Detoxing is as much part of the holiday ritual as the excesses that make it necessary and, Annette Farr writes, today's soft drinks market provides a plethora of products claiming restorative health benefits.

At this time of year, the fact that health and wellness has dominated new product development in soft drinks can be seen as something of a blessing, providing as it does an ample choice for consumers looking to recover from the excesses of the festive season and begin the New Year on a healthy note.

January has become a traditional time to detox, and hydration is vital to this regime. Leading UK bottled water brand Evian points out in its Daily Purity Plan campaign that one of the most effective, natural and least costly ways to detox is to drink eight glasses of water a day.

Reinforcing the post-Christmas hydration message is a January marketing push from Britvic-owned bottled water brand Drench, which includes new TV advertising. "The festive period can be tough on our brains and getting back to work even tougher, but Drench is looking to provide a little light relief and plenty of hydration," says brand manager Sarah Dossett.

Enhanced bottled water products are also attractive to consumers. V Water from PepsiCo has a detox variant in its range. The combination of spring water and fructose, elderflower extract, pear juice, natural flavouring and natural herbal extracts (dandelion and artichoke leaf), vitamins C, B3, B5, B6 and B12 will, says V Water, "whisk away polluting nasties".

There is plenty of choice in Coca-Cola's Glaceau Vitaminwater range, which comprises Power-c, Essential, Spark, Multi-v, Revive and Defence. Each, with its own combination of nutrients, offers specific healthy and reviving benefits.

Besides bottled water, fruit drinks featuring new superfruits also appeal to consumers who want to stay healthy through winter's remaining dismal months and make amends for festive overindulgence. According to research commissioned by the UK's natural fruit juice and smoothie company, Grove Fresh Organic, 73% of people admit that their fruit consumption diminishes over the festive season. Not consuming enough fruit at a time when higher nutrient levels are vital apparently results in sluggishness and shorter tempers.

Smoothies are an obvious healthy choice. Innocent's superfruit range comprises cranberries, yumberries & blackcurrant; pomegranate, blueberries & acai; and guavas, mangoes & goji berries. The company's first recipe for 2009 is beetroot, apples, pears & ginger.

In Canada, Leading Brands has announced the launch of a new 'superjuice' called PureBlue, a 100% juice blend of wild blueberries, varietal grapes and blackcurrants. Each 300ml bottle contains 750 mg of polyphenols, claimed to be the highest concentration of powerful antioxidants available in supermarkets or health food stores.

UK-based Firefly believes its new Recharge drink will give consumers a seasonal boost. The drink combines high antioxidant juices (pomegranate, blood orange and rosehip) with herbal extracts (echinacea, ginseng, elderflower and rosemary) to give the body an immune boost, adding kola nut and chilli to raise spirits.

Meanwhile, Together Health is creating a new sector within soft drinks by launching a range of lifestyle shots for the impulse beverage market to combat ageing, provide energy and help detox. Each 150ml bottle includes a carefully selected vitamin and mineral-rich superfood, combined with additional vitamins and botanicals to target specific health functions, the company says.

Together Health founder Lee Robertshaw says: "Our first priority is to help people achieve a healthier lifestyle and each shot has been developed by leading nutritionists to alleviate an aspect of modern living that we can all do without."

Aloe Vera Digest Detox combines traditional aloe vera with milk thistle, artichoke, prebiotic fibre and ginger to help detox the body naturally after overindulgence or when the digestive system needs a boost.
 
Globally, such functional beverages are, according to Zenith International, growing at their fastest rate (6.4% in the past year) as more consumers embrace healthy diets.

In the US, New York-based Datamonitor says that regardless of the science behind the detox trend, consumers are paying attention to celebrities who are making a name for detox diets.

One new detox drink is Chaga from Sayan. A fungus picked from the bark of trees in Siberia, ChaGa has a traditional use in herbal medicine to detoxify the body, improve resistance to stress, slow ageing, aid digestion and boost energy. Sayan says that the drink, with its combination of wild herbs and berries, is designed to deliver strength and health.

Another new offering is Function Urban Detox. The brand's New Year Detox Kit includes two 16.9oz bottles of its Citrus Prickly Pear variant and two bottles of its Goji Berry flavour. The proprietary formula contains a combination of prickly pear extract and a super-antioxidant called N-acetyl cysteine, which is said to remove toxins from the liver and evict free radicals from the lungs and sinuses, and is also claimed to address many of the side-effects related to excessive alcohol consumption.