This week I take a stroll down the grocery aisle and look at the growing popularity of beauty-focused beverages. Scroll down to use Glossy+ Comments, allowing the Glossy+ community to join discussions around industry topics.
Walking by the refrigerated beverage aisle in any grocery store today and you’ll come across a host of functional items, including Ayurvedic tonics, wellness shots, adaptogen coffees and probiotic sodas. In a recent headline, food magazine Bon Appétit even declared, “We’ve reached peak beverage.” But for the beauty industry, the rise of ready-to-drink functional beauty beverages is worth keeping an eye on.
Beauty beverage supplements are anything but new. Over the last decade, brands like Vital Proteins, Moon Juice and The Beauty Chef helped introduce the idea of mixing beauty-specific powders into our waters, smoothies, yogurt and other food. But the next iteration is cutting out the step of doing it yourself, instead offering pre-packaged drinks with all the necessary beautifying ingredients like Biotin, hyaluronic acid and Vitamin E. Vital Proteins launched ready-to-drink collagen-infused water in 2019, the same time sparkling collagen tea brand SkinTé debuted. More recently, beauty-energy drink brand Gorgie launched in January. And celeb-favorite, L.A.-based La Jolie Medspa launched Pick Me Up beauty water in February, just as juice brand Pressed debuted a beauty-focused concentrated shot.
“The definition of beauty has been redefined as a combination of mind, body and soul wellness; everything sort of works together. It’s beauty from the inside-out and holistic” said Andrei Najjar, head of global brand strategy for Pressed. “We’re kicking off our [beauty focus] in a more formal way, by addressing the questions and requests we’ve been seeing from consumers and retailers on supporting their beauty and wellness needs.”
Najjar said Pressed has always positioned itself as beauty-adjacent due to its simple beverage formulations focused on fruits and vegetables, as well as its wellness-focused beverage shots. The brand’s concentrated shots, in general, have experienced “tremendous growth,” according to Najjar, who declined to share more specific figures. Pressed’s beauty shot features pomegranate, aloe vera and Biotin, among other ingredients. Pressed customers are 53% male and 47% female. It has over 60,000 loyalty members who shop its DTC e-commerce, as well as wholesale distribution through Target and Whole Foods. It also has more than 100 of its own juice store locations.
Pressed is increasingly leaning into wellness. It plans to relaunch its Instagram and other social profiles in approximately two months to behave more like a lifestyle magazine, with an inner-outer beauty focus. Until now, Pressed’s social channels were more product-focused. The posts with the highest engagement have offered tips and tools for healthy living.
“The technology industry taught us that every product you own should have a function. We see that in apparel, with functional apparel like athleisure,” said Najjar. “We’re moving more in the [functional food] direction of asking: What is the added benefit? And: How do we make that simpler for our consumers? Beauty seemed natural, based on how we’ve operated in the past.”
In the U.S. alone, the $48.4 billion functional beverage market is forecasted to grow 6.6% every year through 2025, according to Euromonitor. Energy drinks make up the largest share of the market, at an estimated $18.6 billion, followed by sports drinks at $10.4 billion. Functional beverages marketed with supposed health benefits have also risen in prominence. Category sales increased by nearly 16% between Nov. 2020 and Nov. 2021, according to data firm Spins.
The emergence of ready-to-drink functional beauty beverages is the convergence of multiple trends across beauty, wellness and food. According to Maria Steingoltz, managing director at LEK Consulting, functional beverages are the current iteration of a broader, better-for-you trend that has been taking place over the last 20 years. What it means to be a better-for-you beverage or food has evolved. Initially, to be a better-for-you product, a product had to eliminate certain attributes — perhaps, it was sodium or fat. Then, better-for-you had more specific niches addressing types of consumer lifestyles or diets, like gluten-free or plant-based. But now, the focus is on putting additional ingredients into food to enhance and provide additional benefits.
Alison Schilling, managing director of LEK Consulting, also pointed out that improved research and development has led to healthier and higher-performing beverages and more novel ingredients that can be engineered as water-soluble.
Najjar added that, as the world speeds up and consumers have more information, they demand more efficacy from products. Essentially, no one has time for a sugary soda that doesn’t fuel them for the rest of the day, or for a product review or tutorial video that doesn’t cut to the chase.
“Emotional [connections] no longer cut it,” he said.
For entrepreneur Michelle Cordeiro Grant, the a-ha moment that led to Gorgie began after she moved to Southern Florida in Aug. 2022. She noticed that the local populace took an extraordinarily long amount of time and pride in getting ready for the evening. As such, people were prone to consuming energy drinks during this process. But these weren’t brands that Cordeiro Grant felt matched her fashionable aesthetic or healthy lifestyle, she said. And she is no stranger to brand building, having begun the undergarments brand Lively in 2016.
Cordeiro Grant attributed the boom in beauty beverages to how social media has transformed what people care about, including beauty from within.
Gorgie is distributed via DTC e-commerce, Whole Foods and Fairway Market. Its beverages come in three flavors. Each includes beauty ingredient Biotin, plus green tea caffeine, L-Theanine, and vitamins B6 and B12.
“Everything in your life is now part of your social profile. Gorgie first started on Tik Tok in August 2022. When I got the itch for this concept and wanted to find out [if it was viable], I posted a TikTok and got 100,000 likes in two weeks by [crowdsourcing ideas],” said Cordeiro Grant.
Part of the brand’s formal launch in January included press and PR mailers featuring an editorial magazine and tiny disco balls, to show that the energy drink is fun and flirty. Additionally, the brand hosted activations around NYFW, Wimbledon tennis, more than 40 college campuses and 30 fitness studios. In many ways, Gorgie could be considered the successor to Tab Energy, the now-defunct Coco-Cola offshoot of low-calorie beverage brand Tab. (Side note: Does anyone remember this fun commercial?) But Cordeiro Grant clarifies that Gorgie is meant for both men and women — it just has a female-first perspective.
“The first chapter of female founders was by women, for women. The next chapter is by women, for all. I want to break the stereotype that a female-led company with a female lens can’t be bought by all people,” she said.
Much like Tab Energy, there is no end to specific beverage trends that come and go. As Americans started to drink less soda, they turned their attention to sparkling water. Brands like Le Croix were there to popularize flavored seltzers, only to steadily fall around 2019. Then there was the advent of spiked seltzers and low-alcoholic brands like White Claw, which had gone flat by 2022. Even the once-buzzy wellness and beauty beverage brand Dirty Lemon, which became Iris Nova in 2018 on the heels of a Coca-Cola partnership, laid off half its staff in 2020 before closing as of Nov. 2022. Zak Normandin, founder of Iris Nova, did not respond to requests for comment.
“I expect the functional beverage category will continue to grow. I can’t say what the next iteration will be, but the macro category isn’t going away,” said Steingoltz.
Perhaps, as functional ready-to-drink beauty beverages pick up sales traction, there are additional wholesale opportunities within traditional beauty retailers, namely Sephora and Ulta Beauty. Sephora already sells ingestible supplements from brands like Moon Juice and Hum, while Ulta Beauty sells Love Wellness, Olly and Ora. Najjar said that Pressed is looking to expand its distribution to beauty retailers.
“As long as a product aligns with a beauty value proposition, I could see a world where that happens. There are tons of different angles by which [ready-to-drink functional beauty beverages] could continue to emerge,” said Steingoltz.
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