- O2 Natural Recovery, an Ohio-based oxygenated water brand, is expanding its presence in Kroger and Whole Foods this year, according to Food Navigator. The brand claims its products contain seven times more oxygen than tap water, 2.5 times more electrolytes than leading sports drinks and 140 milligrams of caffeine (in two SKUs) with no artificial flavors, sweeteners or preservatives.
- Although the drink is gaining traction in CrossFit gyms and power yoga studios, there’s not much science to back up the claims that hyper-oxygenated water has any health benefits at all.
- CEO Dave Colina is hoping to scientifically explore the link between oxygenated water and sports muscle recovery. “Our hypothesis is that our product can help flush out toxins released by burning fat during exercise as well as clear lactate faster based on lots of anecdotal evidence as well as these studies, but check back with me in a quarter or two once we’ve had a chance to get our own clinical research together,” he told Food Navigator.
O2 Natural Recovery is the next iteration of “extra” water in a burgeoning market for functional, natural fluids.
Already, functional waters – like raw water, hydrogen water and alkaline water – is a $2.1-billion market, according to Campaign. Technavio analysts projected the global functional water market will show a compound annual growth rate of nearly 9% between 2018 and 2022.
Unsurprisingly, with such enthusiasm behind the segment, manufacturers have jumped on board and purchased or created water beverages sporting labels like "alkaline infused," "vapor distilled" and "iceberg water" to stand out from competitors. However, studies show that 35% of American consumers are confused by these on-pack claims.
And there is a good reason for consumers to be confused. The majority of research in the functional water area has been performed on animals, and there isn't enough scientific evidence to validate wellness claims around the products. In fact, the Center for Science in the Public Interest said the evidence for health-related product claims for alkaline water is skimpy, and the product is a waste of money.
Similarly, raw water has been criticized for exposing consumers to water-borne pathogens seen more typically in countries without access to clean drinking water.
With an inability to back up the claims associated with oxygenation outside of anecdotal evidence, it may be hard to convince consumers to shell out extra money for the supposed benefits of the beverage. Still, other infused water products are doing well in the market. Vapor-distilled Smartwater — made by a Coca-Cola subsidiary doing business as Glacéau, or Energy Brands — racked up $821 million in sales from April 2017 to April 2018, according to the IRI market research group.
Clearly, consumers are interested in a beverage that is more than just plain water. In 2016, bottled water surpassed other beverages such as soda as the most popular drink in the U.S. However, it is going to take time and scientific investment to reach a consensus on whether infused waters can impact health in a meaningful way.
At the same time, there is little doubt that manufacturers will continue to experiment with additives as they search for proof that water that comes from a bottle is better for the body and worth the price.