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Adapting to Adaptogen Beverages

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Adaptogen beverages are functional drinks that have been flourishing over the last few years, popping up in grocery stores and menus across North America. While essentially, these are simply beverages that contain an array of ingredients linked to providing health benefits, this oversimplifies their marketplace potential and impact.

Matt Dean Pettit, president, and co-founder of PowerPlant Superfoods Inc. approaches his products by turning everyday drinks into superfoods. He launched his company with a line of mushroom coffees and the idea that consumers won’t have to change their everyday routine. More than the average cup of joe, his coffee benefits wellbeing, integrating Chaga, an antioxidant-rich, immune booster, and lion’s mane, which has been used to help people focus and soothe their stress.

He offers both instant and brew coffee grounds which can be prepared the same way you would prepare any coffee, which is important as Baristas and users making his brews won’t have to learn new techniques or buy any special tools. Consumers also won’t have to compromise on taste. While the sound of mushroom coffee may make some people squirm initially, the mushroom is integrated into powder form and has no taste, making for an easy transition.

The mushroom powder in PowerPlant products cuts through the caffeine, helping eliminate “coffee jitters” and providing “clean energy”. Due to a mix of factors, many Canadians are sensitive to caffeine and are left with negative side effects when they consume too much, even just one cup of coffee.

Boreal Brewing is another adaptogen beverage company that developed its product with consumer habits in mind, abiding by the tagline “Drink Something Better.” The packaging design and flavours of their brewed botanical tonics drew inspiration from ready-to-drink cocktails and craft beer. Their beverages feel like a cocktail so that consumers out for a night with friends, can substitute alcohol for one of their beverages and enjoy a more exciting alternative to club soda that is less labour intensive and expensive than a mocktail. When chatting with Boreal Brewing’s co-founder, Andreas Duress, he posed the thought-provoking question “Why do we have this culture that requires you to be social, but feel crappy the next day?”

Both company’s products speak to those who may have previously felt excluded from cafe and bar culture. Boreal Brewing’s drinks are sugar-free, plant-based, alcohol-free and caffeine-free, appealing to diabetics, vegan and sober individuals who do not drink because of religious, health or personal reasons.

Companies like Mood Milk are also providing exciting and naturally energizing low-caffeine and caffeine-free adaptogen options, including their Coconut Matcha or Beet Chai Latte Blends. These blends can easily be mixed with plant-based and dairy milk products to create eye-catching, brightly-hued drinks, which are not only a delicious alternative for coffee but great for creating interest through social media.

It is important to note that adaptogen beverages are also widely being adopted by the flexitarians of the world. These are people who are not looking to cut out all alcohol, caffeine or sugar from their lives, but who crave healthier options to choose from. As a whole in the western world, we are becoming more conscious of the foods we ingest. Gen Z is looking more critically at the world and Boomers are wanting to age healthily. Nourish Marketing predicts a “healthy” future for adaptogen beverages, with functional beverages expected to grow by 7% each year.

This demand has only grown stronger in response to the pandemic. Nourish Marketing conducts social listening for many of their culinary clients and saw content around functional food and beverages grow exponentially throughout the pandemic. Drink Daydream, which launched in July 2019, is already in 400 grocery stores, 120 retail shops and nearly 100 restaurants and cafes. Boreal Brewing only launched this year and is already in over 280 locations.

Consumer demand is there, but it’s not necessarily coming from where you’d expect. Boreal Brewing acknowledges that they’ve had great interest from rural communities, including restaurants and shops in northern Quebec, the Yukon, and small towns in Winnipeg. Mood Milk echoed a similar sentiment, gaining interest in smaller communities, specifically out west.

While there is consumer demand, there remains a learning curve for some consumers. Fresh Restaurants has been providing modern, healthy plant-based food for over 20 years, including a full line of adaptogen booster shots to pair with their signature smoothies and juices. They offer a section in their menu outlining the benefits of their adaptogen ingredients, putting this key information right at their guests’ fingertips. As we know in today’s society, convenience is key.

Restaurants interested in serving adaptogen beverages can enjoy many benefits. These drinks can liven up a menu with exciting new flavours and ingredients and can attract and cater to new customers who may have previously felt excluded. When it comes to coffee-adjacent options, staff won’t have to learn new techniques and owners won’t have to invest in any new equipment.

Pettit of PowerPlant Superfoods Inc. points out the great margin for their clients as their coffee only costs 20-30 cents per serving. Restaurant and bar operators can enjoy similar savings with adaptogen seltzers and tonics. The RTD formats save time and cost, especially if the alternative of choice is a complicated mocktail.

Of course, the bottom line for restaurants and cafes is sales. With the expected growth in the adaptogen beverage category, they’re sure to be a winning addition to the menu.

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