In the retail arena, energy drinks, sports drinks, functional waters, and RTD tea or coffee products are primarily merchandised at room temperature in the beverage aisles, but are also sold refrigerated for immediate consumption, in competition with single-serve chilled carbonated beverages, plain waters, and other beverages.
While the terms “functional” and “natural” are commonly employed to describe ready-to-drink beverages, these descriptors are far from mutually exclusive, and have become decreasingly so. “Natural” beverages are often functional, or at least provide a functional boost, as consumers purchase yogurt drinks for their probiotic benefits, seek out refrigerated juice drinks for their antioxidant properties, turn to coffee for a quick pick-me-up, and drink tea for both a nutritional and caffeine boost. “Functional” beverages, conversely, incorporate natural ingredients such as caffeine and B-vitamins, along with full-fledged tea, coffee or juice content. Nonetheless, consumers often mentally classify “functional” beverages separately from “natural” beverages, given their very different historical pedigree and product category resonance. What are commonly termed functional beverages are relatively recent creations, dating back commercially no further than the mid-twentieth century, while what we think of as natural beverages trace back far into history. Nonetheless, product formulation and positioning of ready-to-drink beverages has increasingly crossed segment lines, and various hybrid ready-to-drink products have emerged.