Wellness drinks trend: meditation and relaxation in a can
Once, there were hobbies — jigsaw puzzles, stamp collecting, folk dance nights down at the Y. Now many of us share the same lone pastime: fighting anxiety and depression. Or at least, stress and melancholy.
We work out, we meditate, we fight exhaustion in the day and insomnia at night. We stare at our phones because it feels good, and regret it later, hungover from bingeing on content. We eat clean, we fast, we slow down, we stay present.
We need a drink.
Enter a new crop of wellness drinks and tonics — a new beverage trend touting an appealing escape from the endless rat race of trying to relax.
The sorbet-coloured bottles with an Instagram aesthetic started out packing the refrigerators of boutique grocery stores and luxury fitness studios. But now they’re making their way into mainstream supermarkets and coffee shops just in time for your 2021 wellness goals.
This is the rare wellness trend that feels suitable for me…. I just want to feel good. That’s just what these drinks promise, a bigger offer than your frothing green juices or your gritty charcoal lemonades.
Some of the new wellness drinks claim to affect feelings, even to deliver experiences: Calm. Euphoria. Focus. Things that you can usually only increase in yourself with discipline, or controlled substances.
The swanky meditative drinks trend offers “an evolved state of wellness,” says Kara Nielsen, the director of food and drink at trend-forecasting company WGSN. But there are potential health benefits too, she adds.
“There are adaptogens that have been used for centuries and are part of this world of traditional medicine and ancient wisdom.”
Essentially, wellness tonics have combined two beloved things — the sleekness of an Apple product and the ancient belief in the goodness of things that come from the earth.
Is it a surprise that one might prefer to drink one’s way to calm than to seven-day-silent-retreat? Especially this year, we want goodness to go down easy.
“We have a whole culture around using drinks to modify our mood and our mind space — coffee and tea, beer, even milk in the evening,” says Nielsen. And as an increasing number of millennials jump on that sober-curious bandwagon, the low- and no-alcohol drinks market is exploding, she says.
Adaptogens, CBD and nootropics
Rather than alcohol, some of the key ingredients in this new wave of mood-altering beverages are giant wellness buzzwords:
- adaptogens — certain kinds of medicinal herbs, like ashwagandha and ginseng;
- CBD, or cannabidiol — a compound of the cannabis plant that does not produce a high but is associated with calm; and
- nootropics — a category of chemicals that are cognitive enhancers, or “smart drugs” like caffeine and L-theanine.
They are touted by some as cure-alls and ridiculed by others as over-hyped.
The research here is still emerging. Take adaptogens, which have been used for thousands of years in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic healing.
“Adaptogens help regulate the neuroendocrine system so that, hopefully, the cortisol levels are dampened,” says Jerome Sarris, a professor at NICM Health Research Institute in Sydney whose research has focused on them.
The effect could be “a tendency to be less potentially emotionally reactive to stress, or potentially you’d find stressors less fatiguing, maybe an improved immune system response, as well as potential benefits for the sleep cycle and help regulating anxiety and mood,” he says.
But these claims haven’t reached a consensus among the Western scientific community. CBD and popular nootropics like L-theanine and GABA have a similar status — they’re believed to have certain effects, but they need further research to be fully understood.
That may be why consuming $34 of CBD products and then feeling the same as you did before seems to be a new rite of passage for people born after 1980. In the meantime, these substances aren’t federally regulated, raising questions about sourcing and accusations about efficacy.
And there’s another caveat: Some of these drinks aren’t likely to have an instantaneous effect. Adaptogens can take “days or weeks” to regulate your stress response, says Sarris. So think of an adaptogen-enhanced drink as more a vitamin than a cold brew.
The wellness-drink and alcohol-free industry is projected to get even bigger in 2021.
“There’s a market for something that looks lovely, tastes good, comes in a nice bottle, makes you feel good,” says Nielsen.
And that market seems to be millennial women — we tend to be more focused on healthy eating and willing to pay for better food quality, and we have higher rates of anxiety, stress, and depression, according to research from the American Marketing Association…..