With ‘functional’ beverages, brands rush to quench a thirst for drinks that do more than taste good

Category: Business


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. beverage / ˈbɛv ər ɪdʒ / (n.) – a hot or cold drink, especially one other than water, such as tea, coffee, juice, or soda

    During summer, cold beverages are a hit with customers.

  2. functional / ˈfʌŋk ʃə nl / (adj.) – relating to something that is designed to be useful for a specific and practical purpose

    The functional food container not only stores vegetables but also slices and cuts them.

  3. vie / vaɪ / (v.) – to compete with others to achieve, win, or get something

    Several tech companies are vying for the top spot in the market.

  4. deceptively / dɪˈsɛp tɪv li / (adv.) – in a way that makes someone believe something that’s not true

    The company deceptively attracts customers with fake items in expensive-looking boxes.

  5. inconclusive / ˌɪn kənˈklu sɪv / (adj.) – not showing or having a result

    The experiment showed inconclusive results. So, the researchers plan to repeat the experiment.


Read the text below.

Supermarket beverage aisles are starting to look a lot more like a pharmacy.

There are sodas made with mushrooms that supposedly improve mental clarity and juices packed with bacteria that claim to enhance digestive health. Water infused with collagen carries the promise of better skin, and energy drinks offer to help burn body fat.

Welcome to the frenzy of functional beverages–drinks designed to do more than just taste good or hydrate. What started in the late 1980s with caffeine- and vitamin-laced energy drinks like Red Bull has grown into a multi-billion-dollar industry. Hundreds of brands are vying for consumers’ attention with increasingly exotic ingredients and wellness-focused marketing.

Nutritionists say the general trend of consumers seeking out healthier beverages is a good one. But experts also say people should be cautious and read ingredient labels, especially if they are pregnant, taking medication or have other health issues. And they should avoid empty calories and sugars that they’re not going to burn off. A 16-ounce Monster energy drink has nearly as much sugar as a regular Coke, for example.

“Someone who’s running a marathon has different needs than someone who’s commuting to work,” said Martha Field, an assistant professor in the Division of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell University.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulates ingredients and requires drink labels to be truthful, and the Federal Trade Commission can step in if companies make false claims. In 2013, the FTC determined that Pom Wonderful pomegranate juice was deceptively advertised as clinically proven to treat, prevent or reduce the risk of heart disease and prostate cancer.

But functional beverage makers generally make less specific claims, and the science behind them is sometimes inconclusive.

“It’s important to remember that everything has the potential to be both toxic and safe, depending on the amounts. The dose makes the poison,” said Joe Zagorski, a toxicologist for the Center of Research on Ingredient Safety at Michigan State University. “Since it’s difficult to determine the amount of specific compounds in many of these beverages, it’s better to proceed cautiously than to over-consume.”

This article was provided by The Associated Press.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

  • The article indicates that there is a frenzy for functional beverages, and hundreds of brands are vying for consumer’s attention. Why do you think this is the case? Are you a fan of functional beverages? Why or why not? Discuss.
  • What is the situation of the functional beverage industry in your country? Is there a big market for it? What brands do you think are appealing? Discuss.

Discussion B

  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is an organization that regulates ingredients and requires drink labels to be truthful. In your country, do you think the agency for food and drug administration is able to enforce its rules upon functional beverage companies? Discuss.
  • Experts say people should be cautious and read ingredient labels. How would you describe yourself as a consumer? Are you cautious? How do you ensure that the food and beverages you’re buying are safe and good for your health? Discuss.