When it comes to new products in the beverage market, finding drinks that are both healthy and functional is a priority for many consumers, myself included.

At the recent Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) Annual Conference and Expo in Las Vegas, many exhibitors showcased new ingredients and flavors, clean-label applications, sugar-reduction solutions, and plant-based products that support enhanced performance, cognitive and digestive health, and much more. (See page 46).

At its booth, the Netherlands-based Innova Market Insights showcased “Plant Powered Growth” in a presentation and infographic that highlighted the potential of plant-based applications in the United States and abroad. For example, plant protein claims on food and beverages were up 49 percent globally between 2012 and 2016, while vegan claims increased three-fold in 2016 compared with 2012, it says. “Traditional plant-based alternatives are becoming more indulgent, while new applications for plant ingredients offer more natural and healthier options,” the infographic stated.

In addition to nutritious and flavorful products, taste remains king. “Forty percent of U.S. consumers say that flavor is the most important factor when purchasing dairy alternative drinks and yogurt,” the infographic stated.

The versatility of Concord grapes also was showcased at the show by Welch’s, who highlighted the “purple power” of polyphenols and the research-backed benefits of the Concord grape and 100 percent grape juice. “About 20 years of research shows that Concord grape juice can help support a healthy heart and drinking Concord grape juice can help relax and dilate arteries, keeping the blood flowing,” says Casey Lewis, health and nutrition lead at Welch’s. The brand recently began communicating this benefit on its Welch’s 100% Grape Juice with the tag line “helps support a healthy heart.”

Given consumer demand for functional ingredients in beverages, more suppliers likely will release new products while making sure that the packaging reflects the product’s benefits.