Coconut water, the trendy sports drink that’s exploded into a $400 million-a-year business in the U.S., has new competition. Bottled-water outfits are trying to sell consumers on H2O with vegetables, tree saps and other flavored ingredients.
Startups and small companies especially are marketing a raft of new products spiked with a little extra. Worth $17 billion in 2012, the so-called flavored-and-functional-water industry is poised to reach $37 billion in 2019, according to a report from Persistence Market Research. “It’s the most competitive real estate in the supermarket,” says Daniel Sullivan, a turmeric farmer turned entrepreneur. Five years ago, when Sullivan started his company Temple Turmeric, he initially sourced 300 lb. of fresh turmeric root; now the firm buys more than 100,000 lb. a year. “Anything you can bottle and put a story behind, people are doing it,” he says.
The backlash against sugary sodas and move toward healthier drinks is no doubt fueling the market. But while companies’ claims about lowering the risk of disease are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, their promises about the effects of a given nutrient on the body–like many of those made by purveyors of the products pictured at right–don’t require government approval.
MAIN INGREDIENT: One baby heirloom artichoke per bottle
THE CLAIM: Anti-inflammatory properties, liver detoxification and improved immune function
MAIN INGREDIENTS: Almond and vanilla extract
THE CLAIM: None. “Our beverage is refreshing and delicious, and it doesn’t do anything for you,” says founder David Meniane
MAIN INGREDIENTS: Watermelon flesh and rind
THE CLAIM: Rejuvenates cells, improves digestion and speeds recovery after exercise, with six times the electrolytes of a sports drink
MAIN INGREDIENT: Prickly-pear-cactus puree
THE CLAIM: Twenty-four antioxidants, hangover relief, body detox and skin revitalization
MAIN INGREDIENT: Maple sap
THE CLAIM: Enough potassium to replace what’s lost in an hour of exercise, plus more manganese than a cup of kale
MAIN INGREDIENT: Organic birch-tree water
THE CLAIM: Made from the sap of Belarusian birch trees, the drink is said to rejuvenate and revitalize with antioxidants and minerals
MAIN INGREDIENTS: Lilac, jasmine and rose flower essences
THE CLAIM: “People have told us it makes them real happy,” says company co-founder Steven Fortuna
MAIN INGREDIENT: 13 g of organic Hawaiian turmeric root
THE CLAIM: It’s one of the best sources of curcumin, a compound that tamps down inflammation in the body
MAIN INGREDIENT: Organic rose-flower water
THE CLAIM: A natural anti-inflammatory, it promises to soothe a sore throat and ease menstrual cramps
This appears in the April 13, 2015 issue of TIME.
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