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Beverages With Benefits: Do They Really Work? OR Are Beauty Drinks Too Good to Be True?

2 min read

Kin is part of a flourishing “functional beverage” category, often branded with gradient, pastel colors, 1970s nostalgia logos and no alcohol. Poppi, Ruby, Superfrau, Dune Glow Remedy, Droplet, Brighter, Evexia Kafe, Sunwink and De Soi, co-founded by Katy Perry, assert that their seltzers, juices and tonics can heal you from the inside out with prebiotics, mushrooms, apple cider vinegar, collagen, ginger, antioxidants, amino acids, nootropics and adaptogens, which is not an accepted scientific term, despite rampant use in the wellness and beverage industries. Some of these ingredients are longtime home remedies and supplements recommended by doctors; others, like adaptogens, are more dubious in their claims and may amount to little more than marketing.

In any case, the drinks are selling. What can they actually do for you?

Purported benefits include a balanced gut, a relaxed mind and brighter skin — similar to the promises supplements and topical skin-care products have always made. The caveat: these drinks are not regulated by the F.D.A. and none of the effects have been backed up by regulatory or trade commissions.

“When I go to Sephora, it’s all of these products offering me moisture and anti-aging benefits, and it’s the same things you see going down these beverage aisles,” said Andrea Hernández, a food and beverage forecaster and the founder of Snaxshot, a newsletter about trendy seltzers, canned wines, dips, cereals and more. “These drinks are literally labeling ‘beauty’ as a function.”

And people will pay up for anything perceived as a shortcut to beauty or better health.

Sales of functional beverages increased by almost 16 percent between November 2020 and November 2021, according to Spins, a data firm. It’s one of the fastest growing, nonalcoholic drink categories in the United States. Brands like Poppi and Ruby are sold at mainstream supermarkets like Whole Foods; Erewhon, the California market chain, is an investor in Barcode.

In early January, Ms. Perry introduced De Soi, her sparkling aperitif made with “mind mellowing” adaptogens. Barcode, originally developed for N.B.A. players by Mubarak Malik, fancies itself a better-for-you Gatorade with adaptogens; and Ghia, aperitifs and spritzes with nervines (herbs that purport to boost energy and alleviate stress), became an influencer favorite on Instagram. Droplet sells a three-can sampler of its sparkling adaptogen drinks, Pretty Balanced, Pretty Happy and Pretty Bright, for $20.