, consumers reported a clear preference to vitamin C (85%), vitamin D (84%), honey (82%), probiotics (79%) and green tea (79%).

As well as immune health, consumers also conveyed the importance of their mental health. Kerry reports finding that ginseng (77%), turmeric (77%), gingko biloba (68%), CBD (54%) and nootropics (50%) ingredients to be most favoured by consumers.

“Our study underlines that immunity and mental health are the most dynamic opportunity areas for manufacturers,” says John Kelly, senior strategic marketing manager of beverages at Kerry Taste & Nutrition.