Following where beauty products companies have led, soft drinks producers are targeting a new style of functional beverage - the cosmeceutical - at the female market. Annette Sessions reports on this developing niche.

One of the more innovative soft drinks unveiled this summer in the UK has been  h2eauplus, a still flavoured spring water with dietary fibre, aloe vera extract, artichoke extract, a touch of lemon juice and added vitamins and minerals. The drink from T&T Beverages claims to have been specifically formulated to assist the female body and metabolism and falls into a relatively new category of functional drinks, the cosmeceutical.

This category, a marriage of 'cosmetics' and 'nutraceutical', is very much a 21st century soft drink. Drinks such as Beauty Juicer, a blend of grapefruit, ginger and white cocoa enriched with collagen and aloe vera, from the Dutch Yagua company, which claims to be a drink for "the mind and mood" to "make the body younger from within", first appeared two years ago.

But with consumers becoming ever more health conscious and brands recognising the importance of the female market, it's a category to watch. And new product development isn't confined to the entrepreneurial spirits of smaller companies such as Yagua and T&T.

This year Coca-Cola Japan, for instance, developed and launched Body Style Water in a new joint venture with the Japanese cosmetics firm Shiseido. The concept for the drink centred around Shiseido's 'aroma theory' which suggests that the effect of fragrances from plants such as grapefruit or peppers can increase the generation of uncoupling proteins that burn neutral fat.

Orangina in France, aiming to reach women aged between 25 and 34 who are weight conscious but want an enjoyable, tasty drink, has added an orange/strawberry flavour to its low-calorie Orangina Light Tentation range. The drink is sold in a new PET bottle which the company says is more modern and dynamic.

That water is a healthy drink is a given, but according to T&T research, female consumers are tired of trying to achieve the daily hydration recommendation of 2 litres by simply drinking it.

T&T's managing director, Tony Parente, explained: "h2eauplus provides a credible and effective alternative to plain water by tapping into the language, tonality and styling of the cosmetics and beauty industry to help build consumer confidence and understanding of the offer. It is aimed at busy, active women who are health and beauty conscious and want to replace part of their 2 litre daily water intake with a flavoured spring water enriched with dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals. And of course… sugar-free, low calorie and virtually no carbohydrates". h2eauplus  is available in two flavours; lemon & strawberry and lemon, lime & mandarin, and is sold in 400ml single PET bottles and multipacks of 4x400ml.

The ingredients identified to promote the 'beauty from within' premise are: dietary fibre for a healthy digestive tract; aloe vera, a traditional remedy which cleanses and detoxifies the digestive system to restore balance and reduce constipation; and artichoke extract, a digestive aid that supports liver and gallbladder function and therefore assists the natural process of dealing with day-to-day toxins.  These are combined with a range of vitamins and minerals.

Another new entry which claims fat-reducing properties backed by clinical research is Celsius from the American Elite FX company. This carbonate comes in cola, lemon/lime and ginger ale flavours. A new research study, announced at  the International Society of Sports Nutrition Conference in New Orleans, has confirmed that the drink increases metabolism and therefore burns more calories. "The clinical research proved that drinking one 12 oz bottle of Celsius increases metabolism by more than 12% over a three-hour period," said Dr Ron Mendel who headed the research team.

How significant is a 12% boost in metabolism? Dr Mendel says that by replacing a regular soft drink with a bottle of Celsius every day for one year, even with no change in exercise habits, a person could theoretically lose up to 17 pounds weight. According to Steve Haley, president of Elite FX,  "this is the first time a functional beverage has been launched with scientific proof of its benefit."

Also from the US is Pink20, said by producers the Phoenix Global Group to be the only water fortified specifically for women. This enhanced water has 62% of recommended daily values of vitamins B3, B5, B6, B12 and folic acid and 25% of vitamin C, E, selenium and calcium, the vitamins and minerals that women apparently need most. According to Phoenix Global Group, enhanced waters are the fastest growing category in beverage and women comprise the largest consumer segment of this category.

The water is lightly flavoured (lemon-lime, watermelon, berry and peach) and has no calories, carbohydrates, caffeine or preservatives. "Pink2O is truly a water specific to the health and wellness needs of women," said a company spokesperson. It is available in 20 oz PET bottle singles and 12 packs. It is a clear beverage and does not use colouring additives. Pink2O is a supporter of the National Breast Cancer Foundation and the Pink Ribbon Campaign. A percentage of  proceeds go to the National Breast Cancer Foundation.