While the soft drinks industry has declined by an average of 4 percent per year over the past five years, sparkling water is popping off. In fact, it’s expected to grow at an annual growth rate of 12 percent from 2020 to 2027. According to George Daines, category merchant of beverage at Whole Foods Market, this growth is motivation for brands to keep things fresh, and in the new year, we’ll be treated to a slate of seltzers that pack an extra dash of health benefits—think, vitamins, adaptogens, and probiotics—into each can.
These boosted sparkling waters are the next step in the steadily growing functional foods movement (a category that’s expected to increase in value at a rate of 7.5 percent per year from 2020 to 2027). “Each drink is specifically formulated to help with things like increased energy, immunity, focus, and occasional stress,” Britt Dougherty, co-founder of Heywell, says of the brand’s line of functional sparkling waters, which began rolling out at select Target stores in October and will be expanding into more locations this spring. Heywell’s products feature ingredients like ashwagandha, schisandra, and L-theanine.
Boosted seltzers started percolating a few years ago with the arrival of turmeric sparkling water brand ARYA (launched in 2017), electrolyte-infused Käter Wingman (launched in 2018), and CBD sparkling water brands Recess and DRAM (launched in 2018 and 2019, respectively), but new releases on the horizon make it clear that functional sparkling water will reach mainstream status in 2021. Take new cans from Sipp and Rockaway (superfood- and adaptogen-boosted sparkling waters, respectively), which appeared on store shelves in the back half of 2020. Droplet launched its line of adaptogen- and superfood-infused sparkling waters in September and will expand beyond independent retailers into traditional grocery stores in early 2021. And look out for 2021 launches from probiotic-infused water brands Huzzah, Wildwonder, and Bio-K+ (the latter entering regional chains at the start of the new year), as well as from a new CBD water brand called Fountain.
Consumers are drinking up this trend, but what do the health experts think? Spoiler: They’re fans, too. “These are exciting new ways to hydrate,” says Lori Rowell Welstead, RD, a registered dietitian at The University of Chicago Medicine. While sparkling water and seltzers are already healthy alternatives to sodas and other sugary drinks, Welstead says having these functional ingredients—in moderation—may provide additional health benefits. For example, “probiotics are a key component of maintaining gut health integrity and serve to keep the good bacteria in the gut populated,” says Alana Kessler, RDN.
“The sparkling water boom shows that hydration is a staple item that can bring people a lot of joy, while also helping them reach their own personal health goals,” says Celeste Perez, co-founder and CEO of Droplet. With functional sparkling water becoming more readily available in 2021, you’ll have a lot more to choose from with your bubbles than just peach-pear or pamplemousse.