Functional Ingredients Cheat Sheet

By Jeffrey Klineman

At this point, we’ve established a lot of what the key functional beverage trends are on the market. It’s all about general health, energy – including focus and relaxation, and all kinds of recovery (the key to emotional and psychic recovery, beer, has a widely understood functional ingredient, so we won’t address that here).

But what are the component parts of those general trends, and how do you recognize which products are best equipped to speak to those functionalities?

We checked with many of our sources at flavor and ingredient houses to try to understand just which ingredient types are in vogue when it comes to fulfilling (or trying to fulfill) a beverage’s functional promise.

Now, there’s science and then there’s science, and we can’t run tests and speak to the efficacy of these ingredients. But we can try to explore which ones are there, and why. We’d like to thank food scientist Kantha Shelke of Corvus Blue, Ewa Hudson of Euromonitor International, and all of the friendly suppliers who helped us in this putting together this, our very first functional ingredient cheat sheet.




  • Methylcobalamin B12 (Also known as Methyl B12)
    Vitamin B12 is a standard ingredient in many energy mixtures; the perceived benefit is that it is more readily bioavailable than other forms of Vitamin B12
  • Green Tea
    A caffeine source, Green Tea also contains L-Theanine (linked to concentration) and EGCG (an antioxidant)
  • Natural Caffeine
    While caffeine is the ingredient bar none in energy drinks, those sourced from botanical extracts like coffee, tea, yerba mate, and guayusa are becoming increasingly popular as named ingredient types
  • Citicoline
    A dietary supplement that is believed to fight memory loss and improve cognition; a branded version (Cognizin) is currently used in Nawgan
  • Acetylcholine
    Another new, water-soluble focus and memory compound



  • Ribose
    A natural sugar, it is believed to speed exercise recovery
  • BCAAs
    Branched Chain Amino Acids are believed to help consumers gain and maintain muscle mass by increasing protein synthesis
  • Protein
    Whey, Pea, Rice, Hemp, Sprouted Rice – they’re all in use in one kind of muscle recovery drink or another
  • Sour Cherry Juice
    Growing in popularity because of its potential as an anti-inflammatory ingredient
  • Magnesium, Potassium, Sodium
    Three key electrolytes believed to help fight dehydration, they are fairly standard in a variety of sports drinks



  • Creatine
    A classic strength-training supplement, it is believed to help athletes gain lean body mass, strength, explosive power, and improved sprint performance, according to Kantha Shelke, a Food Scientist with research firm Corvus Blue LLC
  • Beetroot Juice
    Beetroot is believed to help blood and oxygen reach muscles, boosting performance
  • beta-Alanine
    Another amino acid, beta-Alanine is believed to decrease fatigue and increase muscle capabilities



  • L-Theanine
    (See Green Tea)
  • Gamma Amino Butyric Acid (GABA)
    An amino acid, GABA is believed by some to have a calming effect when taken as a supplement
  • L5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP)
    Sometimes used for sleep disorders, this chemical is believed to increase serotonin production in the brain
  • Passionflower Extract; Valerian Root; Camomile; Rosehip; Lavender; Lemon Verbena
    These botanical extracts have been known to have a calming effect on some people
  • Melatonin
    A hormone naturally occurring in the human body, it has been known to help assist in overcoming insomnia



  • Zeaxanthin.Lutein
    An antioxidant derived from plants like bell peppers, corn, saffron, wolfberries and others, used at times to treat eye disorders. Related to beta-carotene, it is sometimes called “the eye vitamin”
  • Elderberry Extract
    High in vitamin A, this botanical ingredient also has carotenoids and is believed by some to improve vision



  • Hyaluronic Acid
    Naturally present in the human body, Hyaluronic Acid is taken for a variety of reasons, including joint disorders, osteoarthritis, is used as a lip filler during plastic surgery, and is sometimes applied to the skin for healing wounds and for cosmetic purposes
  • Folic Acid
    A B-vitamin, folic acid is added to some beverages and is naturally occurring in many fruits, vegetables, and even some meats. Folic acid is needed in the body to help nutrient absorption
  • Vitamin C
    Not naturally occurring in the human body, vitamin C is an antioxidant needed for the proper development and function of many parts of the body and as an immune system booster
  • Vitamin D
    Lack of vitamin D can cause several health problems; it is needed for the regulation of calcium and phosphorus in the body
  • Carrot Juice
    High in Beta Carotene, vitamin A, and other antioxidants, Carrot Juice is believed to be good for the liver, eyes, skin and hair



  • L5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP)
    Because it is believed to increase serotonin production in the brain, this ingredient is also sometimes used as an appetite suppressant
  • Proteins
    Whey and plant-based proteins are often used to provide nutrition without fat
  • Chromium
    Chromium supplements have been tested to see if they can reduce body fat and increase lean muscle mass



  • Probiotics
    Bacteria that help maintain the balance of organisms in the intestines; believed to help promote a healthy digestive system
  • Prebiotics
    Non-digestible carbohydrates (inulin is a popular one) that act as food for probiotics, when combined with probiotics, they are believed to have many digestive benefits
  • Turmeric
    Along with other savory herbs and spices, Turmeric is believed to be a strong anti-inflammatory agent and may also help with bowel problems like Crohn’s Disease and ulcerative colitis