Consumers seek functional benefits even in their cup of joe, Mintel study finds

By Adi Menayang contact

- Last updated on GMT

Cold brew company Stok offers a protein variety with 16g of slow-release micellar casein protein.
Cold brew company Stok offers a protein variety with 16g of slow-release micellar casein protein.

Related tags: Coffee, RTD, functional beverage, Functional ingredients

When buying a bottle of ready-to-drink coffee, it's not just about caffeine — many US consumers gravitate to options that provide antioxidants, probiotics, and brain health benefits.

This is based on results from an online survey conducted by market research firm Mintel, which asked 613 internet users in the US aged 18 and older who drink any ready-to-drink (RTD) coffee products.

Results from the survey, published in Mintel’s US Coffee Market Report​, revealed that RTD coffee drinkers in the US want options that include antioxidants (47%), promote brain health (40%), are anti-inflammatory (35%), or have added probiotics (30%).

The findings are in line with the general trend of US consumers awarding brands and products touting health claims and functional benefits with their dollars as they shy away from traditional snacks​.

Mintel doesn’t have historical data on interest in functional benefits from coffee over time, so it’s difficult to know whether this interest in functional claims on coffee products is new or not.

But it does track new product development, and Caleb Bryant, senior beverage analyst at Mintel, told NutraIngredients-USA that coffee product launches featuring a functional claim “experienced noteworthy jumps over the last two years.”

Functional claims boosted by fortification of other ingredients

The RTD coffee category is one to watch. In the coffee space, the RTD format makes up only 22.2% of all coffee sales but it has the most robust growth, growing 31% in sales in the last two years. To contrast, roasted coffee, which makes up the largest share at 39.2% grew only a paltry 0.5% in the same period.

“Coffee by itself offers many natural health benefits,”​ Bryant told us. Scientific literature linking coffee with several health outcomes is abundant—from anti-diabetes potential​ to reduced risk of death​.

“A coffee company could tout its product's naturally high antioxidant content on-pack,”​ he said.

But the RTD format enables fortification, and many of the functionality claims with RTD coffee are due to product formulations or added ingredients, Bryant told us.

For example, Stok has a protein-enhanced RTD cold brew with 16g of protein, which comes from micellar casein.

Another example is Bulletproof, a darling brand among adherents of the ketogenic diet. It has coffee that claims to promote brain health thanks to a blend of grass-fed butter and its proprietary "Brain Octane Oil" which is made with coconut oil, Bryant explained.

Playing around in the coffee space to increase compliance

Drinking a cup of coffee is routine for many Americans, with the National Coffee Association reporting that more than half of Americans (64%) drink coffee daily, Reuters reported​ in March.

Hence, companies in the supplement space have been toying with the idea of combining nutrition with the coffee-drinking ritual as a way to encourage more Americans to take their vitamins.

The powder creamer format is one popular example. Laird Superfood​ fortifies a marine mineral complex called Aquamin, manufactured by Ireland-based Marigot Ltd. in all its coffee creamers. Vital Proteins​ is delivering the booming ingredient collagen in the coffee creamer format as well.

An out-of-the-box idea is VitaCup​, which offers vitamin-fortified single-serve coffee pods for use in systems like Keurig.

“I've always started my day with coffee and when vitamins became part of my routine, it inspired the concept of VitaCup," ​​the company’s founder, Brandon Fishman, told us in a past interview​.

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