Many celebrities have embraced plant-based diets, a lifestyle that has gained a lot of traction in recent years. Actors like Zac Efron, Natalie Portman, Pamela Anderson and Alicia Silverstone have all adopted veganism, as well as singers such as Miley Cyrus and Lizzo. 

The plant-based trend also has resonated with consumers. 

Roger Dilworth, senior analyst at New York-based Beverage Marketing Corporation (BMC), notes that plant waters have benefited from consumer trends in health and wellness, as consumers have moved “toward more functional, healthful products, especially ones that are low in calories.”

In a report titled “Coconut, Aloe and Other Plant-Based Beverages in the US,” BMC notes that the plant-based beverage market will continue to grow as consumers strive for wellness and functionality.

“On an absolute basis, the majority of this increase is expected to come from coconut waters, although plant waters should enjoy faster growth on a percentage basis,” the report states. 

Haleigh Resetar, corporate communications manager at SPINS, Chicago, also credits health and wellness trends for making plant waters more popular.

“Consumers are increasingly searching for products that align with their health and wellness goals, and this trickles down to the beverages that they choose to replace their current selection,” she says. “Coconut water, one of the most popular plant waters, has become popular with shoppers interested in hydration, specifically those who are active in the gym or at home. Coconut water specifically, and hydration drinks made with coconut water, are showing up in gyms across the country as a replacement for standard electrolyte and hydration drinks.”

She adds that plant waters are becoming a favored alternative for those “looking to cut back on sugar, calories, artificial colors and artificial flavors.” Such attributes, Resetar says, are what values-oriented customers are looking for when filling their carts in person and virtually. 

Earlier this year, Oakland, Calif.-based Harmless Harvest introduced Organic Coconut Water with Aloe Pulp. The company describes the hydration beverage as an organic, no-sugar-added option in the market of aloe-based functional beverages.


Harmless Harvest Coconut water with aloe
Image courtesy of Harmless Harvest


“The U.S. happens to be one of the fastest-growing markets for aloe-based beverages,” said Jake Qian, vice president of innovation at Harmless Harvest, in a statement at the time of the release. “This insight, along with the fact that most aloe drinks that currently lead the category are loaded with added sugar, brought to light the clear whitespace. We’re confident that the benefits of aloe vera pulp coupled with Harmless Harvest’s great tasting organic coconut water base will excite our customers and address the demand for a better-for-you option in the functional beverage space.”

The company also unveiled its Harmless Harvest Radiant Greens Organic Smoothie, a functional beverage described as a no-sugar-added green smoothie blended with coconut water, coconut meat, tropical juices and greens. 

“There have been ongoing efforts to create a super-premium tier of coconut waters, as evidenced by brands such as Harmless Harvest,” BMC’s report states. “This suggests that there is a consumer need for coconut waters that deliver on the freshness cues and perceptions of ‘drinking straight from the coconut.’”

Data from SPINS in the 52 weeks ending May 21 across multi-outlet and natural enhanced channels shows that shelf-stable coconut and plant water reached $479 million in sales, a 10.9% increase from last year. Refrigerated coconut and plant water was up 18.4% at $84 million in sales. 

“For the subcategories of both shelf-stable and refrigerated coconut water and plant water, product types coded as coconut water account for approximately 90% of the market share,”Resetar says. 

BMC’s Dilworth points out that none of the other plant water segments “seem to show the same promise” as coconut water. However, he suggests that hybrid beverage trends might cause consumers to adopt plant waters. 

“Today’s consumers are increasingly open to hybrid product propositions, which broadens the potential for innovative product ideas that may resonate with people,” Dilworth says. 

Last month, The Vita Coco Co. Inc., producer of Vita Coco, teamed up with Bluestone Lane, a lifestyle and hospitality brand that operates more than 60 premium coffee shops and cafes in the United States. Together, the two companies unveiled Coconut Water Cold Brew, which the pair says “puts a tropical spin on the Bluestone Lane menu and will introduce consumers to a new, premium cold brew coffee and ‘coconutty’ experience.”

BMC’s report notes that the mainstream segment of coconut waters “has become more difficult to penetrate.” As for plant waters, “there is no evidence that this sub-segment will attain the success of coconut water.”

SPINS’ Resetar notes that, while the plant-based diet trend is definitely having an impact on a variety of categories, the beverage industry is “a hot segment riddled with innovation and creativity” that doesn’t necessarily stem from the trend. It mainly comes from convenience, as many beverages, by nature, are plant-based, she says. 

“Beverages are an adaptable vessel that offers consumers the ability to add vitamins and nutrients quickly, and simply to their diet, without additional work or thought on their part,” she explains. “Plant waters feed onto this convenience trend because they offer functionality as well as taste. They are an easy replacement to a sugary or calorie-heavy beverage options.”

Resetar suggests that the plant-based diet trend played a role in raising consumer awareness of such beverages “as consumers continue to look for options that fit their values,” which include beverages being good for people, health, animals and the planet. 

BMC’s Dilworth notes that, where plant-based diet trends might have an influence on the plant waters category, the trend hasn’t had the same impact as it’s had on dairy alternatives.

“There may be some impact, but there’s not the same nexus as with dairy alternatives and plant-based meat products that are direct substitutes for animal products,” Dilworth explains.

SPINS’ Resetar says that maple and tree water, while still a smaller segment, is growing at 43.2% compared with last year. She also adds that cactus and prickly pear water is experiencing some decline, but is still “a contender in the segment.”

“Coconut and plant water products have maintained steady growth over the last several years, and with their many benefits and capabilities still being promoted and innovated, we can expect to continue seeing these products grow, and potentially see some new plant waters hit the market and gain popularity,” she notes.